women's representation

More women in government, but nowhere near enough

7th October 2013
7 Oct 2013
counting women in
who runs britain?
women's representation


More women in government, but nowhere near enough

 Prior to the 2010 general election, David Cameron pledged that a third of his ministers would be women [1]. Today’s reshuffle has seen the Prime Minister make some progress towards this goal, although the chances of the Government meeting his pre-election pledge by the next general election remain extremely slim. Although the number of women in government has risen by three, that still means just one in five ministers are female. And the number of women in the Cabinet remains at just four out of 22.

Members of Counting Women In, a coalition of campaigning groups seeking equal representation of women in politics, have welcomed the Government’s attempts to increase women’s representation, but have warned that there is still a long way to go not just to meet their own pre-election pledge but also to achieve real gender parity in politics.

Nan Sloane, director of the Centre for Women and Democracy, said:

‘Whilst I welcome the increase, it is nevertheless unacceptable that women remain so heavily under-represented at the highest levels of government. There is a steadily growing body of evidence to the effect that gender balance in decision-making bodies makes them function better, so although there has been a small improvement we still seem to be plodding along behind many of our international partners such as France and Sweden. It is therefore impossible not to be disappointed at the slow progress we are making.’

Ruth Fox, director and head of research of the Hansard Society, said:

“Our annual Audit of Political Engagement shows that women’s political engagement is declining and has particularly deteriorated in the last few years. The outcome of this reshuffle is therefore welcome news. But all the political parties still have a lot more to do to fully address the parlous state of women’s representation in Britain.”

Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The government is making painfully slow progress towards equal representation, despite David Cameron’s pledge to make a third of his ministers women. When people look at politicians, they increasingly see them as aliens who live on another planet. Having so few women in government adds to the impression that our representatives have very little to do with us.

The main parties have to think about how to bring down the barriers to participation for women, and ensure that our politicians look more like the people they are elected to represent.”

Ceri Goddard, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said:

“This reshuffle was an opportunity to give women – more than half of those eligible to vote – a greater say in the running of our country, on everything from the economy to foreign affairs. While this slight increase in the number of women round the table is welcome, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Time is running out for David Cameron to honour his pre-election pledge to make a third of his ministers female by the end of his first term.

The UK lags behind much of the world when it comes to women’s representation – we are currently ranked 60th. Other countries fare much better, even when it comes to Cabinet-level posts – indeed, Sweden, Switzerland and France all have equal numbers of men and women in their cabinets. A child born today will be drawing her pension before she has an equal voice in the government of her country, today’s action don’t take us that much closer. British politics urgently needs to get up to date and join the 21st century.”

Alexandra Runswick, director of Unlock Democracy, said:

“Our democracy and public life is weaker when it misses skills experience and talents of over half the population, so the increase in the number of women in government is to be welcomed.  However progress remains painfully slow. While other countries have reached gender equality at cabinet level, David Cameron is struggling to fulfil his pledge that a third of his government would be women.”

The total number of women in government is now 25 out of 118 positions, up from 22 prior to the reshuffle. In other words, 21.2% of the government is now female.

Earlier this year the Counting Women In coalition published a report examining gender imbalance in politics and public life. Sex and Power 2013: Who Runs Britain? found that women made up just 22.5% of MPs, 21.7% of peers and 17.4% of the Cabinet. At the local level, the picture is even worse: they make up just 13.3% of elected mayors and 14.6% of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Britain is falling down the global league table when it comes to the representation of women in politics, as other countries move forward faster: in 2001 we were ranked 33 out of 190 countries, but by the end of 2012 we had fallen to 60th place.

The Counting Women In coalition is campaigning for:
political parties to increase the number of women candidates at all levels of election

  • the Government to pilot a new scheme to increase women’s presence, profile and participation in the 2015 general election and beyond
  • the Government and other political players to implement the recommendations of the 2010 Speaker’s Conference Report
  • gender equality on event platforms across the public, private and third sectors

For more information and for interviews, contact Will Brett at will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk; 07979 696 265.
[1] A third of all Tory Government ministers will be women, claims Cameron, Daily Mail 30 April 2009

'Giant leap forward' for gender representation in the Republic of Ireland

23rd July 2012
23 Jul 2012
women's representation


Contact Tel: 
020 7202 8601

‘Giant leap forward’ for gender representation in the Republic of Ireland

Ground breaking news from Ireland over the weekend where a Bill on legislative quotas for the Irish parliament has passed, agreeing measures to improve gender representation in the Dáil which are without precedent in the English speaking world.

