Why young women need to vote

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Who is least likely to vote?  Based on statistics from the last election it is young women aged 18-24. Will this be the case again on 7th May? I hope not, because they need to show politicians that they are a force to be reckoned with and ignoring them has serious consequences.

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We're frequently told that young people feel disconnected from politics. That's bad because, very obviously, the young people of today include the politicians of tomorrow. What will it be like in 2025 or 2030 if at least some of the most talented young men and young women of today haven't grown up wanting to change the world by becoming politicians?

The gender balance will only change in Westminster if a greater proportion of young women decide to go into politics. How else can we ensure that the issues of most concern to women are fully understood and addressed and that women feel better represented in the future?Young women tell me that they don’t feel that politicians don't currently understand how difficult their lives are and the different challenges they face compared to young men. I cannot believe that anyone would want this situation to continue indefinitely.

There can be a tendency among politicians to talk to and about young people as though they are one homogenous group with one set of issues. Gender is overlooked or ignored as a major factor which profoundly influences the opportunities and challenges facing young people. Politicians committing to understanding the different concerns of each gender would represent a huge leap forward. Equality doesn't have to mean pretending that everything is the same for men and women. 

Even when political parties advocate something that will undoubtedly help young people, such as more apprenticeships, they fail to take a gendered approach.  In this case they need to recognise that a different approach is needed to ensure that young women can take up the same range of apprenticeships as young men. It is still the case that two thirds of women apprentices work in just five, often low paid, sectors such as health and social care whilst the same proportion of men work in 10 sectors, giving young men many more opportunities for the future.

Importantly, seeking change from politicians doesn't stop as soon as the ballot boxes are closed on 7th May. Indeed, that's when the work begins - whoever comes to power. At Young Women's Trust we will be urging all parties to ensure that all of their polices are based on an understanding of what would make a real and enduring difference to young women. 

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