Having pushed for it on the Young Labour national committee, I am delighted that there will be a Young Labour women’s event during the youth days at Annual Conference. This is a real step forward and I’m sure it will be a great event. But it’s not enough.
We have a serious problem with women’s participation at all levels of the party. The Parliamentary Labour Party is still full of men. Four out of five of the leadership candidates in 2010 were men. The majority of Labour candidates in the upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections are men. Young Labour is dominated by men.
At the recent Young Labour Conference in Newcastle the vast majority of people who got up to speak were men and, when chairing one of the sessions, I struggled to find women with their hands up to pick for questions from the sea of men.
A women-only event at conference is great but Young Labour needs to go further. We should have a Young Labour women’s conference: a day of speakers, training and workshops for young women to equip us with the skills and confidence to speak at events and inspire more young women to put themselves forward for election. I want to see mentoring schemes for young women around the country, with active members and high-profile women meeting with new members and taking them to events.
We also need to be doing more on a local level, with our Constituency Labour Parties and our Young Labour groups. In East Midlands Young Labour we’ve been working hard to increase the levels of women’s participation and we’ve made some headway. When electing our first committee last January, we made sure it was gender balanced. I recently organised East Midlands Young Labour’s first women-only event – a coffee morning in Leicester with a successful woman speaker talking to members about getting more involved in the party.
Young Labour, and the wider party, needs to be doing everything it can to ensure that women are fully represented and involved. From small steps, such as ensuring there is always a woman who is a point of contact for events, right through to developing active women’s forums.
Developing our members and making sure there are ample opportunities for them to get involved is so important. This is the only way to ensure our movement continues to grow and starts to look like the communities we seek to represent. Young Labour has the opportunity to lead the way for the wider party on women’s equality and a Young Labour women’s conference should be a top priority.