Gender balance in Scottish Local Authority councils

Siebert, S. (2009) Gender balance in Scottish Local Authority councils. Public Policy and Administration, 24(2), pp. 175-193. (doi: 10.1177/0952076708100878)

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Women make up over 40 per cent of community councillors in Scotland, however, evidence suggests that they are less likely to progress to local authority councils. This article investigates the barriers to wider engagement of women in participative democracy, and based on the analysis of empirical data suggests some ways of promoting a more equitable gender representation in Scottish local authority councils. The barriers identified by respondents include male incumbency, traditional perceptions of gender roles and the bad reputation of local politicians. The adversarial nature of politics, ‘political infighting’ and ‘backstabbing’ as well as a considerable level of misogyny were perceived as barriers against women’s participation, as well as a lack of confidence and lack of understanding of the role of the local councillor. Greater representation of women in public life is crucial in ensuring that women’s interests are represented in decision-making. Despite some views against positive action, the strategies to increase the number of women being selected and standing for local elections are seen as the most effective solution to the problem of under-representation of women on local councils. The presence of women in representative institutions may create role models and this is perceived to potentially lead to an increase of women’s participation. Women’s networks, within political parties or independent of them, are effective in sharing experience, skills and knowledge, so are mentoring and shadowing as well as other forms of informal learning. A number of practical solutions were identified throughout the project: an increase of the councillors’ allowance, availability of childcare facilities in local councils and family-friendly hours of council meetings are seen as potential incentives for women candidates.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Siebert, Professor Sabina
Authors: Siebert, S.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Journal Name:Public Policy and Administration
ISSN (Online):1749-4192
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