A stagnating Senedd?

Steve Brooks explains new findings which show women’s representation in the Senedd is likely to flat line.

In general, diversity in Parliaments is on the rise across the UK and the world.

But it’s by no means inevitable, or uniform – and making our often archaic institutions reflect the public they represent takes hard work.

So it’s always disappointing to hear when the clock goes back. Over the weekend ERS Cymru published new research which shows that on May 5th, women’s representation in the Welsh Assembly is likely to stagnate.

Women in the National Assembly’ has unearthed some major – and concerning – findings:

  • Women are far more likely than men to be contesting marginal or vulnerable seats at this election – 10 of the 11 ‘battlegrounds’ are being defended by women, compared to safer constituency seats, about three-quarter of which are being defended by men.

  • 15 Assembly constituency seats have never been won by a woman

ERS Cymru project that at this election, between 22 (making up 37% of the Senedd) and 28 (45%) women AMs will be elected, which averages to 40%. This compares to the 25 elected in 2011, making up 42% of the Senedd. And while the predicted 40% is better than the 29% in Westminster, it’s worrying to see it flat-lining – or even falling. It also compares badly to the 52% female Assembly from 2005-2007, or the 47% in 2007-2011.

A diverse Assembly is important to truly represent Wales and to ensure that every voice is heard.

When people of all backgrounds are represented, we get a wide range of viewpoints and experiences, which strengthen our democracy.

We can and should do better – which is why campaigners are calling for parties to take action on diversity – see the manifesto launched last week.

These findings are disappointing. But we know that if the next Welsh government takes action, we can have a politics in Wales that works for us all.

Of course, we’ll only know what’s happened when it comes to diversity after May the 5th. But if we have gone back or stalled on progress, let’s make sure we all work together to do something about it.

Steve Brooks is Director of ERS Cymru. The full report on women in the assembly can be found here: http://electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/Women%20in%20the%20Assembly%20-%20FINAL.pdf

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