Campaigners warn of ‘diversity crisis’ in local elections, as less than a third of candidates are female

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Only 30 per cent of the candidates standing in next week’s local government elections in Wales are women, new research has revealed.

Gender equality charity Chwarae Teg and Wales’ leading pro-democracy organisation, ERS Cymru, who collected and analysed the data, say the ‘disappointing’ figures show parties have ‘dropped the ball’ when it comes to diversity. The organisations are calling for more to be done to encourage and support women to enter politics in Wales.

The figures show a total of 3,438 candidates are standing for election across Wales’ 22 local authorities in the 4 May poll – of which only 1,023 are women.

The councils with the lowest proportion of female candidates are Blaenau Gwent and Anglesey, which each have just over 17 per cent, while Neath Port Talbot is the highest with 36 per cent.

A third (33 per cent) of all council wards across Wales have no female candidates at all.

In Pembrokeshire, 57 per cent of wards have no female candidates, while in Gwynedd it is 55 per cent. It means both local authorities are guaranteed to be male dominated.

There has been no significant change in the proportion of female candidates of any political party and none have reached more than 35 per cent. The party fielding the highest proportion of female candidates is Labour with 35 per cent,  while UKIP has the lowest proportion, at 18 per cent.

After the last local government elections, in 2012, just 26 per cent of elected councillors across Wales were women. The picture is even worse when it comes to leadership, with only 9% of Council leaders being women.

Cerys Furlong, Chief Executive of Chwarae Teg, said: “Our analysis of candidates ahead of this year’s election confirms that there has been little progress over the past five years to ensure that local councillors are more representative of the communities they serve. This is disappointing but ultimately unsurprising. It is clear that more radical action must be taken, and all political parties need to commit to addressing this before the next council elections in 2021. We offer to work with any Council or political party who agrees the status quo is not acceptable.”

Jess Blair, Director of ERS Cymru said: “The low number of female candidates for next week’s local elections show that Wales risks falling behind on diversity. What this means in practise is that councils will not mirror the people they are meant to represent. In a best case scenario after May 4th our councils will be nearly 75% male.”

“There is plenty that can be done to open up our councils beyond the ‘usual suspects’. With Chwarae Teg we are calling for political parties and local authorities to take real action to ensure this situation ends here.”

Chwarae Teg and ERS Cymru are calling for all of Wales’ councils to look at their structures and culture, to do more to promote relatable female role models and to dispel some of the myths around what being a councillor actually entails.

This includes steps to ensure women are more fairly represented among senior positions in local government as well as to challenge stereotypical attitudes that may be contributing to the current under-representation.

Chwarae Teg is also calling for the introduction of temporary quotas to deliver better female representation at a much quicker rate, with a view to providing the critical mass of female politicians needed to make gender-balanced political institutions self-sustaining.

Ms Furlong  added: “Action should be prioritised to address outdated, sexist views about women that contribute to negative cultures in our political institutions.”

“Positive action, like all women shortlists or quotas, provides the necessary legislative nudge needed by some to prioritise action. We would urge local councils to join us in this call and welcome such a move should it become a reality.”

 

Percentage of Female Candidates throughout Wales

Total no. of Candidates across Wales 3438
Total no. of female candidates across Wales 1023
% of female candidates 29.7%

 

Highest number of female candidates

Council %
Neath Port Talbot 36.1
RCT 36
Bridgend 35.3
Swansea 35.1
Cardiff 33.9

 

Lowest number of female candidates
Council %
Blaenau Gwent 17.2
Ynys Mon 17.5
Merthyr 20.3
Pembrokeshire 21.1
Gwynedd 24.4

 

Percentage of female candidates by political party

Parties in order of female candidates (Highest to lowest)
Party % of female candidates
Labour 35.3
Liberal Democrats 34.3
Conservatives 30.5
Plaid Cymru 29.2
Green Party 28.9
Independents 23.4
Other 20.2
UKIP 18.5

 

*Data collated by Chwarae Teg’s Policy & Research Team and ERS Cymru. For any queries, please contact Eira (eira.jepson@chwaraeteg.com) or Natasha (Natasha.davies@chwaraeteg.com).