2018 marks the centenary of The Representation of the People Act and The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, both of which marked major advances for women's political participation and empowerment. 

To commemorate this historical moment, the British Council commissioned this report to reflect upon the advances that have been made for women's political participation, power and leadership in the four nations of the UK, highlight the persistent challenges and priorities and consider the perspectives of other countries. The definition of women’s political participation, power and leadership goes beyond the representation of women in parliament, also focusing on the influence of women within power and decision-making structures and processes, how women in different spheres of life are participating and engaging in politics.

The report presents an opportunity to build upon findings and recommendations of the British Council’s recent report on Gender equality and empowerment of women & girls in the UK: Meeting the Challenge of the Sustainable Development Goals and forms a basis for developing international discussion and dialogue about these vital issues and generating opportunities to do even more to support women’s political participation. This is in furtherance of Sustainable Development Goal 5.5 – ‘Women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life’ and supports the British Council role of creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust as the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. 


Six thematic chapters explore the key enables and barriers to women's progress as shared by participants: Women's activism and sisterhood, the rules, the political workplace, leadership roles, the results and a changing world. These are supported by information from further research, a timeline of progress from 1918, key data and examples which offer more in-depth analysis of the issues that arose as important from this conversation.


Participants were asked ‘What change would you like to see over the next ten years?’. Views on what is needed next to achieve a step-change by 2028 were rich and varied, but there was a consensus that action is needed now to extend existing gains to all women within the UK and internationally. These recommendations are the amalgamation of the priorities for change, from when we asked research participants what change they would like to see over the next ten years. 

Join the conversation

To generate conversation and awareness around the report, we are asking people to join the conversation on social media and respond to the following question using the hashtag #WomenPowerPolitics:

'100 years ago, (some) women gained the right to vote in the UK but worldwide there are still gender inequalities in politics and power. What change would you like to see over the next 10 years?'

Watch some of the participants from our research roundtable events in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester respond to this question in the video above.

Any further questions should be sent to genderequality@britishcouncil.org