229: The Self-Empowered Woman: Sandi Toksvig and WE

Dear Followers,

Years ago, I was an Associate Editor at a glossy magazine for people with all sorts of varying disabilities called “WE.” I loved the publication because it was so inclusive, and strove to help readers regardless of their physical challenge.

Today, the moniker WE (at least here in the U.S.) stands for a female-centric TV station. But in Britain, WE stands for the Women’s Equality Party, which is hoping to defeat both the Conservative and Labour parties for seats in Parliament. So far, the party has 65 branches and has drawn over 45,000 supporters and members after being officially launched last month.

The most public “face” of the party is Sandi Toksvig, a (controversial but popular) comedian, author, and TV and radio presenter. The party’s goal is for women to be treated the same as men, to have the same opportunities, the same representation (and salaries) in the top ranks of both business and the government, and for Britian’s major political parties to take those issues seriously.

Other European countries seem to be embracing the idea of women’s political parties. Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden have all begun to embrace the concept of “gender politics.” Only 25% of English and Welsh judges are female, only 29% of British members of Parliament—and about 25% of FTSE 100 board members—are women. And even though an Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970, British women still earn almost 20% less than their male colleagues. The British gender pay gap is 17.5%, which is only slightly better than the 17.9% gap in the U.S.

Some critics worry that this new party will siphon off liberal-leaning voters, and undermine other small political parties. This would solidify Britain’s two-party system—neither of which has paid much attention to women’s issues. And many political observers feel that British voters—particularly after the Paris attacks—feel that other international issues are far more important than gender equality at home. Stay tuned to see how WE fares…

About Marilyn Murray Willison

The author of six non-fiction books, Willison worked as Health and Fitness Editor at the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, and wrote book reviews, health, beauty, fashion, and travel articles on a regular basis for the Los Angeles Times. Her byline has appeared in a wide variety of American newspapers and magazines.