The Election: Getting the female vote
Despite women making up 52% of the electorate women are significantly less likely to vote than men - 55% of women are certain they will vote compared to 65% of men.
In a recent poll commissioned by Woman's Hour they found the top five areas of concern for women were: the NHS; the cost of living; the cost of caring for a family; immigration; and education. It is these areas that the parties have tended to focus on in order to attract female voters.
Women voters are extremely important to Labour. Labour has traditionally polled better with women than men, therefore many of their policies are designed to appeal particularly to women. Throughout this campaign Labour has really been pushing that they are the party of the NHS. They have a plan for the NHS and they know how they are going to pay for it (allegedly). This is important as 59% of women in the poll referred to above said the NHS was the area of greatest concern to them. Of course there have been controversies along the way (the pink bus) however it is a party openly committed to gender equality. Its key policies include: introducing a Violence Against Women and Girls bill, potential grandparental leave and establishing more secure funding for rape crisis and domestic violence centres.
The cuts made during the last Government have been shown to have hit women the hardest. Unemployment has dropped for men and risen for women while the gender pay gap has increased. Therefore the Tories have had to work hard to gain ground with women. This has mainly been done through asserting themselves as the party to be trusted with the economy and the NHS. In order to do this they have been changing their language. For example "we want to cut the deficit" doesn't poll as well as "we need to reduce the debt your children will have to live with in the future". The Tories have also come out with some interesting policies aimed at women particularly in relation to childcare. They have pledged 30 hours of free childcare per week for working parents of 3&4 years olds – that's 5 hours more than Labour. The Tories are also committed to introducing further legislation to prevent employers discriminating against gender and are looking at legislation to address the gender pay gap.
UKIP has traditionally polled badly with women. Nigel Farage has tried to rationalise this by remarking that women don't like UKIP because they are too much of a risk, they represent a shaking up of the establishment. The UKIP policies are not particularly female friendly nor aimed at women. Farage himself has remarked that at times the party has looked 'blokeish' and there have been numerous occasions where the party has been accused of being sexist. However, in a rather unlikely move UKIP became the first party to end the "plain stupid" tax on sanitary products. VAT is currently taxed on sanitary products as they are considered "non-essential items". The Tories, Lib Dems and Labour have all refused to get rid of the levy saying that the products are taxed at the lowest rate possible under EU law – 5%. However UKIP as part of its anti-EU crusade has vowed to abolish this "outdated and outrageous" tax on women. Suzanne Evans, UKIP's head of policy has said that “No other party can pledge to take this simple step, as under EU rules no item that has ever had VAT charged on it can have VAT removed completely". However, while this is a step in the right direction its sexist image is likely to be a little harder to shake.