Political Development

Party Affiliation

Profession/ Current priorities

Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments




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[ European Commission, DG V ]

© Jan 2001

European Database: Women in Decision-Making

Cheryl Gillan MP

Political Development

1. What made you decide to go into politics?
Politics was a hobby for me until I sat next to Margaret Thatcher at a dinner and after our discussion she asked me if I had ever thought about being an MP.

2. Do/did you have a role model?
Women politicians who have been brave - Margaret Thatcher, Nancy Astor (first woman MP in Westminster), Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi.

3.Is there a tradition of political involvement/ policy - making in your family?
My mother was a local councillor for many years, and with a Scottish father, a Cornish mother, and being born in Wales, politics was always part of my background.

4. Were you involved in grassroots activities etc.?
No, for me it was always party politics. I joined the Young Conservatives at 16 because it was a good way of having a social life without parental supervision, but then politics became a great interest. I then joined the local Conservative Association, and the Bow Group.

5.Were there disruptions in your political career?
No, I went straight through. I always had great support from colleagues in the City and friends and family.

6.Were there disruptions in your biography that have had an impact on your political career? Have your objectives changed during your political career?
No. My objectives have always been to serve my constituency and make a contribution. I had a target of being elected as an MP by the time I was 40, and I was elected at 39. As a junior minister, I wanted to make a contribution through my portfolio of responsibilities.

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Party Affiliation

1. Motivation for joining a political party?
To take part in politics and keep informed of issues.

2. Which party and when?
The Conservative Party when I was 16.

3. Does your party have equal opportunity regulations?
Yes, as an intrinsic belief, rather than a rule. We believe in equal opportunity for men and women but are more successful in achieving this at local government level than in the selection and election of women MPs and European MPs.

4. Which office/function did you hold in your party at the beginning? How long after joining? How did you get into running for office?
I quickly became secretary to the Young Conservative group, within the first year of joining. I was the second woman chairman of the Bow Group. As a member of Parliament, my first job was as parliamentary private secretary to the Leader of the House of Lords.

5. Did you have mentors within your party?
Yes, I had unofficial mentors. Keith Joseph MP at the Bow Group, and I had the encouragement of my husband and mother and Jane and Tony Garrett at Central Office.

6. Have you ever changed party affiliation?
No.

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Profession/ Current priorities

1. How does your profession relate to your political work?
My legal training and business discipline have helped to build a pattern of experience of life and the way people operate which has informed my political work.

2. What kind of qualifications do you have?
FCIM - Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

3. In what kinds of jobs did you work?
Law and then marketing.

4. Do you link your professional and political career?
Not specifically, although my marketing background gave me experience of dealing with a broad range of people and projects.

5. In what areas do you see your special competencies?
I hope I am good with people. I like to be very 'hands on', and am a 'Jack of all Trades.' ( multi-skilled)

6. What are your political priorities?
To return a Conservative Government, but until then to be an effective shadow minister and MP.

7. Main fields of action?
The non-EU element of foreign affairs. I am shadow spokesman for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs and the Department of International Development.

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Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments

1. Which objectives would you like to achieve through your political work?
To return a Conservative Government.

2. How and why have your political objectives changed during your political career?
When I was first elected, the Conservative party was in Government and I wanted to achieve a post as a minister and do a good job as a minister. Now I wish to return a Conservative Government.

3. Do equal opportunities strategies in your opinion have an impact in your country in the promotion of women in decision-making- please specify?
The all women shortlists of the Labour Party did achieve more women in parliament, but I am not convinced that this was the right thing to do, and I do not know whether it will achieve a negative effect, if the women elected by this route do not stay, or are not re - elected. More needs to be spent on promoting women in politics, as it is currently low down on the list of political priorities. It is always difficult to target a particular group, because that is discrimination against others, but something has to be done to encourage women to take opportunities, as they have a great deal to offer, and the men in power can't be the only ones with skills.

4. Did you benefit from these strategies?
No. I was very lucky, and did not realise there were barriers.

5. Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in conventional policy-making?
No , if it exists it is inadvertent. I think that what keeps women from committing themselves to politics is adverse publicity about the role, a dislike of aggravation, and that it is all- consuming. Women seem to feel that it is not for them. They are happy to influence things behind the scenes, without taking the front seats.

6. What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome?
They need to have the confidence to grab opportunities. Also,women block other women and this needs to be tackled. Women always feel they cannot do a job unless they have all the qualifications and skills. Men never seem to feel this.
Men use language differently and this can be a barrier for women who are more direct.

7.What obstacles have you had to overcome in your own career?
I lack self-confidence and sometimes have to force myself to do things, although people do not believe this and regard me as confident.
Women have a fear of rejection and have to learn not to let that stop them. We have to be able to pick ourselves up and not take things personally. We have to be able to take the blows.
I am not aware of any other obstacles, but as this is only my second parliament, I don't know it all yet.

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