3rd April 2023 

All people deserve to see themselves represented at every level of government. 

But new analysis out today from the Fawcett Society and Democracy Club shows just how far we have to go to achieve truly equal gender representation. 

Currently, fewer than 5% (18 or 382) of local councils have achieved at least parity in gender representation. That means, based on the current rate of change, we won't see 50:50 representation until 2051. 

Fawcett regularly conducts analysis of women's representation in local authorities in lieu of any official government or political party monitoring. 

Our analysis shows: 

  • In August 2022, just 36% of the 19,212 elected councillors across the UK were women. This is similar to representation of women in the House of Commons (35%)
  • At a regional level, no council has gender parity, with London the highest at 45% women and Northern Ireland the lowest at 26%.
  • The proportion of women in councils in 2022 is only 2 percentage points higher than in a snapshot taken in 2018
  • No party has gender parity, though there is significant variation. The highest proportion of women is found in the Labour (47%), Green (43%) and Scottish National Parties (41%), whilst the lowest proportion is found in the Conservative Party (29%), the SDLP (29%), DUP (21%) and Ulster Unionist Parties (20%).

Jemima Olchawski, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:

Women are significantly impacted by decisions made at the local level and are more likely to rely on the services our councils run from social care to social housing. Yet progress on women’s representation in local government is moving at a snail’s pace. That such a vast majority of local councils are male-dominated diminishes public life. Government, local authorities and political parties need to take action and record diversity data, set targets for women’s representation alongside other protected characteristics, and make being a local councillor more accessible to those with caring responsibilities.

Frances Scott, director of 50:50 Parliament, said:

Women's fight for political equality is still on! Millicent Fawcett campaigned for women to get the vote but it is shocking that in a modern western democracy women who are the majority in life are still a minority in Parliament and local councils. This report demonstrates that our democratic systems are inaccessible or unattractive to most people. This matters because representation shapes policy and we want our elected bodies to draw upon the widest possible pool of talent and experience, including that of the 32 million women who live and work in the UK. 50:50 Parliament is a charity taking action to build a better democracy. We work together with the Fawcett Society and all the political parties to help women progress in politics, to ensure that women have rightful representation. We call upon everyone to take action and if you know a woman who would make a great elected representative please ask her to stand and refer her to the #SignUpToStand page at www.5050Parliament.co.uk. Our friendly 50:50 network will help her take the next step.

We are calling for: 

  • The Government to enact Section 106 of the Equality Act 2010, and expand it to cover local councils, which would require political parties to collect their own accurate diversity data 
  • Local authorities to, in the absence of a national scheme, implement parental leave policies, to make being being a councillor more accessible to those with caring responsibilities 
  • Political parties to set out targets for increasing women's representation alongside representation of other protected characteristics, and a clear action plan to achieve them

Get involved:

  • Read our full report into the current state of gender representation in local councils
  • Use our template to write to your local councillor about women's representation ahead of the May elections 
  • Join Fawcett to help us continue our vital work monitoring women's representation at all levels of government