Does Ruth Davidson’s resignation show that politics needs to change to better support women?
Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, says YES.
Gender discrimination remains rife within society and our political system. Politics fails not only new mothers like Ruth Davidson, but also those with a range of caring responsibilities.
Parliament has failed to adapt to the reality that women carry the burden of these responsibilities. According to Unison, nearly half of British women believe that they must reduce working hours to meet their caring duties, compared to just under a third of men.
This imbalance is compounded by the tens of thousands of abusive tweets and emails sent to female politicians every single day.
In Westminster, late sitting hours aren’t conducive for new mothers. And it remains staggering that there was no proxy voting for new parent MPs until this year – something that compelled me to push back a medically necessary C-Section in order to vote against Brexit.
Perhaps this is partly why only 211 MPs out of 650 are women. Things are definitely improving, but Davidson’s decision to step down is just the latest reminder of how far we have to go.
Jess Butcher MBE, a technology entrepreneur, angel investor and startup adviser, says NO.
Ruth Davidson’s resignation citing shifting family priorities is a reminder of one of the most under-reported factors behind the gender pay gap: that of the choice of many highly-paid career women to “step back” during precious years of motherhood, away from stressful, masochistic working lifestyles.
Yes, employers should, if they can, find ways to better accommodate part-time talent, but this has to be balanced against the disruptive and potentially financial impact to the organisation (in this case, the government). It also needs be fair, so as not to penalise those who don’t make these choices or deter employers from employing women around this life stage.
The reality of a parliamentary career is that it’s an all-consuming, stressful life of public service, and one that voters rightly expect full-time commitment to.
This shouldn’t actually be a gendered debate, as men should equally have the right to reclaim more balance across their lives, but as long as women continue to make such decisions in greater numbers, it will remain so.
Main image credit: Getty