Women don't need 'political haircut' to succeed, says Tory MP Mims Davies
Women should not be deterred from standing for Parliament by pressure to conform to a "certain look and style", a Conservative MP has said.
Mims Davies revealed she had gone for a "political haircut" when she had stood for election in Eastleigh in 2015.
But she had ditched it after entering the Commons because she had realised she did not need it to "fit in".
She urged women from all backgrounds not to be intimidated by the prospect of a career in politics.
The former radio presenter, who won Eastleigh from the Lib Dems at the 2015 general election, said: "It is vital that we have women's voices heard on women's issues."
And she called on all parties - and the government - to work together to remove barriers preventing women from entering politics.
Leading a debate in Westminster Hall, she said: "I personally chose to cut my hair and have a 'political haircut' in order to look more like a politician. And I have got here and decided to actually throw that book out the window.
"I've certainly looked at parliamentary procedure and process and how we actually do it.
"I know, speaking to former trailblazing women MPs, there was a certain look and style we were supposed to conform to in order to fit in here.
"I'm delighted, I think, we all know we don't have to do that."
Referring to a BBC Radio 5 live survey from January, Ms Davies said women MPs faced sexist abuse online and from colleagues, praising Labour's shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, for speaking out about it.
And she reflected on the pressures facing female politicians in what was still a male-dominated world.
"I think there's a danger in all society that participating and putting yourself in the public eye, you have to do everything brilliantly.
"I know I've heard that from some of our new female MPs.
"The pressure of just not mucking up and drawing attention to yourself once you get here is really difficult."
She called for more flexible Commons hours, better creche facilities and guaranteed "baby leave" for MPs, suggesting "proxy votes" to ensure those who did take maternity or paternity leave did not have to attend the Commons in person.
Her speech was backed by Labour's former deputy leader Harriet Harman, who said it sounded like one she would have made herself, showing "we have daughters of the women's movement on all sides of the House".