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Women decision-makers lose out in reform agenda

27 Jul, 2011
Women will lose out in strategic decision-making and scrutiny roles in areas such as policing and the economy, a new CFWD report has found.

The government's reform agenda will have a serious impact on women's access to and representation in key areas of the commissioning, delivery and overview of public services at local, regional and national level, with possible small gains in some areas being outweighed by significant losses in others.

‘Unintended Consequences’ examined the implications of eight pieces of legislation, one draft bill and one white paper, and found that:

  • The number of women involved in the scrutiny of policing at local level will almost halve if Police & Crime Panels replace the current Police Authorities.
  • 24% of members of about-to-be abolished Regional Development Agencies are women, and only 16% of members of the Local Enterprise Boards which are replacing them.
  • Women are less likely to stand for election as executive mayors or police commissioners than as councillors or for parliament.

The report makes a series of recommendations for what should be done, including:

  • At least 40% of members of NHS Clinical Commissioning Consortia should be women.
  • Political Parties should ensure that at least 40% of their candidates for Police Commissioner elections should be women.
  • 50% of a reformed House of Lords should be women, and 50% of bishops in the House of Lords should women by 2030.

Both the Executive Summary and the full report are available to download. The research was funded by the Feminist Review Trust.

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

‘This report uncovers one of the unintended consequences of the government’s legislative programme. This is at least partly because the government’s own Equality Impact Assessments do not take representation or access to decision-making into account, so that they have missed what the collective effect of their plans will be in this respect.

As a result, over the next few years there will be an imperceptible but steady withdrawal of women from public decision-making and scrutiny roles, and although the level of this will vary from service to service and region to region, overall the trend will be down, not up. It seems astonishing that women’s involvement in areas such as policing, economic development and healthcare commissioning is to be reduced, thus losing skills, experience and expertise as well as denying women a voice in services they need, use and fund.

‘We believe that, with a little forethought, much of this could be avoided. We think it’s time the political establishment recognised women’s right to be fully involved in decisions made about the services for which they pay, and we will be writing to government ministers and the opposition to ask them to look at our findings and reverse this developing trend.’


(1) The report examined the Academies Act, the Education Bill, the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill, the Health & Social Care Bill, the Localism Bill, the Police & Social Responsibility Bill, the Public Bodies Bill, the Parliamentary Voting & Constituencies Act, the House of Lords Reform Draft Bill and the Local Growth White Paper.

(2) It identified both the current position and what would be the result of the legislation being passed as it stood in July 2011.


For more information, please contact:

Nan Sloane at the Centre for Women and Democracy 0113 234 6500 / 07887 854867.


The Centre for Women and Democracy, the Hansard Society, the Electoral Reform Society and the Fawcett Society 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.