On Friday the 10th March 2017, the University of Essex played host to Rebecca Harris MP, the conservative Member of Parliament for Castle Point. Rebecca came to the university in order give students a one off lecture on the state of women in politics.
The turnout for the event mainly consisted of politics students and members of the universities conservative politics society, who had invited Rebecca to come and give a lecture. It seemed that throughout the lecture Rebecca’s stance of women in politics was encouragement but at the same time avoiding forced participation. In her own words she was against quotas for women saying: “we don’t want to have quotas”. Believing quotas to be somewhat patronising, Rebecca instead believes in the Women2Win system introduced by the conservative party.
Women2Win was started by the now Prime Minister Theresa May and Baroness Jenkin in 2005 and aims to get more women involved with the conservative party. Rebecca stated that there is still “so much work to be done” but that she feels confident about the future of the conservative party, while also challenging the idea that the labour party is progressive with the amount of women in the party saying: “labour have all these women but still no female Prime Ministers. We’ve had two”.
It seemed that Rebecca was keen to challenge the norms of gender in employment and politics as she said: “a man has a child then he’s a man and needs a pay rise, a woman has a child and she isn’t committed to working anymore”. She went on to talk about part time work for women entering parenthood and that we need to start “recognising part time work as having the same value of full time work”.
Harris was also quick to talk about the American election saying that even though Trump is bad “there are much worse regimes” and that for this reason she was “disappointed about the women’s march” that took place in London protesting the result of the US presidential election. Harris also talked about how she condemns the actions of what most “keyboard warriors” subject women in politics to, believing it to be a factor to the lack of women in politics. She made it clear that women may not want to get involved in politics if they’re scared of being attacked online. She gave the example of Jess Phillips; labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, who received over 600 rape threats in one night, saying the people who do it are “nothing more than pathetic”.
The lecture was a good experience to see what an actual MP thinks about the current state of women in politics and it seemed to go down well with the audience. The lecture was an overall success and Rebecca showed her willingness to potentially come back again sometime in the future.