(Conservative MP for Totnes)
The total number of women MPs, since Nancy Astor took her seat, is smaller than the number of men sitting on the green benches today. I’m one of just 370 to have had that opportunity and I know that’s because other women fought so hard for the right to be there. That fight continues for fairer representation and, beyond the parliamentary arithmetic, for women to be in all the rooms where decisions are made. The focus is on selection bias for winnable seats, but it’s also about the low number of women putting themselves forward. It’s time for women to stop worrying about whether they have the qualifications for the role, and, instead, storm the barricades with applications and real-life experience. It’s no picnic; it can be hostile, intrusive and hard to be separated from family but it is undoubtedly the most challenging job of my career.
(Conservative MP for Norwich North)
I very rarely describe myself first and foremost as a “female MP”. That’s a sign of my feminism: I don’t worry much about my chromosomes and, instead, relish getting on with the brilliantly varied job of being a good MP. However, I do describe myself often as one of the youngest MPs. Having been elected at 27, this marks me out more than my gender. In fact, I have been one of the youngest ministers in British history. We have so much to do to engage young people with parliament that this is my passion in life. What does it mean to be a MP today? It means to be in your community, working hard, getting results locally and nationally, applying yourself on behalf of your constituents to the technicalities of parliament and communicating back constantly, and demonstrating your vision of how Britain could be better. It means being an ambassador for politics itself.