Passing the diversity motion sends out a strong signal to women

This is the speech I made to last week’s debate on diversity at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference.

I joined the Liberal Democrats in May and have never spoken at conference before. What I am going to say is going to be quite anecdotal and general, but makes an important point nonetheless.

I grew up in a family almost entirely made up of girls. I attended an all-girls school from the age of 11 where I saw girls reaching and exceeding their potential. I never used to see gender inequality as a hugely important issue because in my life, and the lives of the people I was surrounded by, being female never seemed to hold anyone back. The women I knew had amazing careers, and the girls I knew were confident and opinionated. They seemed to have all the same things as the men I knew did. 

It was not until I became interested in politics at university when I really started seeing gender inequality as a key issue in our society.

The under-representation of women in politics has far-reaching implications. One such implication is that it portrays an idea that women do not want to participate, or more worryingly, are not suited to participate in political life.

It is often said that women don’t want to stand for selection or election. I do not believe that this is true for all women. But for those women who do not want to stand, we need to understand why.

For me as a young woman, it is off-putting when you think you will be judged for what you are wearing or how much you weigh, rather than the policies you are promoting. It is off putting when you get called bossy for putting your opinion across in an assertive way, when a man who puts his opinion across in the same way is heralded as having leadership skills. It is off putting when you feel you have to make a choice between a career in politics and a family.

These are barriers to women participating in political life. These sorts of representations in the media, usually on social media, and wider society have to change.

I believe that these representations will change when we all become more used to seeing women in political and public life more generally.

This is where the liberal democrats can make a difference.

By supporting this motion we will be working towards a situation where women in politics is regarded as the normal, not an exceptional, state of affairs. It will send a strong signal to women that we not only want you to participate in political life, but we need you to.

This motion is about taking that step and tackling this underrepresentation of women quickly. And quickly is a key point. We need a period of positive action to achieve this. The Liberal Democrats cannot afford to fall behind on this issue any longer. So please support this motion.

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* Charity Pierce is a new member of the Liberal Democrats and is a student in Edinburgh

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One Comment

  • I fully agree that many women seem to think that politics is “not for them”, indeed the macho posturing of many politicians is a turn off for any normal human being. On the other hand, it’s fairly clear that any women who really want to forge a career in politics can ; Nicola S, Ruth D, Leanne W, Natalie B, I could go on………

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