(English) Welsh local democracy won’t see gender equality until 2050 as candidate lists reveal ‘glacial’ pace of progress
Statement from Electoral Reform Society Cymru, WEN Wales, and Chwarae Teg
New figures show far more must be done to improve gender equality as campaigners call on councils to implement positive action measures to drive up number of women in local politics.
Analysis of candidates in Wales carried out by ERS Cymru and Deryn with support from Democracy Club estimates that just one in three candidates, (33.5%), standing in this year’s Welsh local elections are women.
This is an increase of just under 4% from the last round of elections in 2017 and exposes the ‘glacial’ progress Welsh councils are making towards achieving gender equality in county halls.
Experts estimate that at this rate it will take until the middle of the century for Wales to see candidate lists where half of those standing are women.
More than 200 wards across Wales will also see all-male candidate lists.
Ceredigion, where 18 voters in 18 wards will be forced to choose from all-male lists has the worst representation of any borough in Wales with an estimated 22% of candidates identifying as women.
The area with the highest estimated proportion of women standing is Monmouthshire (45%), where a target was set to reach gender parity .
None of the five main parties (those fielding over 100 candidates across Wales) will have a gender-balanced candidate list – the party with the highest proportion of female candidates is the Green Party with 46%, followed by Labour with around 41%.
Welsh political parties are now facing calls to take meaningful positive action, such as using all-women candidate lists, to end the sluggish progress being made towards achieving balanced gender representation.
Campaigners are also calling for the implementation of Section 106 of the Equalities Act that would require collection and publication of data on the representation of other protected characteristics, such as race and ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation to increase diversity .
Despite the Act becoming law in 2010 the provisions which would require parties to publish this data are yet to be enacted.
Evelyn James, Diverse5050 Campaign Manager at WEN Wales said:
”Voluntary measures to improve diversity have obviously failed seeing that women make up only 33.5% of the candidates standing in the local government elections.
“We now need more than ever legally binding quotas to secure at least 50% women candidates with strong diversity measures to ensure that Welsh local government is reflective of the population it serves.
“The Diverse 50:50 coalition is calling for political parties to implement Section 106 of the Equalities Act 2010, which would require all parties to publish diversity data on candidates standing in elections .”
Jessica Blair, Director, the Electoral Reform Society Cymru said:
“These figures should worry anyone concerned about equal representation in Welsh politics. The glacial pace of change in increasing the number of women standing for election means that we are unlikely to see gender equality in our local councils until 2050.
“Our local authorities make important decisions about the areas we live and work in and yet do not reflect the communities they serve. The need for action to improve the representation of women in our councils is plain to see. We need to grasp the nettle and introduce positive action measures, such as quotas and targets if we are to truly to make progress on representation.
“We also urgently need to put in place stronger data measures, requiring parties to collect and publish data on the diversity of their candidates including protected characteristics, such as race and ethnicity, disabilities, age and sexuality. Having this data will help us identify where we need to take action to improve the representation of black and ethnic minority people, disabled people and the LGBTQ+ community.”
Natasha Davies, Policy and Research Lead at Chwarae Teg said:
“We are disappointed to see that once again so few women are standing in the upcoming local elections. Despite the modest increase since 2017 in the number of women candidates for local government, 33.5% is simply not good enough.
“All political parties have had ample time to address the unequal representation of women at a local level. While there are some examples of political parties taking steps to diversify their candidates and support a wider range of people to stand for election, the time for warm words is over. We must see action from political parties and institutions to ensure that our councils are gender-balanced and truly reflect the diversity of Wales. We need more women of colour, disabled women and LGBTQ+ women elected to the institutions that take decisions that affect our day-to-day lives.
“The solutions to this problem are well known. We need to improve party selection processes and remove bias, we need widespread use of positive action to ensure women are selected in winnable seats. We need to maintain measures that open up our political institutions, such as remote attendance, while introducing new ways of working including job-sharing. Setting targets and publishing action plans about how said targets will be met are also an important part of the solution.
“We wait to see how many women will be elected in May’s elections but considering that just a third of candidates are women, it is inevitable that we will not achieve the goal of gender-balanced and truly representative local government in these elections. We cannot and must not be in this same position in five years’ time.”