Local politics is a great way for women to get political experience and can encourage them to become county councillors, mayors, police and crime commissioners and MPs.
Representation helps shape policy. There are over 60 million people in the UK, half of them women, and if we are going to truly represent these people we all need to encourage more women to come forward.
But the current statistics are disappointing, with only marginally more women becoming councillors in May.
Our chairman Brandon Lewis is clear: the Conservatives want 50% of our candidates to be women. But how do we achieve this?
We know too many women don’t think about standing for election, for a range of reasons. But the fact is many women need to be asked.
As such, our #AskHerToStand initiative puts the responsibility on everyone to reach out within their communities and ask women whether they have considered a career in politics. We are looking for teachers, lawyers, mums and accountants – anyone keen to make their community a better place.
We want all kinds of women, from those who chair the parent-teacher association to those who campaign for the local playground. Anyone prepared to put their hand up, work hard and put their head above the parapet is welcome.
This has worked successfully in the Basingstoke parliamentary constituency where more than 50% of local councillors are now women. In Basingstoke there is a deliberate policy of actively looking for a more diverse range of candidates from the community.
It has helped that Basingstoke has had a female MP since 2005. Since then there has been a significant increase in women getting involved in local politics, since it helps other women relate to a career in public life.
With a female MP in Parliament working on policy areas such as flexible working and the gender pay gap, women see someone highlighting the issues that resonate with them and impact them.
By showcasing what women are achieving in the community and inspiring others to start businesses and charities and network together, Basingstoke is proactive in encouraging and supporting women from all backgrounds to come forward.
We all know a woman that would make a great councillor and a great champion for the community – let us welcome them and give them support. It is up to all of us to reach out and tap them on the shoulder. Ask her to stand.
Maria Miller (Con), MP for Basingstoke, and Virginia Crosbie, director, Women2Win