Scarcity of women in top jobs ‘not just to do with sexism’

Influential Labour MP Stella Creasy believes women are holding themselves back

Women need to "grab some pompoms and start cheering" for their "sisters" if they want to do more to create an equal society, according to an article by an influential British Labour MP.

Stella Creasy, the shadow minister for business, argues that the scarcity of women in top jobs is not just to do with sexism but women holding themselves back and lacking confidence.

Writing for Red magazine, the Walthamstow MP, who is considered a rising star from the 2010 intake of parliamentarians, says it can be frustrating to watch “amazing women we know hold themselves back from applying to do something because they think they’re not good enough”.

Creasy said the problem is about more than changing the attitude of employers: “Taking on the sexist dinosaurs who overlook female ability is only half the story. We also need to build the confidence of women so they are ready and raring to go.”


She writes that there were times when she of opportunities, like not going for the directorship of a charity because she was worried people would not take her seriously. She said women need “cheerleaders” who would “build waves of positive, powerful support to stop hesitation from standing in the way of our success”.

Speaking of the need for women to help other women, Creasy says: “Boosting someone else’s plans to be ambitious can also make you realise just how high you could reach, too. In the sport of cheerleading itself, the ‘flyer’ is the athlete at the top of the routine.

“They can’t get there without the rest of the troupe lifting them.” And the team can’t perform without them. Just as in life, mutual strength lifts each of us, so we can soar to the heights of which we’re all capable … So, sisters, grab your pompoms and start cheering for someone else’s future – you may be surprised at the actions it inspires in you.”

She says there have been just 369 female MPs in the history of parliament, fewer than theagainst 503 male MPs in the current parliament. “At the present rate of change, a child born in 2014 will be drawing her pension before she sees the same number of men and women making decisions on how her country is run,” she said.

Her remarks come after David Cameron blamed Nick Clegg for the government's failure to live up to its promises on promoting more women. The prime minister has blamed the Lib Dems for not been "pulling their weight" when it comes to appointing female ministers.

Tackled on the government's failings, Cameron hinted that he would give more senior jobs to women in the next reshuffle but suggested the problem was mostly the deputy prime minister's fault for not having any female Lib Dem cabinet ministers.

There are now just three women among 22 cabinet ministers running departments since the resignation of Maria Miller, the culture secretary, following the row over her expenses."What I said is I wanted to see a third of my front bench ministers being women at the end of a Conservative government," Cameron told MPs. "We have made some important progress in terms of the numbers of people on the front bench.

“I have to say, with respect to my coalition partner, that in terms of Cabinet numbers the Liberal Democrats need to do a bit more to pull their weight on this issue. But I hope to be making further progress.”

His remarks about the Liberal Democrats were rebuffed by Lorely Burt, MP for Solihull, who told the prime minister: “Lib Dem women not only pull their weight but punch above their weight.”