Progress needed on gender parity

Councils stand ready to play their part, but funding issues must be tackled soon.

To mark last month’s International Women’s Day (IWD), there were debates in both Houses of Parliament, giving parliamentarians an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and reflect on the progress that still needs to be made in achieving gender parity.

With the theme of #BreakTheBias, International Women’s Day 2022 served as an important call to action to accelerate work to tackle intersectional inequalities and support more women from all backgrounds into politics.

Ahead of the debates, the LGA briefed MPs and Peers on local government’s vital work to support more women into local politics and positions of leadership. We also stressed the importance of vital local services in improving the lives of women and tackling all forms of discrimination.

During the debates, many parliamentarians echoed our view that further action is needed to secure equal representation and break the bias against women in politics.

Maria Miller MP (Con, Basingstoke) highlighted that more needs to be done to address the cultural and working practices in Parliament and local government that prevent women from entering politics.

Meanwhile, Baroness Gale (Lab) urged the Government to enact Section 106 of the Equality Act 2010, which would require political parties to monitor the demographics of their candidates.

“Further action is needed to secure equal representation

Responding on behalf of the Government, Baroness Stedman-Scott confirmed the Government’s commitment to supporting more women into politics, and urged political parties to take responsibility for improving the diversity of electoral representation through their selection processes. Parliamentarians also highlighted the need for further action to address the growing online abuse and intimidation women in public life face.

Abena Oppong-Asare MP (Lab, Erith and Thamesmead) raised that women from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, members of the LGBTQ+ community and disabled people disproportionately face targeted online abuse, which is an issue the LGA has consistently highlighted.

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison responded that the Government has introduced the Online Safety Bill, to make the UK ‘the safest place in the world online’, and confirmed that online abuse will also be addressed in the ‘Tackling violence against women and girls’ strategy.

Addressing the abuse councillors face will be vital to improving diversity in local government and ensuring councils reflect the communities they represent.

We look forward to working with government as the Online Safety Bill makes its way through Parliament, to ensure it makes the meaningful progress that is needed.

As we outlined in our briefing, the LGA is committed to helping councils improve their diversity and inclusion in all areas, and provides a range of support to help councils support women to run for political office.

And while more women than ever are choosing to become councillors, there is still more to do.

We know that a lack of pension contributions, lack of parental leave, and inflexibility in how councillors can attend meetings act as key barriers to women entering local politics and taking on leadership roles – and particularly to those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We are continuing to work with government and councils to reduce these barriers – for example, by encouraging councils to have leave arrangements in place and also

calling on government to reinstate councils’ powers to hold online and hybrid meetings.

These meetings saw important gains in accessibility during the pandemic, particularly for disabled people and those with caring duties.

Author

For the LGA’s parliamentary briefing on International Women’s Day, please visit www.local.gov.uk/parliament/briefings-and-responses

Previous

A small step towards a big ambition

Suicide prevention

Next