“The Women’s Equality Party needs you. But probably not as much as you need the Women’s Equality Party” was the title of the WE’s first meeting in March 2015, a slogan that made the British public (myself included) sit up and take notice.
Bored with teasing politicians Sandi Toksvig, along with author Catherine Meyer, decided the time had come to stop dreaming about gender equality and to start acting on it. The aim was simple; stop treating women like a minority when 51 percent of the world are female.
WE, a clever acronym that is used to drum up ideas of camaraderie, ‘are pushing for equal representation in politics, business, and industry and throughout working life.’ No mean feat.
Excitingly, in the recent London elections, 5.2 percent of the total mayoral vote- that’s one in twenty votes placed – went to The Women’s Equality Party – an impressive result for a party that formed just over a year ago. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves why?
In their mission statement WE define themselves as a ‘new collaborative force in British Politics’. One of their founding ideas is one of the tenets of modern day feminism – that equality in politics and society is not just a women’s issue and, should it be realised, it would benefit everyone. In the same statement they argue that ‘unleashing women’s full potential could add 10 percent, or over £180 billion, to our GDP by 2030.’
How could this be anything but desirable?
In an interview with The Guardian last March, Catherine Mayer said that she wasn’t surprised at that party’s fast growing popularity because ‘very many people in this country felt they were not being seen, heard and listened to.’
Could it be that new London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s statement that he was ‘a proud feminist’ – something even our Prime Minister struggles to admit – had something to do with the snowballing success of WE? Sophie Walker, WE’s leader, thinks so. In a statement after the election she stated ‘By being in the race, WE have put our issues and our policies onto the political agendas of the election winners.’
Perhaps this is why the Women’s Equality party believes that with its current popular policies it could have an equal voice in the London parliament in just two elections. Its ideas are not revolutionary, but they are issues that haven’t been raised before in government with any real success. For instance, the low conviction rate for rape and attempted rape, the fact that working women earn 81p for every pound a man earns (45 years after the Equal Pay Act was introduced) and the pressures on men preventing them from taking paternity leave. They are all examples of issues that the British public cares about and that the Women’s Equality Party intends to tackle.
The Party has a plan. Its plan is not to get into power but to be powerful. It hopes that by 2020 it will have drummed up enough support so that all other political parties will have to take notice of its core issues. Then, as Walker says, it could disband.
These are the reasons I have decided to join. It was my 70-year-old (male) boss that switched me onto the party, because he had recently joined and my Godmother, in her mid- forties, who spurred me on. She had recently been to a WE meeting and came back singing its praises. Even my father has been asking about it.
The Woman’s Equality Party is more than shouting from soap boxes. It has a proper political programme, which, when so many of us are tired of the unrepresentative current political elite, is very, very appealing.
– Katya Edwards