As of 2024, only 35 per cent of MPs in the House of Commons are women.

In its current state, Parliament isn’t the most welcoming working environment for women. There are several persistent barriers holding girls back from getting into politics, notably Westminster’s macho atmosphere and female MPs being routinely subjected to unacceptable online abuse.

Undeniably, we need greater female representation in politics. So ladies, do you think you have what it takes to be an MP? Let’s see …


Tenacity, defined as being determined and persistent, is a key personality trait if you want to work in politics. A reputation for being tenacious will help get you noticed and potentially promoted.

‘There’s value in … being seen as independent-minded and brave,’ says Caroline Nokes, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee and MP for Romsey and Southampton North.

While lacking in gutsiness can hold female MPs back, being seen as too persistent can also work against them. Influential women are often depicted negatively as being ‘power-hungry’ or ‘overly ambitious,’ which doesn’t help to bolster one’s reputation.

Jess Phillips is one such woman who has been portrayed as overly assertive. She told The Guardian that she’s experienced being shushed ‘like a child in a classroom’ by male colleagues in the House of Commons.

’You get men, and it is always men, who treat you like a harridan for behaving just as they behave,’ she said.

But for Caroline, being seen as outspoken has greatly benefited her. In her role as Chair of one of the Select Committees, she has been able to scrutinise the Cabinet and ask them uncomfortable questions about why women only make up a small percentage of parliamentarians and how cases of sexual assault should be dealt with in the House of Commons. Being tenacious is now part of her job.

Caroline tells me that her appointment was a pivotal moment in both her career and her life in general:

‘I think I woke up to what my biggest regret was: that I’d spent far too long being far too silent,’ she explains, adding, that as a female MP: ‘it matters that you stand up for your integrity, it matters that you stand up for what you believe in, and, actually, it matters that you are just brave.’

Rhino Skin

It’s no secret that female MPs have to endure gender discrimination.

Who can forget when the Daily Mail published an article titled ‘Never Mind Brexit, Who Won Legs-It?,’ where Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon made headlines for wearing, yes, a skirt during Brexit talks? Or how about when the Tories accused Labour MP Angela Rayner of going Basic Instinct and ‘distracting’ Boris Johnson by ‘crossing and uncrossing’ her legs during the 2022 PMQs?

I asked Mary Ann Sieghart, journalist and author of The Authority Gap if there are double standards in how the media portrays male and female MPs. She told me that women are far more likely to be judged for superficial things like ‘what they look like, what they wear, their hair’.

’Their appearance is criticised in a way a man’s never would be. Their bodies are dissected in a way a man’s never would be,’ she says. ‘It’s revolting … You only have to consider if it were a man in that position to realise how wrong this is.’

Evidence suggests that the media has not become more mindful in its reporting of female politicians.  A 2020 study compared newspaper coverage of Margaret Thatcher’s and Theresa May’s first three weeks as prime minister. It found twice as many comments written about May’s appearance and femininity, even though May came to power 37 years after Thatcher.

The takeaway is that female MPs need thick, rhino-like skin if they want to withstand the unrelenting level of scrutiny from the tabloids, the opposition parties, and that indomitable Hydra we all know as social media. Online abuse, which ranges from demeaning comments to rape and death threats, negatively affects 93 per cent of female parliamentarians and impedes their ability to do their job.

As Lyanne Nicholl, CEO of 50:50 Parliament, puts it, ‘men’ will receive online abuse ‘because of their policies,’ but ‘women will get abuse … for how they look or simply for being a woman in a position of power.’


Reports from the UK Gender-Sensitive Parliament Audit acknowledge that a lack of self-confidence is one of the main barriers holding women back from becoming politicians. So, for female MPs, believing in themselves is key.

This should be obvious and apply across genders, but the problem particularly affects women because of ongoing discrimination and deprecation by their male colleagues, regardless of how talented they are.

’We know there are bright, brave and experienced women looking to stand and [they] are getting overlooked,’ says Lyanne.

This phenomenon is perfectly illustrated by an experiment conducted by Northern Illinois University. Groups of law students were asked to analyse a case about a dysfunctional family and decide as a team which relative should have custody of the child. Researchers found that arguments made by male students were six times more likely to be used in the group’s final decision than those by female students. In short, points raised by women were not taken as seriously and were more likely to be ignored. Unfortunately, this is no different in the world of politics.

According to Professor Linda Carli, contributions from a woman ‘lack legitimacy’ in the eyes of men. For this reason, it’s imperative that female MPs wholeheartedly believe in their ideas and policies. In a country still largely run by men, women must cultivate confidence in themselves before they can gain the confidence of others.

Who Run the World? Girls!

We need more women in decision-making roles that affect our lives. For any young girl wishing to pursue politics, it’s important to prepare for the realities of working in Westminster.

If you believe you have what it takes to become an MP, don’t let anything — or anyone — hold you back.

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