Less than a quarter of Britain’s cabinet ministers and parliamentarians are women, and the country is sliding down a global league table of women in politics, according to a report published on Thursday.
The report by a coalition of campaign groups said women make up only 23 percent of British lawmakers and 23 percent of cabinet members, despite David Cameron’s pledge before becoming prime minister to fill a third of his cabinet seats with women before the next parliamentary elections in May 2015.
“It is still the case that, at the current rate of progress, a child born today will be drawing her pension before she has any chance of being equally represented in the UK parliament,” the report said.
Britain has fallen six places in the world ranking of parliaments – based on the number of female lawmakers – to 65th place now from 59th place before the last general election in 2010, the report said.
Every western European country except Ireland ranks higher than Britain, as do the Scandinavian nations. Afghanistan and Iraq are also ahead of the United Kingdom.
The report noted that Cameron had reshuffled his cabinet three times, raising the number of women holding cabinet posts to five from three.
Since January 2013, 24 women have been appointed life peers, entitling them to seats in the upper chamber, the House of Lords, but this had barely any effect on the percentage of women in the Lords, the report said.
“The House of Lords remains a bastion of male power and privilege right at the heart of our democratic system,” it said. “Even if the House of Commons (lower chamber) were to become 50 percent female overnight, the composition of the House of Lords would still ensure that Parliament as a whole was a male dominated institution.”
The lack of women in top jobs was evident in other walks of life as well.
Only one national newspaper is edited by a woman. Only one of the country’s 12 Supreme Court justices is a woman, and no women hold top posts in the armed forces.
“At the tail-end of this Parliament, we are still not much closer to seeing real gender equality in our politics. Despite a headline-grabbing reshuffle earlier this year, the prime minister failed to reach his own target of making a third of his ministers female,” Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said in a statement.
“Getting more women into politics isn’t just about equality and fairness – it’s about not wasting the potential, talent and expertise of half the population,” she said.