Wednesday 16 July 2014

So there are a handful more female ministers today than there were a few days ago. That’s a handful added to the very small group of women who achieve high political office – but to hear the excited commentary you would think there had been a revolution rather than a reshuffle. 

For me such a revolution wouldn’t just see women occupying their fair share of seats at the cabinet - and boardroom - tables. A revolution would result in women genuinely having equal opportunities whether they run a supermarket or clean it and whether they have had long careers or are just starting out.

Of course, politicians are among those that we look to to create this sort of change and it won’t be a revolution in the end but an evolution of new policy initiatives, some of which could feature in the political parties’ manifestos for next year’s General Election. If the Prime Minister, as is claimed, realised that he needed more women on the front bench to appeal to female voters then he and the other party leaders should also realise that they need policies to appeal to women.

Among these potential voters will be the young women eligible to vote for the first time, who already feel crushed by a lack of opportunity as they look for jobs.

It is tough for young men too, I know, but young women are offered narrower choices to begin with, only for these to be narrowed still further thanks to inequality and discrimination. Imagine how many young women’s view of politicians might be transformed if they saw them tackling youth unemployment in general and its impact upon young women in particular. 

The women who achieved high office this week have a vital role to play but it is not simply about them pursuing women’s issues or bringing a female perspective.  I would rather see them using the fact that they are new in office to challenge the status quo; to say that it is time to do things differently and persuading their male counterparts of this.

It’s beginning to sound like a revolution after all.