Devolution represents an opportunity to do things differently - but we need to make women's voices heard for it to work. 

That's why Fawcett are working with local partners over the next year to bring women together in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, to ensure diverse women's voices are heard and that policy makers make decisions to advance gender equality. This project is funded by the Smallwood Trust and the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

Images: Our Greater Manchester Devolution workshop with Mayor Andy Burnham.

Our latest research looks at public services in Greater Manchester. Click here to view our briefing.

Read our data report on employment, care and transport in the West Midlands here.

What is devolution?

Devolution is the transfer of certain powers and responsibilities from national government to a particular geographical region. Last year, devolved powers were given to new combined authority mayors in the six English regions of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands and the West of England.

The mayor will represent their regions across the country and around the world, working with leaders of local councils and businesses to create jobs, boost skills, build homes and improve travel. Find out more about the new mayoral responsibilities for each region here.

What’s the issue?

In the mayoral elections last May, no women were elected as the new Metro Mayors. Women hold just 6% of seats in the cabinets of the new Metro Mayors. Decisions that affect millions of women across the six city regions will be almost exclusively taken by men.

The severe under-representation of women at the top table has arisen for a number of reasons. Our Local Government Commission work revealed that only 33% of English local councillors are women, a figure which has barely changed in two decades, and there is a huge problem with progression as only 17% of council leaders are women. We need to change the culture and practices of local government to make a difference to the pipeline.

We also must ensure that women’s voices are heard right away in devolution by requiring gender balance at the top table, and by ensuring grassroots women’s organisations are heard in devolved policymaking.

Making devolution work for women

This devolution project will combine gendered analysis of economic data, grassroots collaboration with local women and community organisations, and detailed policy analysis to enable disadvantaged women and girls in two devolved regions (Greater Manchester and the West Midlands) to effectively make their voices heard about the public services that affect their lives.

The project will:

  • Focus on skills and employment, childcare and social care, and transport;
  • Develop the evidence base on how women interact with these policy areas;
  • Use workshops in each area to gather evidence about the change women want to see; and
  • Support women to express their views and campaign to decision-makers;

Over the course of the project, we will update this page with information about the workshops we are running, our research findings, and women’s groups we are working with in each region.

How can you get involved?

Make your voice heard

Do you live in Greater Manchester or the West Midlands? We are currently seeking individuals and organisations who would be interested in engaging with the project more widely. Express your interest here.

During the workshops, Fawcett would like to build a greater understanding of the issues experienced by women, including women from across the whole of the city region. These sessions will aim to bring together a diverse range of voices to develop and inform our interim report for each region later in the year.

Get informed 

Our latest devolution research looks at public services in the West Midlands. Click here to view our briefing and infographics.

We have been working with the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) to assess whether local government is working well for women. Women are more likely to rely on the services that councils provide, and make up 78 percent of the workforce, so they should be properly represented in decision-making positions. But is this actually the case?

Our three reports published over 2017 found that women councillors are held back by structural and cultural barriers, and face sexism from fellow councillors. An outdated culture is holding local government back – it now must modernise to be fit for purpose in the 21st century.

Read our hard-hitting research now

Take action to end sexism in local government for good

Our final report reveals some sad truths, but it also emphasises how women can make a positive impact when they break through. The women councillors we spoke to across all political parties were truly inspirational, both for their resilience and the unrecognised work they do to improve people’s lives. There is so much scope to make things better.

Help us achieve change today. Take part in our Local and Equal campaign.