“And now on the line we have MEP Alex Mayer and John Rogers..., good morning gentlemen,” this happens quite frequently when I do radio interviews. I know “Alex” works for both men and women but I have this feeling the situation would not arise quite so often for a male politician called Alexander.
So what is it like being the only female MEP in the region? I certainly love it. I know it is a huge honour and a privilege to represent the people of the East of England, it is fascinating when I’m invited to meet people from different organisations, schools, our universities or the tech sector. It is great when I can vote to make people’s lives better like banning harmful chemicals from factories. Plus I get to fight against a hard Tory Brexit every day.
Most laws and campaigns affect both men and women but sometimes issues come up that especially affect women such as the very active WASPI women across our region campaigning for fair pensions, the tampon tax and how we can finally tackle the gender pay gap.
Our area has a proud tradition of women in politics including Millicent Fawcett, tireless suffragist and the physician Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who became the first female Mayor in England in Aldeburgh. The well known suffragist Millicent Fawcett, co-founded Newnham college, Clara Rackham, councillor and activist in the Women’s Co-operative Guild (and whom Rackham Road is named after) and Eva Hartree, Cambridge’s first female mayor and president of the National Council of Women.
I think they would be pleased that there are more female politicians but as disappointed as me that recently a Polish MEP, burst into a sexist rant, shouting down one of my Italian colleagues saying women should earn less than men because we are “weaker, smaller, and less intelligent…”
37% of MEPs are women, (compared to 32% in Westminster), so it certainly is not unusual to be a woman MEP but there is some way to go before reaching parity. The Labour Party does lead the way though and there are more Labour women MEPs than men. From time to time I do get mistaken for being an assistant while people think Peter from my office is the MEP - but I don’t let that put me off. I would say to any women considering getting involved in politics that not letting things put you off is so important. There will be setbacks sometimes and horrible people on twitter, but do, give it a go. It’s great and you get to change the world.