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Girls & Women

British Women Are Still Completely Outnumbered in Local Government

By Umberto Bacchi

LONDON, Sept 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Men outnumber women in 97% of local governments in England, according to data released on Monday by a campaign group that said little progress had been made in the century since Britain granted women the vote.

Local council elections held in England in May made almost no difference to women's participation, with only one in three seats held by female councillors, the Fawcett Society said.

"This is really disappointing. We are literally crawling along," said the group's head, Sam Smethers. "As we mark the centenary of women's suffrage, women's representation across local government is stuck in the past."

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Women head only 18% of councils, which are responsible for the day-to-day provision of public services, the rights group found.

The May elections brought the share of female councillors to 34% — up less than one percentage point on 2017.

Britain granted women aged over 30 who met a property qualification the right to vote in 1918, the same year female candidates were allowed to run for parliament. They had been able to contest local elections since 1907.

The rights group said women still faced barriers to election, such as the lack of adequate maternity and childcare policies.

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"Progress must be made at a faster pace to ensure a greater representation of women in our local authorities," said Marianne Overton, vice chairwoman of The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents local authorities.

"It is vital that local government better reflects the communities we represent," Overton said in a statement.

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)