Today sees the relaunch of the Conservative Women’s Organisation in Wales writes Abigail Mainon.
The Conservative Women’s Organisation (CWO) celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019, making us one of the oldest women’s political organisations in the world, but the organisation has not had an established branch in Wales for a number of years.
The CWO is an affiliated organisation of the Conservative Party. If you are a member of the Conservative Party, then you can be a member of the Conservative Women’s Organisation irrespective of your gender, as long as you agree to our aims. Our members form a countrywide network of people of all ages and backgrounds, working together in a wide range of activities within the voluntary party.
The CWO provides training, mentoring and speaking opportunities. We encourage and support women who wish to become involved at all levels of public life or in their local communities: From school governors to public appointments, Councillors to MPs. The CWO is there to help support all Conservative candidates through CWO Development, both men and women can join our courses.
We also have Conservative Young Women (CYW) in Wales, which is part of the Conservative Women’s Organisation (CWO), dedicated to encouraging and supporting young women in the Conservative Party. CYW membership age is 18-35, welcoming members from around the country and from every walk of life. As well as sitting on the CWO Wales committee as a Deputy Chair, I serve as the CYW regional representative for Wales and can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Both CWO and CYW have been invaluable networks for training and support throughout my candidacy and political career thus far, it is so reassuring to have this strong team of like-minded women behind you as you seek to progress.
The journey for Tory Women in Wales is underway, jumping from zero female Welsh Conservative MPs to three brilliant female members in the last General Election and the Welsh Conservatives now have a gender balanced Shadow Cabinet in the Senedd following the most recent appointments. We have lots of amazing women representing the Welsh party on County, Town and Community councils across the country, plus serving in our association officer teams and on some area teams. My own association in the Vale of Clwyd for example, has an all-female line up, with the roles of Chairman (myself), both Deputy Chairs and our Treasurer all being filled by women. However, though these steps are positive, there is still a long way to go. We need to see more women represented across all levels of public life and within our party, including on the Welsh Conservative Board, to ensure that women in Wales have an equal voice.
To encourage more women into politics and help us with this goal we need to show them what is possible and achievable, highlighting the work of the inspirational and strong women that we have within our party.
Women do face more barriers to get involved in politics, but we can use our platform to show others that it is a realistic ambition and, through the Conservative’s Women’s Organisation, Conservative Young Women and Women to Win (W2W), we can offer support, advice and encouragement to guide their path and find a role to suit each individual’s goals.
We need to work on breaking perceptions of what a typical tory politician is and challenge how elected representatives and those active within politics are allowed to be treated by the media, the public and even our party members, making this a safer and more appealing field for all.
The key is not about quotas or female shortlists, it is empowering women to see that they can make a difference to society by getting involved. Then when they do, giving them the confidence and tools to prepare them to be wholesome, well-rounded candidates ready to stand and serve in all aspects and levels of public life, whilst ensuring we have a candidate selection process that is tailored to meritocracy so as the pathway to success is open to all.
As mentioned above, Women to Win is the other major organisation in the UK to support Conservative Women in politics. It was founded in 2005 by Baroness Jenkin of Kennington and Theresa Map to address the need for more female Conservative candidates and MPs. Their role is complementary to the CWO and focuses on supporting women at a parliamentary-candidacy level, through selections and elections.
Suzy Davies MS who is the Chair of Women to Win Wales is in support of today’s launch, she has said:
“I can’t tell you what a delight it is to see Conservative Women’s Organisation rising again in Wales. I know what a privilege it is to hold elected office – and I know what a slog it can be to get there.
“I’ve seen from my connection with Women2Win, and my own experience as a candidate, that the ways of getting women to fulfil their potential can be quite different from getting the best out of the guys. CWO is there to unleash that potential.
“After ten years as a Member of the Welsh Parliament, which has roughly equal numbers of men and women, the effect of gender balance on policy priorities, law and political culture is obvious. The main problem is that not enough of those women are Conservatives. The variety of voices is still not as rich as it needs to be for such a small legislature to be truly effective and reflective of society.
“As Chair of Women2WinWales I can’t wait to work with CWO: Getting the party in Wales to see that excellence comes in many guises – and that, half the time, they shouldn’t be surprised if it’s wearing a bra. In fact, they should be expecting it – and if the obvious majority of hopefuls continue to be men, they should be asking themselves why and doing something proactive about it.
“Voters want to see a version of themselves in their representatives and that’s what the party needs to offer in every election. More Conservative women in power isn’t just good for Wales but it’s the key to our electability. The key to people trusting us. The key to people seeing themselves in us”
Suzy is among many of the Welsh elected representatives who have been supported by, and offer support to, organisations such as CWO and Women to Win. Sarah Atherton MP for Wrexham who will be a guest speaker at tonight’s event is also a member of the CWO and will share her views on the role of these organisations and support they offer at tonight’s launch event. Sarah told Gwydir:
I am thrilled to be speaking at the launch of the CWO in Wales. As the first female Conservative MP elected in Wales, I am passionate about encouraging more Welsh women to stand for elected office. With three female Conservative MPs in Wales, and a gender balanced shadow cabinet in the Senedd- the tide is turning and the future looks bright! We must do all we can to encourage women to stand, and in doing so we can better represent Wales!”
Register here to join us this evening and hear from Sarah, who will be joined by other influential guest speakers such as; Simon Hart, the Secretary of State for Wales; Fleur Butler, the National Chairman of CWO; Glyn Davies, Chairman of the Welsh Conservative Party plus members of the CWO Wales and National Committees including the CWO Wales Chairman Jane Pratt.
To become a member or find out more information on CWO and other Welsh Conservative female support organisations please visit our websites; Conservative Women’s Organisation, Conservative Young Women and Women2Win
Abigail Mainon sits on both the CWO Wales committee and on the CYW committee. She is the Vale of Clwyd Association Chairman and the Welsh Parliamentary Candidate for Alyn and Deeside.