Female politicians are portrayed more negatively than male colleagues, new research has found.
I find it deeply concerning and rather astonishing that the media still present women so negatively and do so with little consideration of the consequences . It’s hardly surprising that women don’t feel particularly encouraged to participate in the political process and feel totally alienated as a result.
The researchers from Bournemouth University and Leeds Trinity University suggested that women receive less favourable coverage than men because it is assumed that men stand for, and represent, the whole population.
However, it’s not only within the press that we find consistent negative representations of women. Women in many different areas of public life are regularly attacked in some of the most abhorrent ways on social media. It is well documented that ‘internet trolls’, as they are known, use abusive and misogynistic language and threaten women who dare to give their opinion. There have been some high profile cases recently which thankfully resulted in convictions.
One of the researchers, Dr Heather Savigny summed up her findings rather well and said the result of such negative coverage meant women voters were both disengaged and left feeling un represented in Parliament, “the invidious trend affects the democratic process, whereby women voters feel unrepresented in Parliament and turn away from political engagement,” she said.
The researchers suggested a move towards print journalists being more conscious of including women in media coverage and reflect on how they present women. Their recommendations included the creation of a media monitoring group, comprising politicians, media representatives and academics.
I spent some time at the GMB Congress last month at which I heard about the findings of a piece of research by The Campaign Company (TCC) which had been commissioned by the GMB to explore how the union promoted and represented women.
It is a robust piece of research and TCC has, among other things, has spent some time asking women to share their experience of the union and asking them how to improve upon this.
Although the final conclusions have yet to be presented it’s an important piece of work nonetheless, not least because it illustrates how seriously the union takes women and their contribution in the workplace. If only the same could be said for all businesses and organisations.
The authors write in their summary: “This project is timely and has captured a mood for change. Indeed, we further believe that there is a strong business case that the union will be able to realise the expertise, commitment and energy of a large percentage of its workforce if these recommendations are implemented. This will give it a competitive advantage in relation to employers and other trade unions that may be competing over the same territory.”
This is something I often say of the boardroom and if businesses and organisations recognised the value and monetary capital women hold then they would recognise that they indeed could have a competitive advantage over rivals if they were to employ more women to senior positions.
The research also explored work which has been undertaken by other trade unions in this area. While the Union is seeking to address some of the issues, the report also notes an almost universal recognition that significant progress has been made in recent times and a profound confidence in and loyalty to the union. This leads us to believe that there is a firm foundation on which to build a programme that will have significant impact.
The proposals would require a major undertaking for the union and it’s a brave organisation which recognises the need to improve, and also acts upon this.
This is the clip of the debate I took part in on Sunday for Iain Dale’s show on LBC Radio. We were discussing the underrepresentation of women at all levels of politics. I was joined in the debate by Siân Berry, former Green Party London Mayoral Candidate, and Margot James, Tory MP for Stourbridge. It was a lively and interesting discussion with a fairly high degree of accord. We may not have agreed on the means, but we all believe there should be more women in politics.
You can listen to the first part of the debate via the media player above, with the second part below.