Today is International Women’s Day – a day for us to celebrate the achievements of women around the world and the progress that has been fought for and made, but also to remember how much further we have to go in the fight for gender equality.

If I’m elected West Yorkshire Mayor in May, I will become the first female directly elected metro mayor. But every successful “first” for women must also be a first step into further action. And in politics, we’ve got a long way to go.

Just 34% of the UK’s MPs are women. For a system that is meant to represent us, this is woefully unreflective of the make-up of our country. And at a local level, the statistics can get even worse – 36% of local councillors in England are female, falling to 29% in Scotland, 28% in Wales and just 25% in Northern Ireland.

Women consistently face systemic barriers to taking part in politics, from outright sexism to inflexible structures that don’t accommodate their needs, such as caring responsibilities.

The result isn’t just that women are less likely to put themselves forward for office: they’re less likely to engage in crucial parts of the political process, like joining political parties.

Only 42% of new members joining the Co-operative Party are women. While that has increased and compares favourably to other parties, we know we still have work to do. Because less women joining our Party means less women raising issues that matter to them at local meetings, less women playing their party in nominating candidates, and less women building on their membership to become councillors, devolved representatives, or MPs. That’s why today, I’m asking all the politically-engaged women I know to get involved and join the Co-operative Party.

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is “Choose to Challenge”. But the burden of breaking the glass ceiling should not and cannot just fall on women. We can all – regardless of gender – choose to stand up to sexism when we see it and promote the amazing work of women in our lives and in politics.

The co-operative movement has always been a beacon for equality: women were equal voting members of the first modern co-operative, the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, long before women won the right to vote nationally.

Our Party has always promoted the amazing work of women too: from historic heroes like Margaret Bondfield, the first woman in the Cabinet, to modern Co-operative trailblazers like my colleague Preet Kaur Gill MP, the first female Sikh MP and first female BAME chair of the Co-op Party Westminster Group.

Our movement is filled with women who have pioneered for others to follow, and from our gender balanced NEC to our gender balanced candidates at the last election, we will keep fighting to increase the representation of women in politics.

I look forward to, with your help, becoming the first female Metro Mayor. But I hope that one day, there will be no more “firsts” to celebrate. That women’s participation in public life is an unremarkable given. Until then, co-operators will continue the fight for gender equality – and I hope you’re with us.