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SWT encouraging women in local government on International Women’s Day

08 March 2022 : Council news, Community, Elections and voting

Somerset West and Taunton Council is joining the world in recognising the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, as it marks International Women’s Day (8 March).

Staff across the Council have come together to celebrate the achievements of women in the SWT workplace, share their inspirational stories and acknowledge the support and encouragement they receive.

They have also adopted the campaign theme for International Women's Day 2022 #BreakTheBias.

The Council is proud of its diversity policy and female role models but realises there is a long way to go to accelerate gender parity and encourage more females to apply for senior positions in local government.

There are currently more males than females in the highest paid jobs, and the disparity also applies to elected members of SWT with 42 male councillors and just 17 female councillors.

However, of these one is the Leader of the Council; three are executive members; one is Chair of SWT; another is Mayor of Taunton; and another, Councillor Libby Lisgo, is leader of the Labour group and Chair of the Council’s Community Scrutiny Committee.

Cllr Lisgo who represents the Priorswood ward was first elected in 1995. She said: “A lot has changed since I first entered local politics. A great deal of the unnecessary “stuffiness” has gone.

“I think women are more focussed on getting things done and less interested in out-dated procedural wrangling.

"Also, within the last decade there has been a welcome feminisation of top civic dignitaries and this has helped enormously to build bridges around many parts of our communities.

"Women in local government can and do make a difference!”

Women activists fought hard for equality in the early 1900s with a focus on securing the right to vote and equal pay for equal work.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, also has a full-time job, five children, and runs a charity giving aid to refugees.

She said: “We have clearly come some way in overcoming many of the barriers women face but there is always more that can be done.

“Everyone has a role to play in forging a more gender-balanced world, whether through deeds and actions, or championing and supporting women in all walks of life.

“My own achievements have been possible because of the encouragement and support I receive from family, friends and colleagues.

"However, I still encounter bias regularly and it is important to me that I not only show my three daughters that you can smash through glass ceilings with dedication and determination, but also that my sons along with everybody have role in calling out misogyny and bias at every opportunity.

“It's important that we see more women involved in local government both as employees and as councillors and I would love to see more young women involved in representing their communities. “

Both leaders are keen to see more women representing their communities in local government and are encouraging them to seize the opportunity and stand in the forthcoming elections on 5 May.

These are important elections for Somerset with the creation of a new, unitary council in April 2023 – the first major change to the way the county is governed in almost 50 years.

For their first year, elected councillors will take responsibility for all current County Council services and oversee the local government reorganisation to establish a single unitary council on 1 April 2023.

They will be the voice of their community helping to shape and direct local services ensuring that decisions being made meet the needs of the people of Somerset.

Town, and parish council elections also take place on 5 May, offering the chance for people to stand up for their community right at the grass roots. They too will serve a five-year term.

Nominations can be submitted from 22 March and close at 4pm on 5 April.

Information on how to apply can be found on our website: Elections 2022 (somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk)

Further information on the elections and the role of a councillor can be found at:
www.somerset.gov.uk/how-the-council-works/elections/
www.local.gov.uk/be-councillor
www.nalc.gov.uk/our-work/local-elections