The Electoral Amendment (Political Funding) Bill 2011 will halve State funding to parties unless 30% of their candidates at the next general election are women. This figure will rise to 40% at subsequent general elections.

Ireland currently ranks 87 in the world for gender representation in politics with just 15.1% of Irish parliamentarians being women, meaning Ireland lags behind Iraq, Burkina Faso and Turkmenistan.

Last General Election four constituencies (Cork South-West, Kildare South, Limerick and Roscommon-South Leitrim) had no female candidates and one in four constituencies had no woman candidate from one of the three major parties. There were only two constituencies - Dún Laoghaire and Longford-Westmeath, where voters were offered a woman candidate by all three major parties.

The Electoral Reform Society has welcomed the news as a ‘giant leap forward’ for gender representation in the Republic of Ireland. Darren Hughes, Campaigns and Research Director for the Electoral Reform Society said:

Ireland has had to look long and hard at its failure to get women into frontline politics but because Irish parliamentarians have faced up to difficult choices, Ireland is now leading the English speaking world on forward thinking gender policy.

Ireland already has fair votes as a PR system (STV) is used to elect representaives. This means the safe seats that have held women back in the UK simply don’t exist but without female candidates, male dominance has remained a reality for the Dáil.

Now Ireland now has both the system and the political will to achieve a balanced parliament. The House of Commons should take note.”


If you would like any further information or any additional comment/interviews call 020 7202 8601.

Are cracks in the devolved governments' gender equality already starting to show?

15th March 2012
15 Mar 2012
women's representation
devolved institutions


Contact Tel: 
020 7202 8601

Are cracks in the devolved governments' gender equality already starting to show?

The Electoral Reform Society have published a new report warning that progress on gender representation in the devolved governments will slide into a reverse unless action is taken.

Key points from report on women's representation in Scotland and Wales

  • Progress on women’s representation in Holyrood and the Senedd now stagnant or in decline
  • Disturbing void opening up in the talent pool of prospective female AMs and MSPs (of the candidates in 2011only 8 out of 23 AMs were female and a paltry 171 out of 579 MSPs)
  • In Wales current representation relies heavily on incumbents from the 2003 election who benefited from positive action which is no longer in place
  • In Scotland the decline in women’s representation is in large part concurrent with this loss of the ‘rainbow parliament’ and the rise of the SNP (only 28% of the SNP’s majority group of MSPs are female).
  • Scarcity of women at local government level (only 25% in Wales and 21.6% in Scotland compared with England’s 30%) contains an important warning for the future as many AMs and MPSs gain vital experience as councillors.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said

The pipeline of future female talent for the devolved governments appears to have sprung a leak. If this trend continues it could have a devastating impact on the Welsh and Scottish Parliament's future gender parity.

There is a very real threat that inertia on this issue will cause an embarrassing fall back for the devolved governments to the dismal lows of Westminster’s own levels of gender representation.

This cannot be allowed to happen. Our new coalition campaign: Counting Women IN, has a simple goal: 50/50 men and women in all our political institutions. This is the first time organisations across the gender and democracy sectors have come together in this way and we’ll be working closely with parties across the UK to help them get their act together.


Download: Women’s Representation in Scotland and Wales

Contact For more information or to arrange an interview with Katie Ghose, CEO of the Electoral Reform Society, contact Sophie Langridge at mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk or call 020 7202 8601.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Welsh Assembly now has two out of four party leaders female: Plaid Cymru’s new leader Elin Jones/Leanne Wood and the Lib Dems' Kirsty Williams. The Scottish parliament also has two out of four female party leaders; Labour's Johann Lamont and Tories' Ruth Davidson.
  2. Plaid Cymru does however have a female Chair, Chief Executive, President and now a female leader.
  3. The Counting Women In campaign is a new coalition set up by five leading campaigning organisations in democracy and women’s rights; the Centre for Women and Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society, the Fawcett Society, the Hansard Society and Unlock Democracy
  4. The Welsh Assembly (41.6% female) and the Scottish Parliament (35% female) rank eighth and eighteenth wordwide respectively when it comes to electing women. The UK House of Commons currently ranks 53rd, tied with Malawi.
  5. To find out more about the Electoral Reform Society Wales and Scotland visit www.electoral-reform.org.uk/where-we-work/
  6. The Electoral Reform Society is an independent campaigning organisation working to champion the rights of voters and improve UK democracy.

