Why Positive Action Is Needed for Equality in Assembly; 'A Challenge That Is Too Important to Be Left to the Political Parties'
Byline: Aled Blake
URGENT action is needed if women are Sto be fairly represented in the Senedd, a new report has warned.
The study suggested that the "battle for fair and equal representation of women is far from won" and expressed concerns about whether progress made in the past decade will be sustained into the next one.
There are 28 women AMs in the Senedd, two fewer than in the previous term when a record number of women were elected. The 30 women comprised half of the legislature, making it the most equal democratic body in the United Kingdom.
But the number of women in the chamber is likely to fall again in next year's Assembly elections.
The report, commissioned by the British Council and produced by the Hansard Society, explored the impact of women on the culture of politics in Wales and Scotland and the policy commitments that have been secured as a result of their leadership.
The report - Has Devolution Delivered for Women? - argues that voluntary action by the political parties is not enough and that progress towards gender equality cannot be achieved without positive action.
It says the increase in women's representation at the start of devolution was achieved through "strong, well-organised campaigning" across a range of parties and organisations.
And it adds: "The time has come to start rebuilding these alliances within Scotland and Wales, across the UK and internationally.
"To support a new campaign there is a need for structures and institutions which enable dialogue among women across the generations - for example, the idea of a Women's Centre close to the Scottish Parliament was proposed in 1999 but did not come to fruition and should be revisited."
Dr Ruth Fox, of the Hansard Society and joint author of the report, said: "Scotland and Wales have rightly been hailed as beacons of international progress on women's representation in the last decade. But the 2007 results showed that progress has stalled and there are real fears that the 2011 election results will be markedly worse.
"It's therefore vital that we start raising urgent questions about how and why this is happening and begin to map out what measures are needed to address it. It is a challenge that is too important to be left to the political parties alone."
Katy Chamberlain, of Chwarae Teg - a body dedicated to improving the economic opportunities of women - said an informed debate on the issue was needed.
A change of culture in politics from a male-dominated one to a more representative one would not happen overnight, she said.
"I think there is more work to be done around why women are not standing," she said. …