Women in the Labour Party are still under-represented, particularly at the top, according to a report from the Fabian Society.
Although women make up 44% of Labour’s membership and 43% of Labour MPs, where positive action is not used women’s representation falls away, according to the report ‘Practising what we preach’. Women make up just 30% of CLP Chairs, 16% of Labour council leaders, 11% of the most senior Labour Party staff and 0% of Labour’s Leadership team, although All Women Shortlists and gender quotas have made an important difference, says the report.
The report is based on a survey of over 3,000 Labour Party members it finds women are still facing a range of barriers when the put themselves forward for selection. One third of women who said they’ve stood for a national or regional selection said that they’d faced unwelcome scrutiny of their private lives, compared to just 11% of men. Half said they couldn’t afford what they needed to campaign, compared to 27% of men. Just 44% of women said they felt the process was transparent. The report also reveals that women are much less likely than men to put themselves forward for selection – the survey shows them to be 14 percentage points less likely than men to say they want to stand.
The report argues that the Labour Party must make gender equality an organisational priority in order to prevent the ‘new politics’ looking exactly like the old. It suggests a range of changes to the rulebook, including a new rule on gender balance in leadership roles and a standardised target for 50:50 representation at every level of the Party. It further suggests a new focus on training and development, with equality and diversity training for local parties and leadership training for women who have already been elected. In addition, it calls for greater efforts to improve transparency – to help potential candidates understand what they need to do, and also to better make the case for positive action.