Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has warned that harassment scandals risk making politics appear a “toxic workplace” and deterring women from running for office.
And she admitted that the Tories were “behind the curve” in encouraging female politicians into Holyrood and Westminster.
While her party has a record 31 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, just seven of them are women.
Ms Davidson spoke out as allegations of sexual harassment continued to shake the UK and Scottish parliaments.
She said: “There is still an issue regarding the number of women seeking to stand at elections and the resolve of political parties to support and encourage their applications.
“In truth, my party is behind the curve. With a third of female MPs in the Commons, less than a quarter of the Conservative group are women.
“While this may constitute a significant improvement (in 2010 it was less than a sixth) it shows how far we have still to go.”
Ms Davidson was speaking at an event in Westminster staged by Women2Win – which was set up by the Tories to try to get more females into elected office.
Referring to the ongoing harassment scandal, she said: “The concern is that the events of the last few weeks may set us back.
“Our political institutions are in danger of gaining a reputation as a toxic workplace for women.”
She stated: “Let me make my position plain – we need to throw open the doors on what has gone on in the past.
“We need to flood the dark corners of parliament – and politics in general – with the disinfectant of sunshine.
“It is not acceptable for power to be abused; for people to be harassed or for the deck to be stacked against those who report wrong behaviour.”