Wales' New Political Map: Maths Matters, Communities Don't

11th January 2012
11 Jan 2012
boundary review
constituency size
women's representation


Contact Tel: 
020 7202 8601

Wales' New Political Map: Maths Matters, Communities Don't

The Electoral Reform Society Wales has commented on the publication of new Welsh parliamentary boundaries. [1]

The Society has attacked the thankless task handed to the Boundary Commission for Wales. It is now calling on the UK Government to reassess the extremely tight variance of 5% between constituency sizes – which has meant many Westminster seats will cross and break up traditional communities in favour of large new artificial constituencies such as “North Powys”, and the “Heads of the Valleys”.

Unlike changes to Scotland’s political map, no Welsh seats have been protected under these proposals.

Stephen Brooks, Director of the Electoral Reform Society Wales said:

If Wales’ new boundaries seem to fly in the face of common sense then responsibility rests with the UK government.

The Boundary Commission for Wales was dealt a bad hand. The UK Government’s 'One Size Fits All' approach was never going to work for Wales. The UK Government chose to ignore the existence of our mountains and valleys in order to fit a bureaucratic formula. It’s a vision of equality where the maths matters but our communities don’t.

Key Points

  • The Boundary Commission for Wales has published detailed proposals reducing the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30.
  • No Welsh seats have been protected under the proposals. Exceptions have been made for two of Scotland’s seats - Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the Western Isles) and Orkney and Shetland.
  • The constituencies must now have a number of electors set at between 72,810 and 80,473 – the maximum ‘5% variance’. A wider variance would have allowed the Commission to be more sympathetic to geography and traditional communities. Conservative cabinet minister Baroness Warsi has already dubbed the revised constituency map of England both "mad and insane".
  • It is likely that the cut in the number of seats will disproportionately effect the proportion of women elected to parliament from Wales in the next UK general election.


Notes to Editors
The Electoral Reform Society Wales aims to build a better democracy by ensuring that the electoral processes of Westminster & Wales are fair and accountable. ERS Wales’ report on the Conservatives’ “Reduce and Equalise” policy, including our own boundary proposals in the appendix, can be found here

Map Gwleidyddol Newydd Cymru: “Maths sy’n Bwysig, nid Cymunedau”

Mae Cymdeithas Newid Etholiadol Cymru wedi ymateb i gyhoeddi ffiniau seneddol newydd Cymru.

Mae’r Gymdeithas wedi datgan gwrthwynebiad i’r “dasg diddiolch” a osodwyd ar Gomisiwn Ffiniau i Gymru. Mae’r Gymdeithas nawr yn galw ar y llywodraeth i ail-asesu ei pholisi o adael gwahaniaeth o dim ond 5% yn maint gwahanol etholaethau – fformiwla hynod dynn sy’n golygu fod nifer o seddi San Steffan yn croesi ar draws neu’n torri drwy cymunedau i ffafrio etholaethau mawr artiffisial fel “Gogledd Powys”, a “Pen y Cymoedd”.
Yn wahanol i newidiadau ym map wleidyddol yr Alban, nid oes unryw un o seddi Cymru wedi’i amddiffyn rhag y argymhellion yma.

Dywedodd Stephen Brooks, Cyfarwyddwr Cymdeithas Newid Etholiadol Cymru:

Os yw ffiniau gwleidyddol newydd Cymru i weld yn mynd yn erbyn synnwyr cyffredin mae’r cyfrifoldeb ar Lywodraeth San Steffan.

Cafodd y Comisiwn Ffiniau i Gymru dasg diddiolch i’w gyflawni. Doedd agwedd “un maint i bawb” y Llywodraeth byth am weithio i Gymru. Dewisodd Llywodraeth San Steffan anwybyddu bodolaeth ein mynyddoedd a chymoedd i ffitio fformiwla biwrocrataidd. Mae’n weledigaeth o gydraddoldeb ble mae maths yn hollbwysig, ond nid ein cymunedau.”

