Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society; a member of the Counting Women IN coalition.
The Counting Women IN campaign is fighting for 50/50 gender representation at all levels of government across theUK.
The under representation of women in Westminster, the devolved assemblies and in our town halls, represents a democratic deficit that undermines the legitimacy of the decisions made in these chambers. It is disgraceful that men currently outnumber women inWestminsterfour to one – this has to change.
At present a paltry 22% of the Lords are women but the House of Lords Reform Bill provides a vital opportunity to begin to redress this imbalance.
A new, reformed Chamber must be representative of the population as a whole and must draw equally on the experiences and expertise of women and men. Our Government has a legal duty to assess how measures for reform could promote equality and tackle discrimination and if they are serious about this then representation of women must be at the heart of the agenda to reform the Lords.
Serious consideration should therefore be given to the 26 seats in the chamber currently reserved for Church of England Bishops. This provision means 26 seats are reserved for men, a situation which will continue to have an impact on equality and diversity in a reformed Chamber if it is not resolved.
The lack of women in politics sends a clear signal to other walks of life: it is acceptable to cut women out from positions of power. This reform offers a once in a generation opportunity to increase the presence and voice of women in the Upper House; we must not waste it.
At the current rate of change our daughters will be drawing their pensions before they have an equal say in the decisions that affect our lives. We can and must do better than this.
Join the call for change at www.countingwomenIN.org