The members' assembly has now completed its deliberations. Recommendations will be published soon.
The members' assembly was run by an independent third party, managed by WE staff, with guidance from our advisory group. The brief for this work was sent out to tender, and we appointed NatCen Social Research to carry out the work, based on the proposal they submitted in response to the brief.
The members' assembly was based on the citizens' assembly model, which has been used to tackle a range of issues and policies including abortion, Brexit, climate change and social care.
What is a citizens' assembly?
Typically, a group of people are chosen at random using certain additional information to ensure they are representative of the general population (such as age, geography, race, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability status etc.), and their views on the topic are assessed to ensure a broad range. They are asked to read evidence and/or hear presentations from experts, lobby groups and people with lived experience of the issue/s at hand and are asked to deliberate on a question or series of questions based on the information they hear. It is often a three-stage method, with citizens spending the first part learning about the issues and context, the second part deliberating in small groups on their own understanding, opinions and questions, and finally the third part coming to conclusions and recommendations. For more information about citizens' assemblies and deliberative methods online see:
How were members of this assembly chosen?
We sent out a survey of all our members on the 13th August 2020, asking about their demographics (including age, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, and where they live) as well as some general attitudinal questions on how much they know about the Gender Recognition Act, and whether or not they agree that people should or should not be able to legally change their gender without taking the steps they currently have to.
Participants were selected to represent a range of attitudes in relation to changes to the GRA; age groups and geographical locations. Those selected also included at least 20% of people who said they had a disability or long-term health condition and at least 15% who said they were lesbian, gay or bisexual. All respondents to the survey who said they are trans and non-binary, and those from ethnic minority groups are being invited, as their total responses made up a small proportion of the overall number.
An invitation was sent to people who, as a group, meet these criteria and quotas. The information we sent to members who were invited is available at https://www.womensequality.org.uk/members_consultation_assembly_participant. Participation was entirely voluntary, and members were free to turn down the invitation or withdraw at any time.
We aimed for around 60 members in total (with an assumption that some would drop out as is normal) and had 56 participants who attended at least one of the three sessions. 51 participants attended all three, and are listed below.
|First name||Last name||First name||Last name||First name||Last name|
When did the assembly happen?
There were sessions on Wednesday evenings for three consecutive weeks from 5pm until 8:30pm on the 16th, 23rd, and 30th September. The first two weeks were informational, and all the evidence presented to assembly members was live streamed and is now available at https://www.womensequality.org.uk/members_consultation_testimonials.
Parts of the first and second week and all of the third week were confidential, as the members of the assembly met in small groups to ask questions, deliberate, and make recommendations. They were guided by moderators from NatCen.
Members of the advisory group observed the small groups without taking part in the discussions, to ensure the moderators' impartiality and to be clear about how the recommendations were reached.
Audio recordings of the deliberations have been made available to WE staff and the Policy Committee.
What were members of our assembly asked to do?
Members selected to participate were asked to listen to witness testimonies from people with a range of views, expertise and experiences, read a selection of documents, and take part in small group discussions before collectively making recommendations about whether or not the Party needs to add or change any of its policies in light of the evidence they have heard.
The debate about whether there is a conflict of rights between the goals of the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act (and the debate about the motion two years ago) was the backdrop to the task of the assembly. We were looking for ways to move forward, given our mission and our objectives for women’s equality.
Members of the assembly were provided summaries of our key policies and asked to focus on whether, given what they had heard, they had recommendations for changing or adding to any of our policies. They were not asked to take a position on self-ID.
How were witnesses and evidence elected?
We selected a full advisory group of eight people, more information about the advisory group is available at https://www.womensequality.org.uk/members_consultation_advisory_group.
The advisory group worked together to compile a list of witnesses for the assembly, who were invited to present evidence to the assembly members.
Participants heard about the legislative context of the debate at conference 2018 (Gender Recognition Act, Equality Act and/or other relevant legislation) and listened to a range of testimonies relevant to the motion. These included cross-cutting topics:
- Service provision, e.g. services that support survivors of male violence, health services;
- Single sex spaces;
- Data collection and categorisation; and
- Language around sex and gender in terms of services and inclusion.
They are also covered some of our seven policy objectives:
- Equal Representation
- Equal Pay & Opportunity
- Equal Parenting & Caregiving
- Equal Education
- Equality in and by the Media
- Ending Violence Against Women
- Equality in Health
We invited witnesses to speak to their professional experience and views, as well as witnesses who provided testimony of their own experiences between the evidence sessions, some of which could have been distressing or traumatic. The advisory group provided options for people giving testimony anonymously if needed, including written testimony, audio only, or having their experiences read out by someone on their behalf.
Witnesses for the first week were as follows:
|Data collection||James Morton||Manager of the Scottish Trans Alliance|
|Data collection||Alice Sullivan||Quantitative sociologist|
|Media||Ruth Serwotka||Trade unionist and co-founder of Women's Place UK|
|Media||Anonymous testimony||Academic with expertise in 'the study of culturally induced ignorance'|
Witnesses for the second week were as follows:
|Education||Zed Lomax||Non-binary trans teacher|
|Education||Dr Shereen Benjamin||Senior Lecturer in Primary Education, University of Edinburgh|
|Ending violence against women||Karen Ingala Smith||Chief Executive of NIA, which runs services for women and girls who have been subjected to sexual and domestic violence and abuse|
|Ending violence against women||Tabitha Morton presenting summary of Women's Aid & Cornwall Refuge Trust||Witness testimonies from evidence session of the Women and Equalities Select Committee about the exemptions in the Equality Act in relation to single sex services|
|Representation||Dr Jane Clare Jones||Feminist writer, philosopher and activist|
|Representation||Sam Gilmore||Former Green party policy coordinator|