How do we reach our women members - and support them better? Our CLP Women's Officer, Kate Landin, writes about a recent Fawcett Society meeting she attended which highlighted some of the problems women face in politics - and how they can be tackled...
The meeting - 'Women Councillors: Staying and Progressing' - featured a cross-party panel of political women making their views and experiences known, with a direct aim of trying to encourage more women to be politically active and stand as local councillors.
Many issues were raised: financial barriers to standing, access, maternity leave and many more. I plan to give a fuller report when we hold our first formal women’s forum meeting.
Constantly echoed in the meeting was that women sometimes feel that the adversarial, sometimes hostile, environment of political meetings can be severely detrimental when it comes to encouraging women to become politically active.
Even serving women MPs on the panel spoke of sometimes feeling patronised, sidelined and put down by colleagues (unfortunately, often male) when they do speak out.
Other women talked of being stereotyped as 'trouble' when they challenged obfuscatory or problematic procedure and practice.
And for a disabled or BAME, working class or LGBT women, the difficulties are magnified.
So how do we encourage and support women on this journey?
The experience in the room favoured women’s forums, mailouts and activities directed specifically towards women members. Dissemination of, and access to, information - about training opportunities, meetings, women's conference etc - is crucial, and so this should go out in good time, and to all women. Knowledge is power!
I am looking to build a thriving women’s forum in our Constituency Labour Party, in which women can build their confidence and feel welcomed.
Do you have any suggestions for ways we can improve matters for women in our local Labour party? Do let me know by leaving a comment below...