Baroness Jenkin's grandmother was the only Conservative woman elected in 1945. She understands the Houses of Parliaments and its inhabitants well, having worked there in various roles from PA to Baroness over the decades. In a speech commemorating the 10th birthday of Women2Win, she tells the story of its origins, achievements and future plans. Anyone wanting to understand and support Women2Win is urged to read this piece written by our chair and co-founder, Baroness Anne Jenkin of Kennington.
Click here to read the speech in full.
"In 2005, I noticed how badly the Conservative party did with women. There was no increase in female Conservative MPs at that election. It was me that recommended the 'A List' of female candidates - something needed to be done. Theresa May felt the same way, and Professor Sarah Childs emphasised the need for something more radical than what had gone before. With the leadership election of that year, this was our chance to start the ball rolling. Theresa and I discussed a pressure group. We realised that WE had to do something, not 'someone'. We rang round all the Conservative MPs to see if they supported us, and were delighted with the response. We launched Women2Win in 2005 in room full of what can only be described as normal people - women and a pleasantly surprising number of men supported us on that night.
"We began running sessions with women. We wanted to train them to be the politiciaans they could be. The fact was - and is - that we need to increase the pipeline. Approximately 30% of those coming forward for selection are women. We have to show it is an option for more women out there. Women2Win organised many events to rally support. We are always very active at conference, fundraise relentlessly and launched our Business Supporters Club in 2008 with Lady Thatcher. We donate money strategically to candidates, but are always frugal with money and have lots of volunteers."
In 2010 we went up to 49 MPs, which was good, but not good enough. We started to identify the stars of 2015 using panels of experts and mock selections with real audiences. We realised that primaries were difficult for women, as there was an assumption in the air that the man would win. Part of our mission is simply the normalisation of women in politics."
We were amazed and overjoyed by the result in 2015. Vince Cable was beaten by Dr Tania Mathias, Mark Reckless by Kelly Tolhurst and Ed Balls by a visibly shocked Andrea Jenkyns. We now have 68 women MPs - 20% of the party. What an achievement.
"We continue to look after women MPs, especially the new ones. We know we can attract the next generation on their stories of success, and support those who didn't make it to dust themselves off and fight again. We have taken on a brilliant new director, Gillian Keegan, with Mark Garnier MP as our co-chair, and the team works hard to advance the cause."
Women2Win wants a broad range of women to come forward into politics - 2015 saw nurses, teachers and doctors stand. We don't set targets, but we would really like to go up to 40% Conservative women MPs in another ten years. We believe in fairness, but we need to level the playing field. Women's life experiences are different to men’s. Not inferior or superior, just different, and it is this that needs to be reflected in Parliament.”
Baroness Jenkin of Kennington