The Current

Traditional parties sideline women's rights, says Women's Equality Party co-founder

A new political party pushing gender parity is part of Britain's election campaign in a quest for a land called Equalia.
UK Women's Equality Party co-founder Catherine Mayer aims to move the political conversation on women's equality. (Leo Cackett)

A new political party pushing gender parity is part of Britain's election campaign in a quest for a land called Equalia.

Journalist Catherine Mayer was not planning to launch this or any other political party two years ago.

"Our party was founded literally by accident," Mayer tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"I stood up at a meeting and proposed the party. And by the time I got home, social media had thought that I was proposing to start the party myself."

Mayer joined forces with her friend, entertainer Sandi Toksvig, to found the UK Women's Equality Party. 

Their goal is to show why equality for women is a benefit for everyone — and point out that we need to guard against moving in the opposite direction. 

Mayer has written a new book, Attack of the 50 Ft. Women: How Gender Equality Can Save The World, to document all the obstacles she sees still standing in women's way.

"We need to make visible these invisible ties that are holding us back," Mayer says.

The Women's Equality Party does not aim to be a "full service party," says Mayer, instead focusing on changing the political conversation on both the left and the right to bring women's rights to the fore.

The prompt is needed, says Mayer, because though traditional political parties may say they favour equal rights, progress has stalled.

"They're not actually doing the work," says Mayer. "They pay lip service to it but they rarely focus on it."

Catherine Mayer (in the orange-checked coat) with several Assembly candidates ahead of the May 2016 elections for London mayor and the London Assembly. (Courtesy of Catherine Mayer)

Though their platforms may be very different, Mayer says she took inspiration from the right wing populist UK Independence Party (UKIP).

"What we could see from them is that a party that at its peak never had more than two MPs could still create seismic political change," says Mayer.

"What I said is, how about we show that gender equality is actually a vote-winner and then [the traditional] parties will come along and try to be more like us in order to neutralize us. Whichever way we win," Mayer explains.

"Either that means they try to do what they did with UKIP and end up giving them what they want by trying to appease them, or else we break through anyway and put our policies into practice."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.