Sexist local governments show urgent need for quotas and statutory childcare policies
Published 13 July 2017
A new report by the Fawcett Society that labels local government ‘not fit for the future’ owing to discrimination and under-representation of women underscores the urgent need to adopt core Women’s Equality Party policies, WE said on Thursday.
The research by Fawcett reveals that women make up only one in three councillors in England – an increase of just 5 per cent in twenty years – as well as just twelve percent of combined authority representatives. In the devolved regions, all six elected metro mayors are men. The report also showed that sexist abuse of female councillors was rife, with BAME and disabled women particularly affected, while career advancement was severely hampered by stereotyping.
“This report demonstrates the extent to which women are held back from participating in local government by structural inequalities including a lack of maternity leave, shortage of flexible working options and institutional sexism,” said Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party. “It is alarming too to see that women are outnumbered six to one in Finance or Economic Development roles – which more often lead to senior posts – while a third of female councillors have experienced sexist comments from council colleagues.”
“The resulting lack of diverse representation and thinking has a direct impact on the way communities are run and must be tackled if local government is to be truly effective and accountable to voters,” Walker added.
Fawcett have made a series of recommendations for change, including a statutory England-wide maternity, paternity, adoption and parental leave policy for councillors, help with childcare and caring costs, access to remote working facilities, and target-setting for political parties to increase their number of women candidates.
“Properly-funded parental leave, free childcare, diversity monitoring and flexible working as the default are all core policies for the Women’s Equality Party,” said Walker. “We are delighted that this report recognises the need for positive action to create change, and will push the other parties to adopt our plan for short-term quotas to introduce a better gender balance of candidates in the quickest time,” she said.
“Equal representation is one of the Women’s Equality Party’s core objectives. It is time our policies and practices were implemented so that women can take up their rightful places across local government to make politics work better for everyone,” she added.