Tackling everyday sexism in the Lib Dems

I love Emma Walker. I really do, and not just Emma the badass who stunned the Scottish Party with the first known use of the word “vulva” on the conference stage or her tales of intrepid recruitment adventures, including everyone’s favourite bra fitter. The Emma I love is someone who in the two years I’ve known her has stood beside me in every step I’ve taken in my Chairship of Scottish Liberal Democrat Women, who has bought me more pizza than I’ve ever returned, and who’s dried my tears so many times whenever I’m overwhelmed or heartbroken, no matter what she was dealing with in her own life.

It’s that Emma who has stunned so many this week with her brave video detailing some of the gender discrimination she has faced within the party, ranging from the mundane to the allegedly criminal. Her post has now been viewed thousands of times and has triggered an avalanche of support.

It’s hard to describe how I’ve felt watching women and men comment on the post expressing their shock, sadness and support. Too many have said they have experienced similar problems within politics. The bravery of the women who have sent me their stories, insisting I use them to do anything in my power to effect change has had me crying over my laptop more than once. Truly, the #GirlsSupportingGirls spirit is out in force.

Our party has done so much good work on gender equality, and I have been proud to watch Lib Dem legislation such as Shared Parental Leave and Pay Gap Reporting make a real difference to people’s lives, and I know that our party is bursting at the seams with principled and passionate intersectional feminists willing to do the hard work to make our society fairer and more equal for everyone.

That work needs to start in our own back yard. For all of the great people we have and the great work we do, too often we see women discouraged from putting their heads above the parapet because of careless words or actions rooted in bias. This bias is often unconscious and unthinking, but its effects over time can be devastating, and we need to seize this opportunity to assess how we can improve our own practice.

I’m pleased to be working with the Scottish Party leadership on how we can proceed and address the issues relating to gender balance and equality in our own ranks. To do this, I’d love to hear from as broad a cross-section of the membership as possible, so if you have any thoughts on the subject please do email me at [email protected], or send a direct message to our Facebook or Twitter feeds.


* Ruth McElroy is the chair of Scottish Lib Dem Women

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  • It’s sad that this is still such a real problem in the year 2020, but great that you’re tackling it head-on. It’s so important that these issues are brought out-into the open and addressed.

  • Maurice Leeke 4th May '20 - 8:12am

    … but … can we ever expect “bias” in the Party to be taken seriously as long as we have All Women Shortlists ?

  • Ruth Bright 5th May '20 - 12:57am

    Ruth McElroy. Good luck. I am afraid you will need it. Look at the sarcastic tirade I (and an article about my dead father) got on this site because I mentioned a gendered lockdown.

  • Dilettante Eye 6th May '20 - 11:40am

    “It’s that Emma who has stunned so many this week with her brave video detailing some of the gender discrimination she has faced within the party, ranging from the mundane to the allegedly criminal. “

    I guess the fact that you’re surprised, is the real surprise.

    It’s about 6 years since Susan Gaszczak declared that the Liberal Democrats have ‘lost their moral compass’. (August 2014)

    That debacle ended in her and three other women leaving the party, because back then, there was a tacit acceptance by the Lib Dem high command, that the career of one man equal the careers of four women.

    Looks like the moral compass is still lost?

  • I’ve watched Emma’s video and frankly I found it very disturbing.

    Can we take it that a full and thorough enquiry will take place by the Party to deal with the matters she has raised ?

  • Emma Walker 2nd Jun '20 - 11:09am

    Hi Allison,

    I’ve just read these comments now so sorry it took so long for a response. My video is here


    Thanks for your support.

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