Making it Happen for 2027: Transforming Local Democracy for Women
Today Engender, Elect Her and Women 50:50 are launching a campaign to build a future where women’s equal representation in councils is realised. “Making it Happen for 2027: Transforming Local Democracy for Women” is a call to action aimed at all of those who have the power to shape this outcome – including councils, councillors, government, political parties and the news media.
At the May 2022 election, the number of women councillors increased from 29 per cent to 35 per cent, an increase of just 6 per cent. Women have long been excluded within Scotland’s local councils, and although we do not have the data we need to clearly understand the diversity of our representatives, what we do know tells us that Black and minority ethnic women, disabled women and LBTI women experience this exclusion on even greater scales. For instance, Scotland’s capital city has only one woman of colour councillor, despite being one of the most diverse areas of the country. And, despite the small increase in the number of women councillors nationally, Women 50:50 have found that if this rate of change is allowed to continue, we will not see gender equality in our local councils until 2037.
Following these underwhelming results, yet again there is talk from political parties, councils and government of a “need to do better.” But progress towards equal representation continues to be glacial. The election cycle continues, and too often, windows of opportunity to review and initiate the types of long-term, sustainable change needed to achieve better outcomes are missed. If we want to see gender equal representation in our councils become a reality at the next local authority elections in 2027, the work must begin the work now.
We are calling for the creation of a multi-stakeholder taskforce to be created to monitor women’s participation and representation in local politics and to keep this issue in the spotlight. Too often we have seen the issue of women’s (and other groups who experience political exclusion) underrepresentation fall off the agenda once the election is a memory. We cannot again afford to lose the opportunity to initiate long-term, sustainable change within the structures, processes and organisations which help shape our democratic institutions.
Let’s not waste another five years before taking the action that we know is needed now - come the next local elections in 2027, we must not still be asking, “where are the women?”
As well as our call for the creation of a taskforce, we have made a set of specific recommendations for councils, councillors, government, political parties and the news media which you can find in our campaign summary here.
To support our collective understanding of the issues as we get to work, we have also put together a suite of reports and resources digging further into the causes of gender inequality in local democracy with different perspectives in mind:
- Making It Happen For 2027: Transforming Local Democracy For Women - Recommendations for those in power on what can be done to achieve gender equal representation in local politics.
- What Women Want (from their Elected Representatives) - A quick “how-to” guide helping local councillors ensure the needs and concerns of women are central to local decision making.
- Reading into the News: A Review of Gender Representations of Politicians in the May 2022 Elections in the Scottish News - Original research critically examining women politicians’ representations in the May 2022 election news.
- Making Local Politics Work for Women: The experiences of women local councillors and their reasons for not seeking re-election - A student research report on retention rates of women councillors, including insights from interviews with women councillors who stepped down in 2022.
- Walking Away: Why Women Are Leaving Their Positions As Councillors - An exploration of key factors turning women off from local politics.
To help maximise the impact of these resources and of our campaign, we are asking for your help. Please share our campaign widely – we need as many people as possible engaging with our reports and acting on our recommendations if we are to see substantive change in women’s local representation.
Progress doesn’t happen overnight or by chance. If we are serious about ensuring that local democracy represents - and crucially, serves - women in all their diversity, then the work must begin now.
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