This blog was originally posted on Women 50:50's blog.
SYP Equalities Convener, Kirsty McCahill discusses the importance of fostering young women's interests in politics, and SYP's membership census:
In Scotland, 34.9% of MSPs are female, despite the Scottish population being over 50% female. When this fact is pointed out, one errant response given is that women aren’t interested in politics. But how blinkered must we be to believe that women have no interest in the issues that affect them? Do we believe that women aren’t as deserving of fair representation or, even worse, aren’t worthy of an equal voice.
At the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP), we know that women are interested in politics, and now we can prove it. SYP has just released a census of its current membership and it shows that for the first time in our parliament’s history, there are more female MSYPs than male. Thus, it can be argued that SYP is more representative than the Scottish Parliament, as it truly reflects the gender balance of Scotland’s population, with 13% more female representatives than the Scottish Parliament.
This is a tremendous fact, and one I am extremely proud of, not only as the SYP Equalities convener but as a young woman who is interested in politics. In my experiences, I’ve had many people say to me “Oh, perhaps you’ll be the next female Prime Minister!” Isn’t it a little funny how you’ve never hear someone say to a man the same thing in a male context? Is this because the Prime Minister is expected to be a male? Is it somehow abnormal for a woman to be in a position of leadership?
During my time in youth based politics, I’ve chaired my local youth forum, been the Convener of a committee, and sat on the Board of SYP as a Trustee. Never once have I been doubted because I am a woman. And that’s what I love about young people – in my opinion, we have a much more nuanced and realistic view on representation and equality. Never once has my ability as an MSYP been doubted because of my gender. I’ve had the same access to opportunities as everyone else in the organisation, and that’s why I feel that SYP is leading the way for gender equality, and we as an organisation are an example to be inspired by.
In 2014, SYP elected a female chair and a female vice chair, and we currently have as gender balanced a board as possible (7 members, 4 male, 3 female) including a female Vice Chair. Our Conveners Group is completely gender balanced with a female Convener’s Trustee. We go to show that gender equality is not an idea anymore, it can be a reality.
Our census shows that young women are interested in politics, but we need to make sure that as they grow older that they are not told they can’t do the things to which they aspire to. It’s important that we recognise the strength and power of women to be strong, inspirational leaders, and we should be encouraging young women down the avenues which they want to walk. Organisations such as Women50:50 and campaigns such as the 50:50 by 2020 pledge (which SYP supports) are doing great work to make sure that women are given equal participation. If we all do the same, and change our attitudes towards women in society, then automatically our country can strive to be a more equal nation.
No longer can women be pushed out of the boardroom, be excluded from the debating chamber, and denied positions of power. It’s time for a change in the way we think about equality. It’s time for a change in the way we see women. It’s time to encourage young women to stand up to the social norm and do what they want to do – not what they’re expected to do. Every young woman has the power to shape her own future, and every young woman has the power to shape the future of her country. We believe that here at the SYP. It’s time the rest of Scotland did too.