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Economic Justice

Fawcett Society launches commission on women in local government

A new commission on representation of women in local government has been launched today by The Fawcett Society.  The Commission will run for a year and is co-chaired by Margaret Hodge MP and local councillor Gillian Keegan, in partnership with local government think tank and membership organisation, LGiU.


The Fawcett Society has played a leading role in championing women’s representation and lobbying for women’s rights since Millicent Fawcett’s first petition for the women’s vote in 1866.  More recently it has campaigned to improve women’s representation in politics including for all women shortlists which was legislated for in the Sex Discrimination Act 2002.  Women’s political participation and representation remain a core feature of its work.


Currently women make up only 32% of local councillors in England, 27% in Wales, 13% of elected mayors and 12.3% of local authority leaders in England, compared to 16.6% in 2004.  2015 saw the number of women in the UK Parliament increase – particularly the number of women on the front bench, but at local level, women’s representation is stagnating.


The Commission’s launch paper is an analysis of women’s representation in the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.   Launched by Chancellor George Osborne in 2014 the Northern Powerhouse is the centrepiece of the Government’s devolution agenda.  The Government’s devolution agenda and commitment to creating a Northern Powerhouse has seen significant powers and budgets passed from Whitehall to newly established combined authorities.


The key findings of the report are:


  • 40% of local councillors in the Northern Powerhouse region are women, but women make up just 21% of council leaders and directly elected mayors
  • Only 2 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 local government commission will also gather evidence over the next 12 months on:


  • women’s representation at a local level, and in particular 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 and different age groups.

Read the report.