Northern Powerhouse ‘boys’ club’ concerns

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

More women should be in positions of authority across the Northern Powerhouse or risk “turning the clock back on progress” an MP has said.

A recent study has said women are under-represented in authorities across the region, both in civil servant and elected member roles.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said having so few women in positions of authority leads to poorer decision making.

Ms Nandy told the Evening Post: “For years, issues like child-care weren’t considered political because of a lack of women in Parliament.

“Unless we allow more women to take on decision making roles we risk turning the clock back on progress and devolving power to organisations that do not look and feel like the communities they represent.

“Having so few women, whether in the boardroom, at the cabinet table or in the town hall, leads to poorer decision making.”

The study, conducted by the Fawcett Society, found men dominate senior positions across authorities in Manchester, Liverpool, West Yorkshire and the North East.

Two out of five councillors in the region are women, but in the combined authorities, just 28 per cent of top posts are taken by females, said the Fawcett Society.

The charity said women make up a fifth of council leaders and directly elected mayors and occupy just one of the seven chairs of the established and proposed combined authorities.

In Wigan, 22 out of the council chamber’s 75 councillors are women and two out of three MPs with Ms Nandy and colleague Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) chosen to stand for Labour from all-women shortlists.

Ms Nandy added: “Under the leadership of our female chief executive, Wigan Council has done a lot for young women through the Believe in Her campaign, but unless we ensure young people in Wigan grow up seeing women in positions of power, campaigns like this will only have limited effect.”

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “The truth is, whether we intend to or not, we are devolving power from women to men by establishing new structures for local government with no regard for gender equality or diversity.

“We know that 75 per cent of local government employees are women and women are disproportionately dependent on local services. Women’s representation matters but at the moment the Northern Powerhouse risks becoming just another boys’ club.”

Lauren Lucas, head of projects at the Local Government Information Unit, said: “The diversity of leadership across local government is simply not good enough. We see this very clearly as the prominent voices around the devolution agenda continue to emerge.”

Wigan Council’s campaign to address gender inequality, Believe in Her, has attracted plaudits for the town hall’s chief executive Donna Hall.

Ms Hall was singled out for praise at the Northern Power Women Awards. She said: “Believe In Her has been successful in inspiring females of all ages in the borough to keep pushing for equality and not be ashamed of their ambition or their talent. The fact that men continue to make up the majority of those in the highest paid and most senior roles in the UK - with there being just five female chief executives in the FTSE 100 - shows there’s still a long way to go.”