Ask Dr Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Emmeline, leader of the British suffragette movement, about the best way to tackle any number of issues affecting women today (the cost of childcare, reproductive rights, equal pay) and she’ll always return to the same answer: we need to get more women into positions of power.
The obvious focus, she suggests, should be on increasing the number of women MPs. “I think women should be using their political might to get more women in Parliament,” says Pankhurst, 48. “I don’t care what party. I believe that if we have more women, more diversity, more representation, then the policies will follow.”
The Lord Rennard scandal, for example, which has seen the former Liberal Democrat chief executive accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women, might have had a very different outcome, had there been more women in the party for those affected to turn to. “Inappropriate behaviour, with men in authority taking advantage of that power in unsuitable and unwanted ways, has been happening in all spheres – Parliament, the media, public and private institutions – from time immemorial,” says Pankhurst, who is CARE International UK’s campaign ambassador.
“When women complain, it’s often brushed off. They are threatened with being fired, their complaints are not taken seriously by – guess what? – male dominated institutions, despite the personal costs of coming forward