By Lara Stance
With the Wales Assembly election coming up in May, the Women’s Equality Party Society has made equal representation in politics a focus for the coming week or so. We’ve had a special report on equal representation broadcast on Xpress Radio, and we’ll also be holding a Women in Parliament workshop on Tuesday 26 April.
The figures surrounding female representation in Welsh politics are mixed. On the one hand, before the Assembly went into dissolution there was a reassuring balance between male and female AMs: 23 men and 17 women in constituency posts, and 12 men and eight women in regional posts. Although not the perfect 50/50, it is strides ahead of the UK government’s 191 women MPs out of 600 seats – that’s just under a third. Furthermore, two of the five main parties in Wales are led by women, compared to a big zero in the UK’s major three. If you include the Green Party, then the total figure jumps to one in England and three in Wales.
Council figures hold little encouragement. Women make up 27% of council members in Wales, just about tottering over the quarter mile distance. Furthermore, only one of the 22 councils in Wales is led by a woman: Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn in Ceredigion County Council. Also, if we return to the Welsh Assembly figures, they become problematic when you discover that there was a half-and-half gender balance in 2003. Wales had grabbed a record because it was the first legislative body in the world to elect an equal number of men and women, but the balance has swayed since. Why?
I spoke to former Labour AM Jenny Rathbone for the Xpress report about equal representation in politics, who pinpointed childcare responsibilities and the working environment as factors that influence women’s engagement with ‘high-flying’ politics. She added that, despite figures showing otherwise, women were engaged with local politics because community campaigns are often started by women.
Different reports offer different estimations for the amount of time it will take to reach gender parity in politics, ranging from 20 years to 50. Positive discrimination appears to be the way forward, but it can come under fire. It seeks to jump-start gender parity by introducing all-women shortlists for political candidates. If it brings more women into parliament and the Assembly, it is thought the working environment will begin to change so that it is more hospitable to women and that perceptions of female politicians can progress.
This Tuesday we have arranged for an engaging Women in Parliament workshop to take place in the SU. It’s free to attend and everyone is welcome – even you aren’t a member, it would be great to see you there. Find us on Facebook (‘Women’s Equality Party Society, Cardiff University’) to get all the event details, keep up-to-date with our activities and discover interesting blogs, videos and sound clips.
If you want to learn more about equal representation in politics and hear from politicians across the political spectrum, you can find our report on mixcloud and on our Facebook page.
The report was inspired by one of the Women’s Equality Party’s six objectives: equal representation. This includes representation in politics, business and the judiciary. If you would like to read more about the objective, and how the WEP aims to improve parity across the board, take a look at www.womensequality.org.uk
Although the report, the first in a series, is inspired by WEP’s different objectives, it has been carried out with upmost attention to accuracy and impartiality.
Before I sign off, make sure you don’t forget to have your voice heard on Thursday 5 May in the Wales Assembly elections. The deadline for registering to vote has passed, but even if you haven’t registered you may still be able to help campaign for your respective party.