Pwyntiau Allweddol

  • Mae Comisiwn Ffiniau i Gymru newydd gyhoeddi argymhellion manwl yn torri nifer ASau Cymru o 40 i 30.
  • Nid oes yr un sedd yng Nghymru wedi’i amddiffyn rhag y argymhellion rhain. Cafodd eithriadau eu gwneud i ddau sedd yn yr Alban – Na h-Eileanan an Iar ac Orkney a Shetland.
  • Mae’n rhaid i’r etholaethau nawr gael nifer o etholwyr rhwn 72,810 a 80,473 – y gwahaniaeth fwyaf bosib o 5% o’r maint cyfartal. Mi fuasai gwahaniaeth o ganran uwch wedi galluogi y Comisiwn i fod yn fwy ymatebol i ddaearyddiaeth a chymunedau. Mae’r gweinidog cabinet Ceidwadol, Barwnes Warsi, esisoes wedi galw’r map newydd yn Lloegr yn “mad and insane”.
  • Mae’n debygol y bydd y toriad yn nifer y seddi yn cael effaith anghyfrannol ar y nifer o ferched fydd yn cael eu ethol i Dy’r Cyffredin o Gymru yn yr etholiad nesaf.

Nodiadau i Olygyddion

Mae Cymdeithas Newid Etholiadol Cymru yn ymgyrchu i adeiladu gwell ddemocratiaeth drwy sicrhau fod prosesau San Steffan a Chymru yn deg ac yn atebol. Mae adroddiad CNE Cymru ar bolisi “Torri a Chysoni” y Ceidwadwyr, gan gynnwys ein argymellion ffiniau ni yn yr appendics, i’w weld yma.

New report from the Counting Women In campaign

3rd June 2011
3 Jun 2011
women's representation


A new report from the Counting Women In campaign has found that

  • Representation of women in local government remains stagnant after May elections.
  • At current rate of change we face another 150 years before women have an equal say
  • Political parties key to getting more women into town halls.

The report; Representative Democracy? Women in the 2011 Local Government Elections in England examined a third of the local authorities that held elections in May 2011 and found:

  1. There was a net increase across over 3,500 seats of just 20 women councillors
  2. At the present rate, it will be more than 150 years before there are equal numbers of men and women elected to English local councils
  3. There were 318 wards where all the main three party candidates were male, 14 times as many as the 22 wards where all candidates were female.
In a genuinely representative democracy women would not be regarded as an added extra
Nan Slaone, Report Author

Nan Sloane, report author and Director of the Centre for Women and Democracy, said:

Only 31 per cent of councillors are women, and this isn’t improving. If the annual increase in women councillors stays as it is – just 20 across the sample of 3,500 seats we looked at – it will be many generations before women have an equal voice in local decision-making. This is shocking, and goes against all the rhetoric that we hear so often about the need for more women in public life.

Since over 90 per cent of councillors belong to one of the big three parties, their candidate recruitment processes are key. But we also think that it’s astonishing that nobody has responsibility for the diversity of democracy nationally, and we shall be taking steps to ask government, the Electoral Commission and elections officers to do this, both in terms of providing support for the identification and training of candidates through a Democracy Diversity Fund, and by monitoring who is standing for election in the first place.

In a genuinely representative democracy women would not be regarded as an added extra. They’re 51 per cent of the population, they’re more likely to be both the users and the providers - as employees - of local services, and they pay equal taxes. It’s high time they were equally represented.'


Notes to editors:

The Electoral Reform Society, the Fawcett Society, the Hansard Society and the Centre for Women and Democracy have joined together to form the Counting Women In campaign to address the lack of women in politics. We believe the under-representation of women in Westminster, the devolved assemblies, and town halls around the UK represents a democratic deficit that undermines the legitimacy of decisions made in these chambers. Together, we will be fighting to ensure women have an equal presence and voice within our democratic system.

(1) In the 100 authorities surveyed, details of which can be found on page 23 of the report

(2) If, as is reasonable to assume, this sample is taken as representative of the overall trend.

(3) More details on page 3 of the report.