Women and Democracy in Cornwall and the World

Posted on: 16th August 2014

Women and democracy in Cornwall and the World had nothing to do with my standing for election but being in the council chamber, where less than a quarter of us are women, has made me think! I’ve done a bit of research and here are some key facts I have discovered through the many reports and campaigns, plus local knowledge.

  • 2/3rds of the 1.4 billion people, around the world, living in poverty are women
  • Around the world, Parliaments have an average of 22% of women and in 2010, in the UK, 22% of M.P’s elected were women
  • In 2011, in local council elections, in 318 wards the 3 main political parties only put forward male candidates for the electorate to choose from
  • In 2012 192 candidates stood for the 41 Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) posts. 35 candidates were women (18.2% of candidates) and 6 got elected (14.6% of PCC’s)
  • 30.7% of all councillors elected in May 2011 were women, rising to 32% in 2014
  • From the recent European election, in the UK,  41% of MEP’s are now women (I think some research is worth doing on why this is a higher proportion)
  • According to a report by the Centre for Women and Democracy, if left to natural progress, it will take 150 years before we can expect to see equal numbers of men and women in our council chambers
  • On Cornwall Council 23.5% of Councillors are women and 10% of the Cabinet are women (1 women, 9 men)
  • On St Just Town Council 33% of Councillors are women

So, does this matter? I am coming to the view it does. Whilst I would not want to suggest I know how to speed up the process of change I have reached the conclusion that doing nothing is not an option. Women bring a different perspective and approach to many things and it is reasonable to expect that elected bodies should look like the communities they are speaking for.

There is much talk at the moment about the centenary of World War 1, the Great War that was supposed to end all wars. If you research, you will also find it is the centenary of the suffragette movement. It took until 1918 for some women to achieve voting rights and 1928 until women had the same entitlement to vote as men. Perhaps if world governments had 50% women members there would be fewer wars but I cannot provide evidence, for obvious reasons.

Mind the Gap – Women in Local Government Society
2018 will be 100 years since the Suffragette Movement and the introduction of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the vote. So how far have women got in local government today and what more can be do? Local government workforce is predominantly female, nearly three quarters of all employees, yet very few women are in top positions, particularly in certain disciplines. This is the case in Cornwall. The trouble is, research points to the fact that when recruiting and appointing staff, we appoint in our own image. So, if key political decision makers i.e the Cabinet are mainly men (9 out of 10) and the most senior managers are all men then the people they appoint will be mainly men. So, how can women who are a minority group at all political levels, start bringing in the changes between now and 2018? IDEAS ON A POST CARD!!

News- Gender gap

Finally, and I hope male and female readers are still with me. I was inspired by a young singer at WOMAD (see blog dated 28 July), Maz O’Connor, to stick with this issue and try to find something I can do, no matter how small a step it may seem. I don’t suppose I am about to start the revival of the suffragettes but as a women in politics, 100 years on, perhaps I owe it to their memory to speak up. Maz was commissioned to write some songs to mark a 100 years since the death of Emily Davison who was killed by a horse, during her protest at the Epsom Derby. Click the link below, to hear the story.


On Monday 18 September I have a meeting with John Pollard, leader of Cornwall Council, to discuss the issue of the under representation of women. I hope we might be able to agree some kind of commitment that might bring about progress towards women being better represented in the Chamber in Cornwall, by 2018. I will report the outcome under news.
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