Just 4% of local councils in England have a formal maternity, paternity or parental leave policy in place for councillors, finds a July 2017 Fawcett Society report.
Does Local Government Work for Women? (pdf) concludes that local government is ‘not fit for the future’ as a result of a range of outdated practices and attitudes that hold back gender equality.
Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:
‘As we get ready to mark next year’s centenary of women’s votes and the first women MPs to be elected we have to ask ourselves how we have managed to create new devolved institutions that are even more male dominated than local authorities. We are going backwards and that is fundamentally unacceptable in 21st century.’
The report finds:
- Help with the costs of childcare is patchy, with some councils not offering any support at all
- It is not possible for local councils to use technology for councillors to attend meetings remotely. This creates additional barriers for women, particularly those with caring responsibilities
- Sexism is commonplace in local government with almost four in ten female councillors having experienced sexist comments from within their own party, and a third from their council colleagues
- Half of disabled women and many BAME women councillors face multiple discrimination
- 80% of council seats go to incumbents at each election, making it very difficult for women and minority groups to break through. Of those councillors serving for 20 years or more, 3 in 4 are men
- Women make up just 33% of council chief executives, the head of their non-political staff, yet 78% of council employees are women. A lack of flexibility in senior roles is partly to blame
…and makes recommendations to Government, political parties, and local councils to drive change.