The contributions of the 1.4 million women and girls in the Greater Manchester region are fundamental to shaping the area that the new Metro Mayor will represent. That is why it is vital that they are properly represented in the devolved agenda. We need women at the top table; ordinary women’s voices being heard by our leaders; and the issues that impact women most prioritised in candidates’ manifestos.
The Fawcett Society’s polling finds that 77% of women and 74% of men in the North agree that a more gender equal society would be better for the economy – the highest support of any region in England. And the highest proportion of women of any region in the country – 70% - feel that more needs to be done to achieve equality.
So it is not surprising that women in the city region are tired of pictures of all-male groups of leaders signing devolution deals, and of all-male panels at devolution conferences.
We are demanding action from the new leader that will be elected in May to tackle the issues facing women in Greater Manchester.
We are asking candidates to respond to five Mayoral Pledges and Calls to Action which DivaManc have co-developed through an ongoing conversation with Greater Manchester women, and through partnership with the Fawcett Society. This document, produced by Fawcett, contains additional evidence and recommendations to complement and support those pledges.
1. Gender-balanced leadership and representation across Greater Manchester.
Strong and inspirational women across Greater Manchester are playing a vital role in delivering public services and setting the devolution agenda. But at the top table of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, women are sorely underrepresented.
This is true across the city regions that are part of the devolution process. Fawcett Society research in June 2016 found that despite 40% of councillors across the whole of the Northern Powerhouse region being women, the most senior roles in the new tier of government are dominated by men. Women made up just 28% of those in leadership roles in the combined authorities, and just 21% of council leaders and directly elected mayors. Looking at the current position across all Combined Authorities, just 8 out of 65 members – 12% - are women.
The underrepresentation of women holds true in Greater Manchester. 36% of elected councillors from the Combined Authority constituent councils are women. 7 out of 22 leader and deputy leaders of councils are women (Salford and Rochdale have joint deputy leaders), and 4 out of 10 Chief Executives are women, meaning that 34% of those in leadership roles in the area are women.
However, it looks likely that only one out of 11 official members of the Combined Authority will be a woman. This is because The Greater Manchester Combined Authority Order 2011 states that ‘Each constituent council is to appoint one of its elected members to be a member of the GMCA'. At present each council has chosen to nominate their council leader or directly elected Mayor, and amongst them only one is a woman. The Order also states that each council has to nominate a substitute member, and three of those currently publicly listed are women.
This needs to change. We know from the experience of the Welsh National Assembly, and the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners, that when women are in positions of power, issues that disproportionately affect women are more likely to be discussed.
Better representation of women in local government is about getting political representatives who look more like the people they represent, about getting a range of different voices round the policy making table, and about making policies that address the unequal treatment people in our area experience due to their gender. Devolution presents a window to take positive steps forward by designing greater equality into the new political structures. This is an opportunity that needs to be seized with both hands.
In order to ensure that women’s voices are heard at the top table, we are asking the new Mayor to commit to two changes.
Firstly, the new Mayor should call for the Government to amend the Order to:
require each constituent council to send two of their elected members to be members of the Combined Authority
require that one of the two elected members is a woman.
In the event that the Government refuses to make this change, the Mayor should request that 50% of councils nominate a senior woman councillor to attend the GMCA in place of their leader to ensure a gender balance; or ensure that all substitute members are women, and that they attend on an equal rota and have substantial roles and responsibilities. We are calling for the new Mayor to commit to pursuing these options in order to ensure equal representation.
The Greater Manchester Mayor will also be appointing a deputy. In the event that the winning candidate is a man, they must appoint a woman as their deputy.
Below the top team, the new Mayor must take this opportunity to ensure that the institutions of the GMCA – the 15 committees and boards ranging from Scrutiny and Audit to the Police and Crime Panel – are gender equal.
As a start, we are asking that they commit to a target of at least 40% representation of women on each individual committee, panel, or board within the authority, and to a target of 50% representation across the totality of committees, panels, or boards; and report annually on this target.
2. Enabling women and men to contribute equally to policy making.
The recent attention that has been given to how women’s voices are heard and represented within Greater Manchester and the wider Northern Powerhouse has provided a catalyst for more widespread debate, engagement and participation by women across society in our region. The grassroots-led DivaManc meetings are examples of this, complementing the many established and insurgent women's sector and civil society organisations that exist across Greater Manchester.
We need to ensure that the new Mayor puts the right processes in place to build upon the current engagement to ensure that women, and other marginalised groups, have a greater voice in the future of Greater Manchester and that the devolved policy agenda reflects the full breadth and diversity of experiences of women who live, work, care or study in the city region.
That is why we are calling on the Mayor to resource a dedicated Equalities advisory role within the GMCA's paid staff. This role will:
Ensure that the GMCA fulfils its equalities impact assessment duties, and;
Develop an effective model for building grassroots womens' and other marginalised groups' voices in the policy agenda, to ensure that the new Mayor's administration is a truly participatory democracy.
The exact format of this model should be developed in conjunction with the groups that will feed into the ongoing process of engagement and co-development of policy.
3. Challenge conscious and unconscious bias against women across public, private and voluntary sectors.
Unconscious, or implicit, bias describes how the associations that we hold, 'despite being outside our conscious awareness, can have a significant influence on our attitudes and behavior'. That this bias is present in Greater Manchester's political culture can be seen in the recent staging of a Northern Powerhouse conference with no women speakers advertised in the press release, and multiple all-male panels: the event organisers may have simply not thought this was a problem.
