As the SNP broke the Scottish political record books in the 2015 General Election today, with the public sending 56 SNP MPs to Westminster, I decided to tally up the gender count of MPs being sent to London compared with the 2010 General Election.
I have made assumptions based on male and female sounding names. When this has been unclear, I have consulted either my own knowledge – or online – to make a judgement. This is in no way an attempt to eliminate gender diversity inbetween the binaries of male and female, so I am open to editing this list should there be any dispute over a MP/former MP’s gender identification.
So, with that in mind, here are the base figures:
2010 General Election Total Scottish Westminster Constituency Seats: 59
Male MPs: 46 (77.97%)
Female MPs: 13 (22.03%)
2015 General Election Total Scottish Westminster Constituency Seats: 59
Male MPs: 39 (66.10%)
Female MPs: 20 (33.90%)
So a basic calculation demonstrates a 35% increase in the amount of women representing Scottish constituencies in Westminster. Although, with the SNP returning an overwhelming amount of MPs, it is crucial we focus on the breakdown of their prospective parliamentary candidates for the 2015 election too:
Male SNP Prospective Parliamentary Candidates: 38 (64.41%)
Female SNP Prospective Parliamentary Candidates: 21 (35.59%)
It may be that our changing perceptions of women in positions of power is affecting how we make our democratic choices. But, adhering to the very rudimentary statistics presented from a comparison of 2010 and 2015, it would appear that the SNP are pushing Scotland closer to gender equality in politics. However, it’s clear to see from the PPC numbers that it’s still not enough.
There has been prior tension due to plans by Nicola Sturgeon to introduce all-women SNP candidate shortlists for the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2016. With the SNP MSPs’ gender representation coming in at around a 73:27 split in favour of men, the First Minister’s plans for these one-sided shortlists must be understood within the context of the male-dominated societies that we live in.
For many years, women have not been encouraged to take up positions of power.
For those that would disagree: it is not as simple as ‘the most skilled candidate = the right person’. It is not just about the ability to be equal or the ability to do what men do. Boiling it down to such base levels completely defeats the complexities that define perceptions of gender and, indeed, any wider forms of oppression.
This is because women are still encouraged – whether directly in everyday interactions, or indirectly via advertising and our media – to take on subservient roles. And this encouragement creates barriers for women – barriers that are invisible to those with the privilege of being male.
The SNP have shown themselves committed to a 50-50 gender split in boardrooms by 2020. The First Minister even appointed her own Cabinet on that criterion.
Women are, slowly but surely, now starting to be appreciated for their political minds alone.
The late SNP stalwart Margo MacDonald was consistently cited for her terrific political mind; but not before comments about her ‘flowing golden locks’ or her ‘buxom figure’. However, the nationalist movement is most certainly just as guilty of this behaviour. In the 1960s and 70s, it was common place to see ‘Miss SNP’ contestants at all of the party’s constituency, district and regional branches. But that was then – and this is now.
The SNP is now fronted by a woman. Many women are prominent in the party. And many more women are to become names that will be known to the Scottish public.
Anything that can be used as a brick for women to smash through the ‘glass ceiling’ should be encouraged. This isn’t because women aren’t capable of doing this without the need for a brick – rather, it’s an equaliser. An equaliser as recognition and an apology for the years of male-dominated power games. And the years of patriarchal undermining that is still to come.
The fact that it has taken a woman, Nicola Sturgeon, to hand this equaliser to other women should tell you all that you need to know about male privilege.