International Women’s Day is being marked today by a host of activities across Wales to celebrate the contribution of women and to push for progress on equal gender representation.
Women’s network meetings, debates and exhibitions from inspirational women across various councils will be held, including a Swansea University debate with a cross-party panel including Councillor Mary Sherwood, WLGA Joint Spokesperson for Equalities, and Assembly Members to discuss women’s contribution and how to achieve progress on equal representation.
Amongst the other activities taking place are:
Cardiff City Hall and Swansea’s Castle Square being lit up in purple to mark International Women’s Day.
Wrexham County Borough Council encouraging and providing young women aged between 11 – 20 the opportunity to ‘shadow’ some of its inspirational women in various jobs and settings for the day.
An event at Chepstow School in Monmouthshire to celebrate and raise awareness of International Women’s Day, including advice and life stories from a range of local women who have become successful and led the way in what are perceived to be male-dominated industries.
However, WLGA is clear that more needs to be done to push for progress on this International Women’s Day to encourage more women to take part in the democratic process.
Cllr Mary Sherwood (Swansea), the WLGA’s joint Spokesperson for Equalities, Welfare Reform and Anti-Poverty said:
"It is important that we celebrate women’s achievements and contribution to public life, and remember the efforts of the brave suffragist pioneers who helped change the course of our history. We recently celebrated the centenary of partial suffrage in the UK, as influential and inspirational women from Wales, such as Lady Rhondda from Llanwern, Winifred Coombe Tennant from Neath and Emily Phipps from Swansea, contributed to the suffragist movement that helped bring about democratic equality in our country."
"Whilst we have seen much progress over the years, we are yet to achieve real equality in our democracy, in our politics or in our society; controversies in recent weeks such as the BBC pay scandal, the spotlight on women’s roles in sporting events and the shocking allegations of celebrity and political sexual misconduct and abuse all show how much further we have yet to go in the advancement of equality in our society."
Cllr Susan Elsmore (Cardiff), WLGA joint Spokesperson for Equalities, Welfare Reform and Anti-Poverty added:
"It is fantastic that a woman leads the WLGA for the first time, but we have only 4 leaders, 6 deputy leaders and 5 chief executives who are women across Wales’ 22 local authorities. Only 28% of Wales’ councillors are women and, at the current rate of progress, it could take another century to achieve equal representation within our council chambers."
"The WLGA is therefore committed to encouraging greater diversity amongst all under-represented groups and will be working with councils and partners to encourage greater engagement and participation in local democracy."
"In addition to today’s various activities and celebrations in all parts of Wales, a coordinated ‘Diversity in Democracy’ programme will continue up to the next local elections in 2022. The WLGA is a supporter of Chwarae Teg’s LeadHership programme, and senior women in local government have offered to support the Women’s Equality Network’s Mentoring Programme."
The Fawcett Society estimates that at the current rate of progress at each election, it will take 82 years for gender parity to be achieved in Welsh local government.