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Britain is falling down the global league tables when it comes to women’s access to power and representation in politics, according to a report from the Counting Women In campaign group.
The report finds three quarters of MPs are men; 90% of bank CEOs are men; two thirds of public appointments go to men; 95% of editors of national daily newspapers are men; almost 90% of chief constables and police and crime commissioners are men and two thirds of local councillors are men.
Continued ‘drift’ is inevitable without real, committed and targetted action, says the campaign group. That includes political parties taking steps to ensure an increase in the number of women candidates fielded in winnable seats at all levels of politics. The‘Sex and Power 2013: Who Runs Britain?’ report says other countries have moved forward faster on equality issues: in 2001 the UK was ranked 33 out of 190 countries, but by the end of 2012 it had fallen to 60th place.
The report says women’s absence is particularly marked in finance and economy. It says there are no women at all on the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee; women hold just 11.1 percent of UK Bank Chief Executive positions, 17.3 percent of FTSE 100 Director positions and make up just 15.1 percent of members of Local Economic Partnerships.
The report explores the impact of this dearth of women at the top tables of public life, and concludes that the lack of diversity in public life weakens democracy and public confidence in it; has a negative impact on decision-making and wastes the huge investment made in women and girls through the education system and beyond. It adds that a more diverse body politic with a wider spread of expertise and “reflecting the life experience of both halves of the human race” would be better placed to lead us through the complex times that face the country.
The report makes six recommendations:
– Political parties should take immediate action to increase the number of women candidates at all levels of election with a view to fielding as many women candidates from as wide a variety of backgrounds and communities as possible in winnable seats in 2015. This should include active consideration of positive action measures in selection processes.
– In order to enable everyone concerned to develop a much better understanding of the issues, a monitoring form similar to that used in recruitment for public appointments and applications for funding should be introduced. It would be completed and submitted to returning officers by all candidates together with nomination forms at all levels of election, and the results collated and published annually. This requirement should be implemented at the 2014 English local and European elections.
– Government should pilot a new government-wide scheme in 2014 to increase women’s presence, profile and participation in the 2015 general election and beyond.
– Government, political parties and others should act to implement the recommendations of the Speaker’s Conference Report published in 2010.
– Steps should be taken to develop a much wider set of proposals for improving the culture of both politics at all levels and media coverage of them.
– All organisations – public, private and third sector – should take steps to ensure that, at meetings and events, both women and men appear on platforms as speakers, and editors and broadcasters should also take responsibility for commissioning contributions from both women and men as commentators and experts. Individual citizens should be encouraged to object to men-only platforms, panels and programmes.
Nan Sloane, Director of the Centre for Women and Democracy – one of the members of the Counting Women In coalition, said: “This report shows a shocking absence of women from powerful roles in Britain. We are often told that it’s just a matter of time before we have equality, but we have already waited for generations; asking us to wait still more will change nothing, and the quality of decision-making in our democracy and public life will suffer as a result. There needs to be meaningful action now if next year’s report is to show real progress.”
Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, also a member of the coalition, said: “It’s simply scandalous that in 2013 men still outnumber women 4 to 1 in parliament. If political parties don’t take urgent action, Britain will continue to fall down the global league table when it comes to women’s access to power and representation in politics. The number of women in the Cabinet is at a ten year low. Failure to increase the number of women around the top table of politics sends a message to other walks of life and to the next generation for whom we hope for something different, that excluding women from positions of power is acceptable. Women’s votes will determine the next election – remaining male dominated won’t help the parties on polling day.”