Fawcett Society

Alex Shepherd, Lizzie Ville, Catherine Marren, Amy Whitelock-Gibbs & Andrew Bazeley

This new report from Fawcett shows how an exclusionary culture both within Westminster and online is damaging our democracy, and risks pushing women out of politics altogether.

A House for Everyone: A Case for Modernising Parliament presents new survey data and interviews with current and former MPs on the issues that create this culture. The report identifies a number of ‘push and pull factors’ that impact MPs’ decisions to stay or leave Parliament, including lack of support systems, online abuse, sexism, racism and ableism.

Key findings include:

  • 93% of women MPs said that online abuse or harrassment has a negative impact on how they feel about being an MP
  • 73% of women MPs said they “do not use social media to speak on certain issues because of the abusive environment online”, compared to 51% of men
  • 69% of women MPs and 49% of all MPs have witnessed sexist behaviour in Parliament in the last five years

Fawcett believes that without urgent action these issues will further exacerbate the under-representation of women, particularly Black, minoritised and disabled women in Westminster.

They are calling for:

  • Parliament to establish an accountability mechanism that oversees and reports publicly on progress against recommendations made to date to create a more inclusive parliament
  • Parliament to investigate changes to sitting hours, online and proxy voting options with IPSA to look at increased budget allocations for MPs’ staffing, office running costs and childcare needs, so that MPs can fulfil the increasing demands of the role both in Westminster and their constituencies
  •  Government to ensure the Electoral Commission and local police are sufficiently resourced and equipped to enforce legal sanctions for intimidating candidates, campaigners, and representatives during election periods
  • Government to amend the Online Safety Bill to better address the disproportionate levels of online abuse experienced by women, especially those from Black and minoritised backgrounds, and increase the accountability of tech companies
  • Political parties to introduce quotas to increase women’s representation and ensure women, especially disabled women and women from Black and minoritised backgrounds, are being selected in winnable seats