PROSPER MAGAZINE: ISSUE 01 | FIVE MINUTES WITH...
FIVE MINUTES WITH:
MP for Wolverhampton North East
WE CAUGHT UP WITH EMMA REYNOLDS, ON A BUSY MORNING AT HER CONSTITUENCY HEADQUARTERS ABOUT WHAT DRIVES HER AS A POLITICIAN, INEQUALITY AND BEING A WORKING MOTHER IN PARLIAMENT.
INTERVIEW BY AMY KAUR & CHARLOTTE BENTLEY
SO, WHAT DRIVES YOU?
Trying to make a difference to people’s lives, making sure that people are treated fairly which is not easy as there is a lot of inequality knitted into the system.
WHY DID YOU BECOME AN MP?
To try and make that difference. I decided that I had really got the bug for talking to people on their doorstep, I was very interested in people and politics and the campaigning was something I enjoyed.
I loved working in Brussels, but everything felt a little remote and distant from people’s lives, even though the decisions that have been, and continue to be made in Brussels by our MEPs, do have an impact here.
I found it really refreshing to be back in Wolverhampton, my home town, talking to people about their lives and what kind of things made a difference to them. That’s when I really decided I wanted to stand as their MP.
WHAT IS YOUR FOCUS AS AN MP?
I found myself wanting to speak up about the inequalities in society, especially surrounding opportunities for children and the economy.
One of the reasons I came into politics was because I want every child, regardless of their parent’s income or background, to be able to flourish and do well, but we don’t yet live in a country where every child has an equal chance. Some parents are able to spend more money on their children’s education than most people earn in a salary.
WHAT INEQUALITIES ARE YOU TACKLING?
I think there is still a lot of sexism in politics. I remember when the #MeToo movement started, my husband asked me, have you ever suffered this? Thankfully I never have!
I think it can happen to MPs, but it very often happens to people who work for MPs because there is a kind of power dynamic.
Until relatively recently, Parliament has been quite male-dominated. It’s odd you’re sitting here interviewing a woman MP? Thirty years ago, even twenty years ago, it might have been very unusual for that to happen.
It has been a hundred years since some women got the vote, and since women could stand to be elected. So it has been a long journey, but still only a third of MPs are women and this is something which should change.
WHAT ABOUT THE GENDER PAY GAP?
Making sure that women break the ‘glass ceiling’, and getting into those top jobs is really the only way of bringing down the pay gap and we have introduced legislation which requires companies with over 250 employees to reveal their pay gap.
This includes big companies like the BBC. When their wages list was revealed, it was pretty shocking.
When an employer is looking at recruiting they may have a biased perception against employing or promoting women because they think once women hit a certain age it’s more likely that they are going to go off on maternity leave.
In an equal world, this should not be the case and we also need to make sure that men are taking shared parental leave, but only a small percentage of them do at the moment.
HOW DO YOU JUGGLE YOUR JOB AS AN MP AND MUM OF TWO YOUNG CHILDREN?
The most challenging thing I’ve faced so far is having a four-day-old baby when Theresa May changed her mind in 2017 and called a general election.
I went out campaigning to keep my seat having given birth just a week before. Although I shouldn’t have because I paid for it! I thought I could do it, and I felt OK, but I suffered later. There is a reason we have maternity leave.
In January this year, there was a pilot scheme introduced for a proxy vote system which would allow MPs on maternity leave to nominate a colleague to vote on their behalf in Parliament.
HAVE YOU BENEFITED FROM THE SCHEME?
About to go on maternity leave, it means I can better represent my constituents and I won’t suffer reputational damage for not being able to attend a vote.
Once something like this is introduced, they won’t go back on it. They only need to improve it. For instance, this proxy system is only for female MPs, but I hope they extend it to fathers as well. Male MPs can only take two weeks paternity leave but male employees can take shared parental leave.
It’s a big reform and we are dragging Parliament into the twenty-first century. In some cases, kicking and screaming but in most cases, people are in favour.