This week Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan writes exclusively to Bucks Free Press readers:

This week marks the centenary of the legislation which allowed some women the vote for the very first time. February 6, 1918 will rightly be celebrated in Westminster and around the country.

Of course, it would be a decade after that date before all adult women were able to vote, in 1928, on equal terms with male voters.

By that time the first women MPs had been elected and taken their seats in the Commons.

By 1924, Margaret Bondfield MP became the first woman to hold Ministerial office, following that achievement by becoming the first woman Cabinet Member in 1929.

As I’ve been involved in a number of the projects surrounding this centenary, I have been thinking about the progress that has been made over the years.

Since 1918, 456 women have been elected to the House of Commons. In 1992 I became the 159th woman to become an MP.

When I entered the House, fewer than 10 per cent of MPs were women.

In the 2017 General Election, that proportion rose to 32 per cent, which is the highest ever.

People are often surprised by one fact which I unearthed when I was appointed to the Cabinet in 2010 – that I was at that time only the sixth Conservative woman Cabinet minister.

Things have changed since then! There have been many firsts and as a Conservative I am proud that over this century of change the party I represent has provided the first woman Leader of the Opposition, and then the first and second women to be our Prime Minister, in Rt Hon Margaret Thatcher MP and then Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

It is sometimes said that the House of Commons is not a progressive place.

Yet, right from the start, the status of women and men as MPs was identical.

There was never any thought that a woman Minister should earn less than her male colleagues.

That was at a time when female civil servants had to give up their careers when they got married. 

Now, in 2018, there are still fierce battles being fought about true equality in the workplace.