When the Suffolk County Council LibDem Green and Independent Group was formed, Caroline Page was appointed Group Spokesperson for Women. She says:
“We are the first and only Group in this county to have this role. Interesting, because there IS no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow.
So why am I spokesperson? Exactly because there is no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow. And this has significant consequences for the women and girls of Suffolk.
29% (22) of Suffolk County Councillors are women – which is below the national average. But even nationally the picture is poor. Latest research shows:
- Only 33% of local councillors are women
- 28% of women councillors say childcare is a barrier, compared with 18% of men.
- 47% of women (almost double the % of men) experience clashes with other caring duties. Unsurprising, considering half of all women aged 59 are, or have been, unpaid carers. Men don’t achieve such odds till age 75.
- 38% of women councillors report sexist comments within their party, and one-third in council chamber
- 43% of women councillors have faced sexist assumptions about what they could do based on their gender rather than their career, qualifications or capacity.
- Yet women councillors are just as ambitious as their male counterparts: 45% of women and 47% of men say they want to progress to a more senior role in the council
This lack of recognition, representation and respect of women within local authorities, results in lack of local authority recognition and funding for issues that disproportionately affect women – whether it be outcomes for girls, or the plight of family carers or the funding of refuges and safe houses. We see examples of all these in Suffolk.
Seems that Suffolk – nursery of those indomitable seekers after equality, Elizabeth and Millicent Garrett – is in need of a reminder that equality is still a long way off.
We need Spokespeople for Women to ensure that gender equality in Suffolk is a fact rather than a fiction, to make sure that the best person gets the job, that the girls in our schools are wholly supported to have same aspirations and futures as their male peers.
Alongside this we need a clear understanding of the utter necessity for certain woman-specific provision. We can all dream of an equal society, but whilst 1 in 4 women experiences domestic violence, whilst one British woman is killed by a man – generally one she knows – every 2.4 days, women and children desperately need refuges, support, safe spaces for access, and the funding for all this. And everyone, whatever their gender who believes in equality realise this as truth.
But without a woman to speak up for equality in the Suffolk administration – what happens to it? It is ‘assumed’ as existing without existing. The funding gets lost because the issue has no direct relevance to those in charge – and the whole county suffers.
Sad but true.
So I am going to be here to carry on pointing it out, until the Suffolk administration realises this too.”