Challenging unconscious bias through supportive training can be effective, and we advocate the new Mayor using this with their team. But ensuring that women role models are visible in public life throughout the region, including through a vigorous approach to challenging and refusing to participate in all-male events, is also key.
4. Close the gender pay gap.
The gender pay gap – the difference in pay between women and men - for full time workers in Greater Manchester stands at 11.1%. There’s no one cause of the gap – important factors include direct discrimination, a failure to ensure women progress in their careers when they have children, the undervaluing of job roles predominantly done by women, the dominance of men in best paid positions, and unequal caring responsibilities within the home. Nationally, we know that the gap is wider for older women, some BME women, women in certain occupations (e.g. skilled trades) and women on higher earnings.
The prevalence of low pay amongst women is part of the reason for the gender pay gap. Over 30% of women in Greater Manchester earn less than the real living wage of £8.45 per hour, compared with under 25% of men.
Because it is a bellwether for many of the economic inequalities that women face in Greater Manchester, we are calling for the Mayor to monitor the gender pay gap across the Combined Authority areas and to publish a strategy to tackle it.
The Mayor does not hold all of the levers required to close the gap – and neither does the GMCA have all of the answers. That is why we are calling for the strategy to close the gap to be co-produced and co-delivered with businesses, the public sector, the voluntary and community sector, trade unions, and citizens.
This strategy needs to include a plan to increase the availability of good quality, affordable childcare. Different parts of the city region face different challenges: Manchester and Rochdale are amongst the few local authorities nationwide with lower than 90% take-up of free places for 3 year olds, while parents in Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Manchester, and Wigan have few childminders available to them to provide flexibility. While costs are lower than the national average, parents in the North West have seen a rise of 22.9% in their childcare costs over the last five years, and 40% of parents in the North West - the highest across the country – report that childcare in the region needs to be more affordable in order to meet parents' needs.
The strategy will also need to address the lack of good-quality flexible work in Greater Manchester. Across the North West only 8.8% of jobs at £20,000 pro-rata are advertised flexibly, limiting the career progression of women who continue to take on the majority of childcare and elder care responsibilities.
It needs to address the underrepresentation of women in high-quality, diverse apprenticeships. Nationally, the proportion of young women on engineering apprenticeships has fallen to under 4%, and women are more likely to report receiving no training on their apprenticeship, and being out of work when it ends.
The new Mayor's strategy will come at a time when it is uniquely placed to have an impact, with the Government's requirement for organisations employing over 250 people to publish their gender pay gap data in April 2018. This opportunity to proactively work with businesses to tackle their own gaps must not be missed.
5. Make Greater Manchester a place of choice for women and girls to live, work, study and care.
DivaManc is engaged in an ongoing process of discussion and collaboration with women in Greater Manchester. The new Mayor must engage with grassroots women on the substance of policy over the course of their term – this document, produced in the run-up to the election, does not take in the whole content of the DivaManc discussions or all of the changes that are needed to make Greater Manchester a better place for women and girls.
That is why we are asking Mayoral candidates to tell us how they plan to deliver for women and girls – and then to ensure they continue to engage after the election on the specifics of policy.
Make Greater Manchester a place where every girl and young woman wants to grow up.
Young women face significant challenges growing up in a society where 'lad culture' normalises sexual harassment, as Fawcett's 'Sounds Familiar' report demonstrates. Nationally, 59% of girls and young women aged 13-21 have faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year. Societal pressures founded in misogyny have a direct impact on young women's mental health, with 12.6% of women aged 16-24 screening positive for post-traumatic stress disorder, three times the incidence amongst young men, whilst 19.7% self-harm and 28.2% have a mental health condition. Much more needs to be done in Greater Manchester to ensure that girls and boys have access to high quality, age appropriate sex and relationships education.
Deliver quality care from birth to old age and a fairer deal for carers
Women are particularly adversely affected by a lack of social care support both as carers and also as recipients of care. 58% of carers are women but this caring experience is particularly concentrated in women aged 55-64, 1 in 5 of whom are carers. Women are four times more likely than men to give up paid work to do unpaid care work. 37% of all carers who care for more than 20 hours per week are in poverty as a result. Women are also the majority of those who are being cared for.
Ensure women and girls have choice of safe, accessible and sustainable travel options
Nationally, women's travel needs are quite different to men's, with more and shorter trips, lower car ownership, and more bus travel. The need to tackle inconsistency between Greater Manchester's multiple bus franchises is an issue which is likely to disproportionately impact women.
Enable all women and girls to access safe and suitable housing
Rough sleeping in Greater Manchester rose by 41% in the last year, and is an increasing concern to people across the city region. Women make up 8% of recorded rough sleepers in Greater Manchester and face different challenges around personal safety when they are homeless. Women also made up 63% of the lead adults in homeless households in the region over the last quarter. Tackling homelessness is a women's issue, and women's voices need to be heard in homelessness and housing policy.
End violence against women and girls
Domestic violence is disproportionately perpetrated against women. Police in Greater Manchester recorded 18,741 incidents of domestic violence in 2015/16, and domestic violence made up 29% of violent crimes over the period. 1,982 rapes were reported last year across the city region. These crimes have a vast human cost, over and above the £36.7bn annual cost in terms of public services provided to the women involved, and their lost economic output. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic and Sexual Violence run by Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis noted in February 2015 that specialist women’s services result in high returns for local communities of between £3.50 and £5 for every £1 spent because what they provide is so necessary and not supplied by the market.
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