We cannot afford to forget about fixing gender representation in local councils - Hannah Brown

Since councils were established, women’s voices have long been missing in local decision-making and it is time we change that.

Ballot boxes at the Glasgow City Council count at the Emirates Arena, in Glasgow, in the local government elections (Photo: Jane Barlow).
Ballot boxes at the Glasgow City Council count at the Emirates Arena, in Glasgow, in the local government elections (Photo: Jane Barlow).
Ballot boxes at the Glasgow City Council count at the Emirates Arena, in Glasgow, in the local government elections (Photo: Jane Barlow).

Social care, schools, housing, planning and waste collection are some of the key issues discussed around the table at various local council committees.

It is easy to shrug off councils as boring institutions for the retired busy-body to fill their days with, however, issues discussed in these often dull, grey carpet rooms shape our environments and public services in our communities.

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And with councillors acting as our spokespeople for issues impacting the community it is critical they, as a group, can represent us all.

Yet, despite Scottish women making up 52 per cent of the population, May’s council elections saw women’s representation rise just six per cent (29 per cent to 35 per cent).

When the Western Isles elected Susan Thomson and Frances Murray from the SNP ending male-only rule, many stories failed to mention how this meant women representation rose to just under 8 per cent – a red flag to all those conscious of women being silenced in male-dominated spheres.

I am not saying we should not celebrate small wins but we should recognise far more work needs to be done by key players across political parties, government, councils and the media to ensure more women are in decision-making positions.

A campaign launched at the end of September involving Women 50:50, Engender and ElectHer calls for “real action in local councils to improve representation of women, tackle sexist cultures and make participation more accessible for all”.

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A Scottish Government taskforce dedicated to addressing the gender imbalance at local authority levels has been recommended as well as an increase in wages and improving support for those with caring responsibilities (who are overwhelmingly women).

All of these actions are fundamental if we are to achieve a gender balance of 50:50 at the next council elections in 2027.

We must have more representation from women, those who are disabled and those in the BME community.

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The beauty of a community is that it is diverse and, for our spaces to flourish, we need to ensure we are best serving every aspect of them.

We cannot forget about the recommendations within this campaign because, if we do, our communities will continue to never be fully ours.

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