The call comes after research carried out by Oxfam, the Women’s Resource Centre and regeneration organisations umbrella group Urban Forum that reveals only 28 per cent of LSP central boards and 19 per cent of sub-boards have female chairs. More than 60 per cent of LSP members are women. The research is outlined in a report called Where Are the Women in LSPs?Elin Gudnadottir, one of the authors of the report, said women were quite well represented in some areas of LSP activity, such as the sub-boards of children’s services, but were almost entirely absent from others, such as crime reduction.
She said the majority of respondents to the survey thought female under-representation was symptomatic of the “glass ceiling” women face in society generally.
The survey of more than 60 LSPs from across England – representing about 20 per cent of the total – also reveals that women’s organisations make up less than 2 per cent of voluntary sector representation on LSPs, despite accounting for 7 per cent of the sector.
The report states: “Women’s representation on LSPs, especially at senior level, is too low and can be regarded as discriminatory.” It calls on the Government to set targets for improvement, fund dissemination of good practice and improve monitoring of LSP membership. Only 20 per cent of LSPs currently monitor women’s representation, according to the report, and none has a gender equality scheme.
Sue Robson, vice chair of Urban Forum, said considering women’s needs was key to tackling poverty. She said: “LSPs are now a significant local force, thanks to the local government white paper, which requires public authorities to involve the community. If women were better represented at senior levels, partnerships would be better at understanding the different needs of women and men and would ensure local services were targeted appropriately.”
The report, which will be formally launched next Monday, is available on Urban Forum’s website.