ONE way to improve the equality of women is to have more women in Parliament, writes Redditch MP Rachel Maclean in her Letter From Westminster.

I’m a dedicated campaigner for this and have consistently called for a balanced Parliament, to look like the country we serve.

Last Friday was International Women’s Day. While it empowered women, and I hope husbands, fathers and brothers too, it also proved how much progress there is still to make until we achieve full equality.

We may have had two women Prime Ministers, but women are still far too underrepresented in politics, in business, in the media, in engineering and manufacturing.

While some don’t believe it necessary to have a day where we celebrate women, for me it’s an important opportunity to reflect on the progress we still need to make.

What I found particularly galling on International Women’s Day was to talk about the abuse women in the public eye receive – only to receive abuse for talking about the abuse women receive.

There is a toxic atmosphere on social media where people believe they can hide behind their smartphones and laptops and dish out abuse without even a single thought about how it might make their victim feel.

However, I know from personal experience how much more horrific abuse women politicians experience on social media, and this has been corroborated by study after study.

Sadly, this does put off women from entering public life, as they fear the impact on themselves and their families.

I have been on the receiving end of some particularly sickening abuse since becoming your MP.

In one Facebook comment I was once told to “go and hang from Westminster Bridge.”

Can you imagine how my kids must feel to read comments like that about their mum?

Whether you voted for me or not, whether you support the Conservatives or not, I think we can all agree, as decent human beings, that level of abuse is simply unacceptable.

Those who dish out abuse seek to dehumanise us, and it goes far beyond civilised and robust debate on the issues.

While robust debate on the issues is what all of us in public life embrace, the constant onslaught of derogatory comments has a corrosive effect on mental health.

Abuse on social media must stop.

We must all call it out, stop it and be more courteous and polite to one another online, even when we may vehemently disagree on issues we care passionately about.

The Government is determined to tackle this toxic abuse with a White Paper on Online Harms to ensure social media firms step-up to the plate and help end this toxic online environment.”