A whole generation of women is lost to politics

On International Women's day, a damning new report says female politicians are failing to act as role models

Leading female MPs are failing to inspire a "lost generation" of young women to become interested in politics, a damning report has revealed. Girls and young women feel disenchanted with and disengaged from politics, the major study found.

More than 90 years after women won the right to vote, the survey of young females aged up to 25 concludes they are "outside politics", with many feeling detached from local and national policies and decision-making.

The report, which has been highlighted to mark International Women's Day by Girlguiding UK, the largest women-only organisation in the country, casts doubt on the ability of high-ranking female politicians to act as credible role models for girls.

Ruth Kelly, who resigned from the Cabinet last year to spend more time with her family, has left the impression that women cannot have both a high-flying career and children, one Guide leader said yesterday.

The study places the blame on a lack of information about how to take part in local and national politics, and the small proportion of female MPs – 19 per cent – in Westminster.

The report, Political Outsiders: We Care, But Will We Vote?, is published in partnership with the Fawcett Society and the British Youth Council. Its findings are all the more worrying because it is based on the views of Guides, traditionally more active in volunteering than others in their age group, suggesting disillusionment in the wider public is even greater.

Denise King, the chief executive of Girlguiding UK, said: "This report shows that greater efforts are needed to inspire the next generation of female policy-makers, empowering them to have a real say on issues affecting their daily lives and the communities they live in."

More than a quarter of girls are put off by a lack of information about how they should take part, while 17 per cent believe it cannot make a difference.

Nearly half of young women say they would like to be more involved in volunteering, but when this comes to local or national politics, the figure drops to 28 per cent. Domestic violence, gangs and knife crime, bullying and equality at work emerged as the most important issues for young women.

The report calls for a new Youth Green Paper, including a demand for one person under 25 to be on every parliamentary shortlist, and the ability to vote by text message or through social networking sites such as Facebook.

Katherine Rake, the director of the Fawcett Society, said: "The gap between Westminster and the daily lives of today's young women is rapidly widening into a chasm as young women struggle to see the relevance of national politics."

Jess Alcroft, 21, a student at Leeds University and a Guide leader, said: "Ruth Kelly is my MP in Bolton West, and when she resigned to spend more time with her family it put across the perception that women cannot have a high-profile political career if they want a family as well.

"Deep down I really want to be in politics... But I get the impression that the majority of male MPs are sitting around just filling in their expenses forms."

Asked whether she believed Harriet Harman was a good role model, Miss Alcroft said: "Any woman in a high-profile position is a good role model, but there is a sense that you have to hide your femininity to achieve things in politics, and be a person rather than a woman. I would dispute that, because there are benefits to having a feminine side."

Theresa May, the most senior female member ofthe shadow cabinet, said: "Without sustained efforts by politicians from all parties these young women... will become a lost generation politically, disengaged from the decisions that affect them."

The Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, the youngest member of the House of Commons, said: "When I was growing up I too felt that there was a lack of female role models in politics and a lack of young MPs who would champion the issues important to young people and inspire us to be active citizens."

Harriet Harman

The frontrunner to succeed Gordon Brown, according to bookmakers, is criticised for not being 'feminine' enough and does not cut through to ordinary young women.

Hazel Blears

The Communities Secretary admits 'we still have a long way to go' to encourage more women to become involved in politics. Guides say Blears is recognisable only inside Westminster.

Ruth Kelly

By resigning from the Cabinet to spend more time with her family, she 'left the impression' that women cannot have both children and a high-flying political career.

International women's day protest: Calls for official action against domestic violence as thousands march in central London

Thousands of women and children marched in central London yesterday to demonstrate against domestic violence. The protest, organised by a coalition of women's groups and volunteers called Million Women Rise, was held to mark International Women's Day.

An estimated 5,000 women and children – including those who had suffered domestic abuse – gathered in Portman Square. They then marched to Oxford Street and up Regent Street before arriving at a rally in Waterloo Place.

Ange Jones, one of the organisers, said: "We want the Government to implement a strategy on violence against women and for it to be fully resourced. We also want the funding and acceptance of women's services, because they are under threat."

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: "Abused women and children should not have to depend on charity. We are talking about the social infrastructure of our nation. Domestic violence is undermining the social fabric of our country. This is not only about women; it is about our children, and about future generations. And the Government has a duty to ensure that an infrastructure of services is in place and that women and children are given protection."

Representatives of Million Women Rise have been invited to tomorrow's launch of the Home Office strategy for violence against women.

Emily Dugan

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice