Julie Iles is the National Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Women’s Organisation.
Have you ever been asked that on the doorstep? I have. It’s a question that we need to be able to answer if we are to secure a Conservative majority in the forthcoming General Election. There is a misconception that our Party is not “female friendly”. In part, this is perpetuated by the media but there is no doubt that a decline in the Conservatives’ winning women’s votes has been ongoing since the mid-1970s. It’s not that we are different to men, but we do respond differently to political messaging – or indeed any type of marketing.
In their book Inside Her Pretty Little Head, Jane Cunningham and Philippa Roberts present a theory of female motivation and what it means for marketing – the ‘what we say and how we say’ it part of the equation. If communication is a conversation between a brand and its audience, understanding the differences between how men and women talk is helpful. Male conversation establishes superiority, dominance and rank in the hierarchy with the subject matter being things and facts. Female conversation is about building a bond of shared interest and understanding based on a subject matter of people and feelings.
For a brand to have a conversation with a female audience, they write:
- “Hyperbole should be replaced by transparency and level dialogue
- The focus should be on people rather than things and on users rather than products
- Empathy over aspiration”
The majority of organisations – and the Conservatives are no different to other political parties in this – have an inbuilt masculine bias, not least because they are dominated by men.
So it’s heartening that the current Conservative messaging doesn’t just talk about the number of jobs that have been created, but this links to the effect on families: with a wage packet coming in, they are better able to support themselves. Whilst the top two issues are the same for women as they are for men (economy and jobs) it seems that Labour are still seen by women as being better on provision of public services such as the NHS and education – most women’s lives have daily contact with many of these services.
The Conservative Women’s Organisation (CWO) has put together an achievements card which highlights the key areas in which we have delivered for women and families. It’s pocket size for ease of reference, and we are sending it to all constituents and MPs. Daniel Kawczynski, the MP for Shrewsbury, must have been impressed by it, because he tweeted a copy as soon as he saw it. Candidates in target seats are also ordering them by the thousand.
So here’s the (by no means exhaustive) list:–
Cost of living:
- Cancelled Labour’s fuel duty rises, saving £11 per tank.
- Mortgage rates and prices kept low.
- Bringing energy prices down.
Health and Social Care:
- Capped care home fees.
- Recruited 1,000s more doctors, nurses and midwives.
- Better maternity and post-natal support.
Women’s and Children’s Safety:
- Violent crime down by 23 per cent.
- Better help for rape victims.
- New Internet controls introduced.
Work and Home:
- 15 hours free childcare for three and four year olds.
- Free childcare for 2 year olds for lower income families.
- New rights for shared parental leave and flexible working.
- A million more children taught in good or outstanding schools.
- The Pupil Premium to help disadvantaged children.
- 200,000 new places in schools set up by communities
- 12,000,000 women paying less taxes.
- 1.5 million women taken out of income tax altogether.
- Reduced number of pension qualifying years for women.
As members of the Party, women are automatically members of the CWO at no extra cost to them. Many of these women actively want to join in political campaigning and play their part in elections aside from all the fund-raising which they undertake.
We work hard to engage with women outside of simply Party membership. Our professional workshops are designed to help individuals (male and female) with their personal and political development to actively encourage more to stand for public office. CWO Forums give an opportunity for women to discuss particular issues direct with Conservative Ministers and MPs, and our summits are held in the houses of Parliament, where outside organisations are invited in to talk about issues that are important to women.
During the run-up to the General Election, the CWO has provided much-needed funding for our candidates in target seats, and we have a regular programme of “Ladies that Leaflet” running at weekends to help women candidates.
Don’t let anyone tell you that women’s interests are not served best by supporting the Conservatives.