On Wednesday 18th July 2018, Sophia, Roxy and Kiran got a train into London to go and attend a conference put on by the Fawcett Society and 50:50Parliament, working on getting more women into Parliament by asking women to stand.
The Conference aimed to support women to run for political positions and work across party lines to tackle inequality.
The evening offered panel sessions and workshops giving practical advice to all those who self-defined as women and wanted to get into politics and public life.
Between the three of us we covered all 4 workshops, networked and bagged a bit of swag to give to Ele when we got back!
We sat near the front ready for the opening session and as we looked around we saw a huge room, full of women.
Representing every section of intersectionality.
Representing multiple layers of oppressions and privileges and united together, demanding change, wanting a different state of affairs.
We were so inspired and we were definitely in the right place.
This opening session was incredible. Chaired by Sam Smethers – Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society.
We sat and listened to some amazing women:
Lib Dem: Baroness Sal Brinton
SNP: Alison Thewliss MP
Labour: Dawn Butler
WEP: Sophie Walker
Conservative, WESC: Maria Miller
Green: Amelia Womack
The audience asked questions and the panel gave us all some insight. The women of parliament collaborate a lot to work towards shared goals even when their politics disagree.
One audience member stood up, asking a problematic question. She wanted to know if the room and the panel would be happy if 50 percent of parliament was trans women to the 50 percent men.
To our relief the entire room replied yes.
Then each panel member spoke up, reaffirmed that transwomen are women.
One panel member pointed out that we are yet to even have one trans MP.
We were so happy that we were truly in an intersectional feminist space. We hope the audience member reviews her own prejudices now.
The panel continued to discuss the issues and solutions that they thought would help get equality for women.
Amelia Womack spoke about the need for job sharing options for MPs. It is the only job that does not allow this. Job sharing would ensure accessibility for anyone that had caring responsibilities. Sophie Walker passionately asked the room, “Are you honestly telling me that the world is run by white men because they are better than, for example, black women?! Are you kidding me?It’s about time we see all women’s lives reflecting on EVERY page of manifestos”.
Dawn Butler spoke about the standards we expect women to have to compete with men. She said she wanted to champion mediocre women. “I’ll be the champion of mediocre women, I want to see mediocre women in politics.” She went on to say that other women must help women to succeed. If you get up the ladder, lay foundations for an elevator. Help women behind you get up quicker. Support them.
We learned that a lot of the parties were using all women shortlists for roles, and that the Green Party extended nomination times if no women were put forward by another 2 weeks.
These are things we are going to keep in mind for the smaller project at Keele.
This panel session was beyond inspiring, just the room full of women with multiple experiences, the room was diverse and just as an intersectional movement would be.
It was truly amazing to be surrounded by so many women.
We felt really moved.
Summary of Workshops:
Why Stand? What difference do women make? (50:50 Parliament)
This workshop started with a presentation (that we are bringing back to Keele) to tell us the statistics that underlie the under-representation of women in politics. We then heard from three women. Two who had recently won their seats in 2017 Labour and Conservative MPs, and one lady who was heading up the #AskHerToStand campaign, offering support for any women that wanted to get into the Lib Dems.
We learned about what inspired them to stand, and found out it was a rather ordinary small action that led them to have an extraordinary change of career: Someone asked them to.
This simple task, a second human telling them, ‘You know, you’d make a good MP, have you considered running?’. It reassured us that the journey we want W.o.K.E to take is on the right path. We are so keen to empower everyone on campus, and remind them of how awesome they already are.
The second common point they shared was that they had looked around and realised, some of their male counterparts were truly awful at their jobs! They then realised they could do a much better job.
Something we learned all throughout the sessions is that representation shapes policy. Having women in the room and a diverse representation of women, ensures that policies that represent them are made and put forward.
This is what we want to achieve. Let’s get ourselves at the events, in the rooms and in the roles that will make a difference at Keele.
What’s Stopping You? Overcoming the barriers to getting into politics (Parliament Project)
This was an energetic and awesome workshop with breakout groups of 3-5 women supported by a facilitator. There were flip-charts and marker pens and loud noises! We talked about the barriers to participation and split them into categories
Despite the breakout groups being small when we all fed back what was discussed there was so many common threads. All the women spoke about a lack of confidence, a feeling they weren’t knowledgeable enough and a worry that they wouldn’t be able to do the roles.
These women were strong, talented people and yet we all shared this imposter syndrome.
Building Your Political CV: How to build the relevant experience
This workshop focussed on helping women make the most out of the experience they already had. Focussing on the transferable skills and boosting the confidence of the women in the room. We already have the skills to do these roles, it is about realising it!
Political Careers: Working in and around politics
This workshop gave women practical advice and allowed women to talk to those who already had political careers.
We came back energised and inspired and determined to take more Keele women to conferences.
The shared learning and the empowerment was fantastic.
The event was live streamed and recorded so follow this link to learn more:
We hope you join us on a conference soon.
If you find something you think others would enjoy going to let us know!
For upcoming events click here