At Bridge Club this morning, Nicky Morgan and Rebekah Brooks joined a bright array of knowledgeable women to discuss the ever-present issue of gender equality, principally in politics, and the devastating effect open sexism in the media has on it.
Nicky, who joined the conservative party at the age of 16 and has since become the Secretary of State for education and Minister for Women and Equalities in 2014, began by declaring how politics is about people, how they live and what makes them tick. Women can be just as successful, if not better, at sussing these things out- naturally we have great empathy and therefore flourish in building up relationships within constituencies. Yet inequality is still unmistakable in the majority of professions nowadays, although Nicky wishes to change this.
Unsurprisingly, juggling motherhood and a significant role in politics means Nicky and her family face frequent difficulties in everyday life. Nevertheless, this doesn’t prevent her from prospering in her career, despite the fact she’s a woman working in a cabinet of 75% males. In saying this, women can’t always assume the role of the victims; we must help ourselves by pushing our limits rather than accepting second best. It’s not solely up to men to eradicate sexism- we can’t simply wait for it to fade; we must be the devices used to rub it out. Nicky then explained how, when asked to apply for a chief position, it’s part of women’s nature to presume they don’t acquire the desired qualities to fulfil that role. Whilst men would view having 3 out of 10 characteristics in an ‘at least I have 3’ manner, women would steer in the opposite direction, fretting about the 7 they lack. Women need to be more poised and assertive in themselves and their abilities, highlighting the importance of inspirational women role models, such as Nicky Morgan, in today’s society.
Moreover, Parliament needs to reflect the country they are trying to represent, hence why David Cameron is adamant in aiming for both one third of the cabinet to be female by the end of his office, and to completely eliminate the general pay gap in the next generation. The question is how do women rise to, and remain on an equal level to men? Understandably, women can’t run the country without men, but Nicky expressed the solution as involving knitting more women into the agenda. Gone are the days when men would only help men and women only helped women; integration is key when it comes to boosting equality in politics and ultimately boosting equality in aspects of life.
Rebekah Brooks, CEO of News International, then raised the debate is the media sexist, to which Nicky modestly replied with ‘inevitably’, summing it all up. This needs to change. After being editor of The News of The World when illegal phone hacking was carried out, Rebekah’s bore a very turbulent past with the media, and voiced her belief that elements of what she’s undergone has been due to her gender. As a result, a lot of media coverage puts women off going into politics, especially as we’re more conscious of our appearance and intelligence than men, thus sexist media undoubtedly disheartens many budding women politicians. Sadly, sexism is deep-rooted in all forms of media, including online and broadcasting- there seems to be no escaping it. For this reason, Nicky cited the need for a much more systematic approach to spotting young talent and creating pathways to guide the youth, so skill isn’t clouded by fear of bigotry.
From Nicky’s point of view, the lack of women in the hierarchy of politics is not down to the public. In fact, local women really love to see women in their area taking charge in politics- there’s clearly no issue with public appetite. Conversely, the Tories admittedly need to work on parties that select infrequently. This may contribute to the end goal of increasing the number of able women with authority in politics as soon as possible.