Local Government Commission

This year we will be assessing whether local government is working well for women. With the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) we have launched a year-long Commission, jointly chaired by Labour’s Dame Margaret Hodge MP and Conservative councillor Cllr Gillian Keegan, Director of Women2Win. Funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Commission will adopt a strategic approach and focus on the newly created structures at local level and how they are including or excluding women.

Evidence gathering on:

  • women’s representation at a local level, and in particular, a focus on women in positions of power and leadership and where women make a positive difference
  • the barriers to women’s participation and representation and the practical solutions which would enable more women to participate
  • the diversity of women’s representation including BAME women, disabled women, those with caring responsibilities, different age groups, LGBT women and other under-represented groups

The Commission will be gathering evidence throughout the year, holding meetings around the country and will produce a final report with recommendations to ensure women are better represented at every level of local government and the opportunities for greater gender equality presented by devolution are not missed.

The consultation can be found on SurveyMonkey here.

Terms of Reference for the Commission:

Women Councillors – First Steps on the Ladder
What do we know about why and how women stand for and win elections?

– What are women’s experiences of being selected, standing and winning?
– Why do women stand? Are their reasons different from men’s?
– Are the experiences of black and minority ethnic women, LGBT women, women with caring responsibilities and other underrepresented groups different?
– What are the barriers to equal representation at the local level and where has good practice improved diversity?
– What will it take to achieve 50:50 representation of councillors?

Women Councillors – Retention and Progression
What are the experiences of women once they become councillors?

– What are the experiences of new women councillors? Who is more likely to stand again and who is more likely to stand for more than one term?
– Who gets cabinet roles and do these translate into necessary qualifications for being council leader or mayor?
– Are the experiences of black and minority ethnic women, LGBT women, women with caring responsibilities and other underrepresented groups different?
– What are the examples of best practice for women’s retention and progression on councils?

Council Officers – Rising to the Top
What are the experiences of women local government officers?

– What are the barriers to women’s progression to the most senior officer roles?
– Where is good practice ensuring women are represented at the top?
– Do women get different senior roles to men?
– Are the experiences of black and minority ethnic women, LGBT women, women with caring responsibilities and other underrepresented groups different?
– How does women’s representation in political roles affect the experiences of women officers?

Devolution
What are the implications of devolution and new power structure (e.g. “Metro Mayors”) for gender equality?

– In your region what do you think the impact of devolution on gender equality will be?
– What will devolution mean for women’s representation? How far does the current approach to devolution support women’s engagement or represent their interests, how can this be improved upon?
– Will the impacts be different for women with caring responsibilities, disabilities, LGBT women or those from black and minority ethnic groups?

Women in Leadership
In 2013 only 12% of council leaders and 13% of directly elected mayors were women. How do we get more women into leadership roles? What are the experiences of the most senior women local politicians?

– Why do women remain underrepresented among leaders and directly elected mayors?
– What will it take to improve women’s representation in leadership positions in local government? Are there lessons that can be learned from elsewhere?
– Are the experiences of black and minority ethnic women, LGBT women, women with caring responsibilities and other underrepresented groups different?
– What are the experiences of women in the most senior roles?

Overview – Does Local Government work for women?
What has been your personal experience of local government or what is your/your organisation’s overall view on this issue?

– The experience of women within local government, as both councillors and officers.
– How things have changed over time.
– What will it take to improve women’s representation?
– Are the experiences of black and minority ethnic women, LGBT women, women with caring responsibilities and other underrepresented groups different?
– Where do you believe local government currently supports gender equality through representation, local services or spending decisions? Where is progress being inhibited?

Women are under-represented in leadership roles in Northern Powerhouse

Research from the Fawcett Society reveals that while the Government’s plans for a Northern Powerhouse to boost economic growth in the North of England surge ahead, gender equality continues to lag behind.

Despite 40% of councillors in the Northern Powerhouse region being women, the most senior roles in the new tier of government are dominated by men. Women make up just 28% of those in leadership roles in the combined authorities which are set to deliver George Osborne’s vision for a reinvigorated local democracy.  These figures come as the Fawcett Society embarks on a year-long study to tackle gender bias in local government, launched in May 2016.

Key findings:

  • Women make up just 21% of council leaders and directly elected mayors in the Northern Powerhouse region
  • Only 1 of the 7 chairs of the established and proposed combined authorities in the northern powerhouse region are women
  • Of 134 senior leadership roles in the Northern Powerhouse, 96 (or 72%) of these are occupied by men
  • The City deals underpinning devolution come with a commitment to regional directly elected mayors – but so far only 4 of the 16 existing directly elected mayors in England and Wales are women

The report also finds cause for some optimism. For instance, Manchester City Council has achieved equal representation of women and men and a number of others such as North Tyneside, Leeds City Council and Hull City Council have achieved near 50:50 representation. But these pockets of progress do not always translate into more women at the most senior levels. Overall men still heavily dominate in senior positions of power.

An increasing amount of power and decision making is concentrated in the hands of combined authorities and directly elected mayors, without concerted action devolution and the Northern Powerhouse could risk shutting women out of key decisions about regional development. We are urging national and local government and the political parties to ensure that the devolution agenda has gender equality and diversity at its heart.

You can read the full report ‘The Northern Powerhouse: an analysis of women’s representation’ here.

For the purposes of this analysis northern powerhouse regions are identified as Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, North East Combined Authority, Tees Valley Combined Authority and the boroughs that form the Humber Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Read the Sexism and Local Government 2014 briefing.

Find out how you can get involved in our Local and Equal campaign.

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