Irvine MP Dr Philippa Whitford, has added her support to the 50:50 Parliament movement - a cross-party campaign which aims to achieve better gender balance in the UK Parliament.

Dr Whitford spoke at the movement’s #AskHerToStand event, celebrating women in Parliament, during which she discussed her own journey to the House of Commons and what could be done to encourage more women to stand for political election at all levels of government.

The occasion marked the anniversary of Nancy Astor taking her seat in the Commons in December 1919, the first woman to sit on the green benches.

Nancy ‘wanted the world to get better’ yet, after all this time, another 117 women MPs would be needed to achieve a gender balanced Parliament.

Speaking after the event Dr Whitford said: “I was delighted to speak at the #AskHerToStand event and add my voice to the growing calls to find ways of encouraging more women to stand for Parliament and ensure better gender balance among our elected representatives.

“It was striking among the MP speeches that none of the women had set out to have a political career; showing the appropriateness of the hashtag #AskHerToStand.

“As a medical student, I was told women couldn’t be surgeons so I know what it is like to face barriers just because you are female. When I entered the House of Commons, as female MP number 391, there were still more male MPs sitting in that Parliament than the total number of women MPs over the previous 95 years!

“Women comprise over half our population yet less than 30 per cent of MPs are female. Men are, of course, capable of representing all their constituents but women and other under-represented groups would bring a different perspective on issues, based on their own, very different, experiences.

“If we are to develop policies which meet the needs of the whole of society, then we need all the elements of that society involved in the policy making process. For that to happen, the inside of Parliament needs to be more reflective of the outside.”

Frances Scott, Director of 50:50 Parliament commented: “Many were lauding the 2017 election as a record with 208 women MPs being returned to Parliament. But in 2017, nearly 100 years after women won the right to vote, this is a sad record.

“Men still outnumber women by more than 2:1 in the corridors of power. Only 12 extra women were elected, at this rate it will take over 50 years for women to have equal seats and equal say in Parliament. That is too long to wait and that is why 50:50 have launched our #AskHerToStand campaign to inspire and support women in winning seats at Westminster”