We need more women leaders

The Fawcett Society, together with the Local Government Information Unit, has launched a commission to look at the role of women in local government. We want to examine women’s participation in local government as councillors, leaders and senior executives. The government’s commitment to devolution makes women’s representation in local government ever more vital.

Yet an early study of the Northern Powerhouse authorities has shown that 40 per cent of councillors in those authorities are women and, shockingly, only one in five of the leaders are women. Only one out of the seven proposed combined authorities in the Northern Powerhouse region is led by a woman. The position is similar among officers. More women than men go into local government jobs, but seven out of 10 senior leadership roles are occupied by men. So when decisions are made about the economic future of the north, women will be underrepresented and that will influence what is discussed, prioritised and decided.

Across the whole of England and Wales only four of the 16 directly elected mayors are women.

It need not be like this. Both Scotland and Wales have 50 per cent women councillors. Our aim is to secure equal representation of women in local government at all levels.

The commission is jointly chaired by me and Gillian Keegan, a Conservative councillor and Director of Women2Win (I spent 20 years in local government and 10 years as a local government leader).

We will hold public evidence sessions across the country, conduct two online surveys, seek written evidence submissions, look at all the existing evidence and data, talk in detail with up to 12 women council leaders and produce a report in a year!

We want to understand why women do or do not stand; what makes them give up. We want to examine the barriers that prevent women from advancing to leadership roles both in political and administrative domains. We want to promote and celebrate the success stories and we intend to identify practical proposals that will get us to 50-50 representation in local government. Do help us and do take part. Write to us, come to one of our meetings and let us have your views. Help us make this a successful campaign for women in local government.

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Margaret Hodge is member of parliament for Barking

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Photo: gaspi