Only 1% Would Consider Political Career Move
9 June, 2010 – ‘Dave’s Babes’, ‘Cameron’s Cuties’ and ‘Sam Cam’ might have dominated the pre-election headlines but it didn’t do a lot to increase the actual number of female MPs. Only 142 of our 650 MPs are women, representing an increase of just 2.5% in the number of women at Westminster. Britain lags behind other Western democracies in terms of the Cabinet's gender balance. Fewer than 20% of Cameron's ministers are women. But women make up 53% of Spain's cabinet, 50% of Sweden's, 38% of Germany's, 33% of France's and 31% of America's, according to the Centre for Women and Democracy.
Make It Cheaper, the business price comparison service, wanted to identify how connected female small business owners were to politics and the results are alarming if not completely surprising. The survey shows that only 1% of women would ever consider standing as an MP, compared to 10% of men who would be willing to do so. This could however have something to do with the fact that double the number of women than men named maintaining a good work/life balance as their biggest challenge (15% women, 7% men). However, an astonishing 45% of the women asked claimed that they had no interest in politics (this compared to only 14% of men asked the same question).
Jonathan Elliott, managing director, Make It Cheaper, said: “Given the experience that these women could bring to the table at Westminster, we’re missing out. If some of the skills you need to run a business were used in Government, I am sure we’d see a healthier economy and a tighter run ship.”
Vicky Booth, spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats’ Campaign for Gender Balance, said, “As Make It Cheaper’s research indicates, far more men apply to become Parliamentary candidates than women. We really need more talented women with a range of professional skills and backgrounds to come forward - including small business owners. The Campaign for Gender Balance provides support to potential women candidates, including advice, mentoring, training and practical help, so please do get in touch if you are interested in finding out more.”
Commenting on the results, Seema Sharma, successful female entrepreneur and philanthropist – and star of Channel 4’s Slumdog Secret Millionaire – said that running her own business was part of a personal choice to be able to work from home, which could explain why some women do not consider entering politics if they have young children; “I made a conscious decision to go into an industry which allowed me to retain my work life balance from the outset - I can run my business from my PC and be there for my children at the same time. I would only consider politics when my daughters are older, simply because I don't think I could do justice to a role in politics and their upbringing simultaneously.”
The survey showed further apathy in terms of politicians understanding and influencing their working lives as small business owners:
• 44% said that politicians didn’t have the power to instigate change and even if they did they didn’t understand the real issues faced by local businesses
• Almost a quarter (24%) claimed that nothing politicians said ever impacted them
Despite the fact that women are underepresented in parliament there was a clear difference in what men and women found to be the biggest challenges in running a small business. While men were more frustrated with dealing with unhelpful banks (10% men, 2% women) and central government red tape (12% men and 2% women), women were far more concerned with attracting and retaining customers (38% of women compared to 28% of men).
The research was conducted by independent research company Redshift amongst 500 business owners in the UK.
About Make It Cheaper
Established in 2007 and based in Central London, Make It Cheaper (www.makeitcheaper.com) receives more utility price comparison enquiries (2,000 a week) and arranges more new contracts (1,000 a week) than any other business-only price comparison service. These enquiries include those from the business customers of most of the major domestic price comparison services as well as business membership organisations, charities and trade associations. Acting on behalf of these customers with total impartiality and without charge, Make It Cheaper offers cost savings across a range of products including business electricity, business gas, insurance and telecoms. The prices it offers are often better than could be found by going direct to suppliers because of the volume of deals its negotiates.
Steph MacLeod / Sarah Mayer
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Only 1% Would Consider Political Career Move