By Amneet Kaur
The MP for Wolverhampton North East is a proud feminist and wants to see more women in politics.
Emma Reynolds is concerned that in the 80’s there were hardly any female politicians, and still now only one third of MPs are women.
She wants to see more females not only into politics, but also high ranking business roles too.
“A female MP who has since retired from parliament said to me the most striking thing about being a woman MP,” Emma said.
“When she was in the chamber, during long debates, she needed to find a ladies toilet, there weren’t any female toilets in the vicinity. That’s how male dominated parliament was. This is just so illustrative of how sexist it was back then.
“There weren’t even any ladies toilets around the chamber because the assumption was the chamber was built for men.
“We still live in a sexist world. The older you get, women are being discriminated against whether they are getting pregnant or not.”
While gender pay gap is not a big problem in this line of work, as every MP gets the same salary, chairs of a select committees get a significant pay increase and there are many more men in this role than women.
In 2017 out of the 49 candidates for select committee chairs, only 10 were female.
The results of the elections that year were more encouraging, with eight female chairs elected, up from six before Parliament was dissolved. This means that a third of committees are now chaired by women.
Emma said parliament is very transparent, but most of the heads of businesses and most people at the top of businesses are men.
“Making sure that women do break that glass ceiling, that women do get into those top jobs is the only way really of bringing down the pay gap and making sure that men are taking shared parental leave,” she added.
“Otherwise when an employer is looking at recruiting they will have a biased against employing or promoting women because they think once women hit a certain age it’s more likely that they are going to go off on maternity leave.”
At the moment male employees in other jobs can take shared parental leave of up to a year after the birth of a child.
It was only in January that parliament approved two weeks’ paternity leave for male MPs alongside six months maternity leave for females – and Emma wants to see men in politics able to get shared parental leave as well.
Another change introduced in January this year was a proxy voting system whereby MPs off on leave after the birth of a child can choose a fellow MP to cast their vote for them. This proxy system will be trialed for a year.
Emma said this was long overdue. With her second baby due in June, she will finally be able to nominate a colleague to vote for her.
She added: “When I was on maternity leave before, I had to ask my party whips to pair me on votes, I wouldn’t be able to go, and they would pair me with a Tory MP who was either on a select committee visit or maybe not well.
“I took leave from July to December and I was criticised by a national newspaper for having the second worst voting record. They hadn’t checked with me beforehand.
“Whatever proxy voting scheme we can introduce is better than what we’ve got now because it means I can represent my constituents but also I won’t suffer the reputational damage of a national newspaper implying that I’m lazy.”