NEW RESEARCH SHINES A LIGHT ON SEXISM IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT
· 2/3 rds of Councillors are male
· 9 out of 10 Council Leaders are male
· Sexism in local politics as prevalent as at the national level
Ahead of the European and Local Elections on the 22nd May, the Fawcett Society has compiled new research demonstrating the extent to which women in local government face sexism.
Commenting on the report ‘Sexism and Local Government’, Daisy Sands, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the Fawcett Society, said:
“This research makes clear that far from being restricted to the national stage, sexism is a problem across all levels of political life.
“We have found numerous examples, across the country and from a range of parties, of male councillors making sexist, offensive and derogatory remarks about both women generally and their female colleagues.
“These incidents should be considered in light of the male dominance of local government. More than two thirds of local elected representatives are men, and the higher up the tree you go the fewer women there are – almost 90 per cent of Council Leaders are men. In fact, over the past ten years the number of women running town halls has actually decreased. (1) (2)
“It seems clear that sexism of the kind we found is putting women off local politics. This is bad for our democracy, and means very important decisions are being made with few women around the table.
“Local government accounts for almost a quarter of all public spending in the UK – but how and where this money is spent is being decided in town halls where an average 7 in 10 councillors are male. We know also that spending cuts at this level are having a skewed impact on services women rely on – research has shown that local authorities have in recent years cut funding for services offering support to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse by almost a third. (3)
“Fawcett want to see political parties tackle the situation as a matter of urgency. We will be writing to all party leaders asking that they take action to ensure sexism in local level politics is challenged. First off, more must be done to ensure that anyone experiencing sexism of any kind has recourse to a robust and independent complaints board, that sits above party politics.
“Parties would do well to remember also that local government also remains one of the key routes into Westminster. Failing to tackle problems at this level will undermine efforts to increase women’s representation on the national stage.”
The research was compiled as part of Fawcett’s ‘Vote4Equality’ campaign, more on this is available here: https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/activity/vote4equality
(1) Please see ‘Sex and Power 2013: Who Runs Britain?’, available at www.fawcettsociety.org.uk<https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk>
(2) Currently 12.3% of council leaders are women, a reduction on 2004 levels – see ‘Sex and Power 2013: Who Runs Britain?’, available at www.fawcettsociety.org.uk<https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk>
(3) Research by Professor Sylvia Walby found that thirty-one percent of the funding to the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector from local authorities was cut between 2010/11 to 2011/12, a reduction from £7.8 million to £5.4 million – available at www.trustforlondon.org.uk<http://www.trustforlondon.org.uk>
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