6 May 2021

Less than a quarter of police and crime commissioner candidates are women – despite commitments to improve gender equality in policing

Ahead of the local elections on 6th May, new data and analysis from the Fawcett Society and Democracy Club shows just a third of candidates are women. This is particularly worrying, as we know that women are already chronically under-represented in local government and it’s clear that without concerted effort, we simply won’t see gender equality and women will continue to be an unheard majority.

The combined proportion of female candidates for the four biggest parties is 33% and individually women make up:

      • 42% of Green candidates
      • 39% of Labour candidates
      • 30% of Liberal Democrat candidates
      • 25% of Conservative candidates.

The party with the lowest proportion of female candidacies is the Reform Party whose local election lists were only 11% women, followed by UKIP at 20%.

When it comes to mayoral elections just 24% of candidates are women. England currently has no female Metro Mayors. This is particularly concerning as devolution presents a real opportunity for local governance but only if big changes are made to bring women in. If devolution fails to engage with half the population, it risks the success of the whole project.

Police and Crime Commissioners will also be elected in England and Wales (in all areas apart from Greater London, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire) on 6th May. This will be the third time police and crime commissioner elections have been held. The gender imbalance for this election is even more stark than in local government and mayoral elections - just 22% of Police and Crime Commissioner candidates are women. This is an improvement on the last election in 2016 where a shocking 15% of candidates were women. However, it’s particularly concerning to see so few women candidates, given the recent focus on tackling domestic abuse and sexual violence – which are both issues that primarily affect women.

The top five most common names of candidates are:

      • David 542
      • John 471
      • Paul 375
      • Richard 293
      • Peter 275

We don’t see a woman’s name feature until position 26 - Sarah is the most common female name with 119 candidates.

Felicia Willow, CEO of the Fawcett Society said:
“This data is concerning and clearly shows a lack of women in local government. We need to see more women encouraged to get into politics – for many this begins at the local level. It is vital women are represented. “We need to see all forms of government embrace modernisation. Remote working technology has been used keep local government and Parliament running during the pandemic and, as we build back, flexible working must continue for those who need it. We need to see lasting changes to make being a councillor more accessible for everyone – including those with childcare responsibilities and disabled people. This will lead to better policy and decision making with a wider range of voices being heard.”

Over recent years, we have seen the number of women standing for election to local government slowly rising thanks to significant efforts by campaigners within political parties and organisations who are committed to improving gender equality in politics. Today’s data shows we are now going backwards on gender equality and this is likely to mean we will see fewer women MPs in the future, as many women begin their political careers in local government. This must change.

Sym Roe, CEO of Democracy Club said:
“We are pleased to have been able to work with The Fawcett Society on this research. The findings emphasise the importance of keeping good data on elections: at present, data on candidates is not collected officially and centrally by the UK state.

“Democracy Club believes that information about elections and candidates should be easily accessible to everyone, from voters wishing to find out about their ballot paper to researchers like The Fawcett Society. With better information we can have more informed debates around the kind of democracy we want to live in.”

Fawcett is calling for:

      • The Government to require parties to collect comprehensive, accurate election candidate diversity data, to enable a better understanding of how women, people from ethnic minorities, disabled people and LGBT people are represented by implementing section 106 of the Equality Act
      • Councils to provide comprehensive support for childcare and adult care costs – currently, help with costs is patchy and some councils provide no support at all
      • Councils to use technology for councillors to attend meetings remotely
      • Codes of conduct against sexism to be introduced, and an effective Standards Committee to enforce it. Fawcett research found a third of female councillors had experienced sexist comments from their colleagues
      • Councils to set out reasonable adjustments policies to support disabled women and men to be councillors
      • Parties to set out targets for increasing women’s representation, and a clear action plan to achieve them – and commit to legislating for quotas if progress is not made
      • Councils to commit to gender balanced leadership in their cabinet or committee chair posts, and eradicate ‘girl jobs and boy jobs’ in those roles.


For further information, please contact:
Fresh Communication, 0117 369 0025
Nathalie Golden: [email protected] / 07769 66 66 27
Lisa Sutherland: [email protected] / 07801 97 99 87

Notes to editors
Fawcett's previous release from 2019 local elections is here: https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/news/lack-of-women-candidates-in-local-elections-puts-councils-behind-the-times

Please note these figures are not directly comparable, as not only are different seats up for election, but the number of seats up for election this year is greater due to the pandemic.

The data tables from Democracy Club are available here: https://candidates.democracyclub.org.uk/api/docs/csv/

The data is drawn from Statements of Persons Nominated published by English councils on 8-9 April 2021, and was manually collected and checked by Democracy Club’s nationwide network of volunteers. All numbers reflect Democracy Club’s database as of 20 April 2021.

Combining scheduled elections and by-elections, exactly 5,000 English councillors are to be elected on 6 May.

There are 21,370 candidacies across GB on 6 May. These are not 21,370 individuals, as a person may be standing for more than one seat this year due to combination of the 2020 and 2021 elections. Democracy Club were able to assign a gender field to 6,492 of these candidates using information supplied by candidates themselves, or collected by volunteers. The remaining candidates were gendered by name using a machine, and the resulting list was spot-checked manually for accuracy. 6% of candidate names could not be gendered this way and were excluded from the analysis. https://raw.githubusercontent.com/malev/gender-detector/master/gender_detector/data/ukprocessed.csv

About us
The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights at work, at home and in public life. Our vision is a society in which women and girls in all their diversity are equal and truly free to fulfil their potential creating a stronger, happier, better future for us all. The Fawcett Society has co-ordinated over 80 organisations for a joint list of asks to the Government from the women’s sector, across nine different areas from women in prison to the impact on parents: https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/news/coronavirus-urgent-callfor-uk-government-to-support-women-and-girls

Democracy Club
Democracy Club is a Community Interest Company which builds digital tools to support everyone’s participation in UK elections. We believe that information about upcoming elections should be easy to find, especially online. Our free and accessible tools and databases are used by millions of UK voters each year. Democracy Club works closely with local government, and is a data provider to The Electoral Commission. Democracy Club’s vision is of an electoral system which is fit for the digital age.