How well are women represented in Parliament today?
Nearly a quarter of MPs in the House of Commons today are women and female members of the House of Lords make up about a fifth of the total membership. However, just one hundred years ago there were no female politicians in the Houses of Parliament at all.
Image: female MPs in 1929
A female first
In 1919, Nancy Astor became the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons. (The first woman in the House of Lords was appointed in 1958.) Even after the Equal Franchise Act was passed in 1928, giving women equal voting rights to men, the 1929 general election resulted in just 16 female MPs being elected to Parliament. Compare that with the 2010 general election, where 143 of the 650 MPs elected to the Commons were women (22%).
Slow, gradual growth until 1997
The 20th century mostly saw a gradual increase in the number of female MPs and members of the House of Lords in Parliament. That was until the 1997 general election. The number of female MPs doubled overnight from 60 to 120. Some contend that an important factor was the system of choosing party candidates through all-women shortlists, used by the Labour Party.
Of the 28 current MPs under the age of 30, half are female.