Lanark Gazette Column: How far we have yet to travel

Last week marked International Women’s Day.

Every year it gives us an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements around the world – to take stock of how far we have come together, and how far we have yet to travel.

Gender equality in its simplest form is supported by almost everyone. The idea that men and women are equal is not a controversial concept.

In fact, you would struggle to find anyone that disagreed with that sentiment.

But as we women celebrate our achievements, it is abundantly clear that we are not where we should and need to be.

Women are still systematically paid less than men, discriminated against for falling pregnant and charged a luxury tax rate for buying tampons.

These things must change.

Action needs to be taken by the UK Government to close the gender pay gap, to remove expensive tribunal fees that act as a barrier to women getting justice and to scrap the tampon tax.

But the solution to gender inequality is not straightforward. It will not happen overnight.

A point I have raised on numerous occasions since my election is this – if more women were in positions of power, elected as MPs, these inequities would have already been tackled with legislation.

That is why it is so disappointing to see the lack of female representation in the House of Commons.

The sad fact is that only one third those elected to Westminster are women, and  – in this session alone – there are more male MPs elected to Parliament than there ever has been female MPs.

That represents a huge democratic deficit. Parliament is supposed to be representative of the people. Right now, it is not.

Women make-up half of the population, there is no excuse for the lack of representation.

Also, in putting barriers in women’s paths to public office, we are missing out on a huge depth of talent.

Political parties have a role to play in righting this wrong, and it’s good to see parties from all sides taking action.

This year we, as a country, go into the Holyrood election with more female candidates than ever before.

In Clydesdale, our MSP Aileen Campbell’s profile acts as an inspiration to women – a real example of how a woman can smash the glass ceiling and serve at the highest levels, be it in government, public life or in the board room.

Last week I had the opportunity to celebrate International Women’s day with Aileen.

She, along with her team, have established a headquarters in Lanark town centre.

In celebrating International Women’s Day, it was notable to see the number of women that have also been inspired by Aileen.

We are lucky in Clydesdale. We have in our MSP a women operating at the highest level.

Let’s send a strong message of equality in May. Let’s elect women across the board into positions of power and influence.