The 2017 general election produced a record number of female MPs, with 208 out of the 650 MPs now women, overtaking the 196 female MPs returned in 2015.
Over half of these women, 119, are Labour MPs, with 67 being part of the Conservative minority government. The prime minister and home secretary are both women, as are the shadow home secretary and shadow foreign secretary.
However, the proportion of female MPs currently stands at 32%, which is clearly way off from reflecting the national population as a whole. Staggeringly, the 2015 election was the first time ever that the total number of female MPs Britain has ever had overtook the number of men in that single parliament.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of women’s rights group the Fawcett Society, told Business Insider that British politics has been “embarrassingly slow” in moving towards fairer representation for women in Westminster.
“The number of women MPs in parliament has broken the 200 barrier for the first time,” Smethers told us.
“But while this is progress the fact remains that just 32% of our MPs are women, up from 30% before the election. We are moving forward at a snail’s pace and this is embarrassingly slow.
“It is time for a radical new approach. We have to legislate to require the parties to select at least 45% women candidates.”
Clearly, there is still work to be done. In the meantime, here is a handful of new female MPs who have had interesting journeys to Westminster.
Preet Gill, Labour, Birmingham Edgbaston.
Succeeding Gisela Stuart in being MP for Edgbaston was seen by many to be a tall order, and many thought it would be one of the marginal seats to go Tory from Labour in 2017. Stuart was a high profile leave campaigner, while her replacement Preet Gill backed remain. Nevertheless, Gill ended up increasing Labour’s vote by more than 10% to become Britain’s first ever female Sikh MP. Gill has previously been featured on a list of top 10 Sikh women in the UKfor the work she has done pushing women from BAME backgrounds into politics.
Kemi Badenoch, Conservative, Saffron Walden.
A Tory MP with a 24,000 majority in rural Essex might not seem particularly surprising, but Kemi Badenoch is someone who has experienced all sides of life. She worked at McDonald’s as a teenager and went on to become The Spectator’s head of digital. Badenoch was previously a London Assembly member and backed Brexit in last year’s referendum.
She told the Evening Standard that Labour thinks “it owns minorities” and that they think race is everything.
“It’s: ‘You’re black, this is what you care about’. But identity is multi-faceted. I’m black but I’m also a woman, a Mum. They talk about a ‘black community’ — there’s nothing really like that. People have the same issues wherever they come from. Schools. Hospitals,” she told the Standard.
Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat, Oxford West and Abingdon.
Astonishingly, Layla Moran is the first Lib Dem MP to be female from a minority background. On a night of electoral mediocrity, gaining Oxford West and Abingdon was one of the few highlights for the Lib Dems, won after a campaign focusing on opposing Brexit in a heavily remain-voting constituency. Moran is also the first MP to be of Palestinian descent, her mother being from Jerusalem. She has lived in Belgium, Greece, Ethiopia, Jamaica and Jordan and speaks four languages including Arabic and Greek.
Emma Dent Coad, Labour, Kensington.
One of the shocks of the election was the Labour gain of the Tory safe seat of Kensington by just 20 votes. 62-year old Emma Dent Coad was the winner that night, but her elation at victory soon turned to horror at the Grenfell Tower fire, which happened in her constituency. The tragedy happened just four days into her tenure as an MP, but she dealt with the disaster as if she was an experienced MP.
In her maiden speech on June 22 she said: “The burnt carcass of Grenfell Tower speaks for itself, and has revealed the true face of Kensington. The mask has dropped. We have poverty, malnutrition, overcrowding, poor maintenance and, underlying this, a lack of care. The people who have been failed want justice and accountability, and an honest and transparent process to achieve it.”
Marsha de Cordova, Labour, Battersea.
In one of the signs that election night was not going the way Theresa May had planned, Battersea went from being a safe Tory seat to Labour. Marsha de Cordova became the London constituency’s first Labour MP since 2010, overseeing a 9 point swing. De Cordova is registered as blind after being born with the eye condition nystagmus, and was previously chief executive of the South East Vision charity, which aims to help those with vision impairments.