William Eichler 25 April 2022

Gender equality campaigners in Wales warn of ‘glacial’ progress

Gender equality campaigners in Wales warn of ‘glacial’ progress image
Image: StunningArt/Shutterstock.com.

Councils in Wales have been called on to increase the number of women taking part in local politics as campaigners warn Welsh local democracy won’t see gender equality until 2050.

Analysis of candidates in Wales carried out by Electoral Reform Society 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 what the campaign groups called the ‘glacial’ progress Welsh councils are making towards achieving gender equality in county halls.

‘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,’ said Evelyn James, Diverse5050 campaign manager at WEN Wales.

‘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.’

According to the research, more than 200 wards across Wales will 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.

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.

Jessica Blair, director, the Electoral Reform Society Cymru commented: ‘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.’

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