The UK Elects More Women To Parliament Than Ever Before

by Cate Carrejo
Jack Taylor/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Though Thursday's general election in the United Kingdom was a disappointment for Prime Minister Theresa May, British women scored a huge victory overall. There are now more women in the British parliament than ever before, hopefully setting a precedent for other countries falling behind the curve in their push for gender equality in politics.

For the first time ever, British citizens elected more than 200 women as Members of Parliament to the 650-seat House of Commons. The previous record of 191 women elected was set during the 2015 vote. The U.K. now boasts more than 30 percent female representation in its electoral government — according to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, many western countries including Canada, France, and the United States still can't claim this achievement.

Another important milestone in the election is the first female Sikh MP, Preet Gill. Gill was elected for the Labour party, the rough equivalent of the Democratic party in the U.S., replacing longtime Labour MP Gisela Stuart. There are nearly half a million Sikhs living in the U.K. with little representation in their federal government, so Gill's election should be especially helpful for reflecting the diversity of the United Kingdom.

Prime Minister May called for this nationwide election just a month ago, intending to increase her parliamentary majority. The effort backfired, though, and May's Conservative party ended up losing dozens of seats, creating a "hung" parliament — since the U.K. uses a coalition government instead of a two-party system, no one party has an electoral majority in the legislature anymore.

That could make the upcoming Brexit negotiations much harder, since May doesn't have a united constituency behind her as she heads to Brussels to work out the U.K.'s withdrawal from the European Union. Many Britons would say that's all for the better since nearly half the country never wanted to leave the EU, but the win for women is great no matter how you feel about Brexit.

The very first female MP, American heiress Nancy Astor, was elected just under 100 years ago in 1919. Astor was famous for saying that "women have got to make the world safe for men since men have made it so darned unsafe for women." A century later, women are moving closer to that goal than ever. Diversity in government is helpful for everyone, and hopefully these women will be a crucial part of creating a more just global society.