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Women In Public Life events PDF Print E-mail

Women In Public Life Events ReportWNC Commissioner Olivia Bailey and guest speaker Dr Lily Segerman-Peck at Greenwich event

We are pleased to have successfully completed our series of Women in Public Life events across the nine English regions. The seventeen regional events funded by the Government Equalities Office were held between October 2009 and March 2010 in Oxford, Newcastle, Greenwich, Central London, Cambridge, Norwich, Birmingham, Coventry, York, Leeds, Sheffield, Plymouth, Bristol, Nottingham, Leicester, Manchester and Liverpool. Click here to view the report.

The events aimed to raise awareness and encourage women to enter into public life providing advice and practical tools to cDelegates at York eventounter some of the obstacles women face in getting through the application process.

Over 200 women attended these events and from feedback received from delegates they have proven to be a very positive initiative. We received excellent feedback from the events - 83% of the participants felt the events were either very good or good. Overall, delegates commented that the events were, ‘Very well organised and well thought out’ and that they’d ‘recommend this event to other women.’

 Delegates at Nottingham event

The events were led by a WNC Commissioner and featured an inspirational guest speaker who held a public appointment. The speaker used the opportunity to share their experiences of public life, how they overcome the barriers that many women face and also offered useful and insightful advice to participants. Delegates’ comments on the speakers included, ‘presenters were excellent and inspiring’.

 Delegates at London Victoria event

Each event followed the same format and consisted of three interactive exercises. The first exercise encouraged delegates to identify the challenges for women entering public life and what can be done to overcome them. As an aide the participants were then provided with two documents explaining the qualities needed for public life and the challenges for women entering public life. The second exercise provided advice and handy tips on how to fill in an application form. The participants were provided with a participant’s toolkit which aimed to assist the women with completing their application form. The toolkit included application form examples, a good practice guide and an application form ‘top tips’ guide. Delegates found the ‘tips and advice very helpful.’ The third exercise was a mock board meeting, aimed at building women’s confidence for participation in meetings. Each participant had an optional role to play and an agenda. The selection of materials presented to the participants aimed to enable women to take the first steps into public life.


Delegates expressed a strong interest for similar future events, ‘we need to have more events like this that can give us a collective voice.’


We’d like to say a very big thank you to all the wonderful speakers, delegates and Commissioners that contributed to this successful series of events.


Through these events we hope to increase the number of women applying for public appointments, to increase the number of successful applications and help increase women’s civic participation. We hope to continue work on this throughout the year.

....the current situation PDF Print E-mail

In 2009 just 32.6% of public appointments were women. Over many years the WNC has worked to improve women's representation in public life. We feel that representation on public bodies should aim to reflect society as a whole and include people from all parts of the community, all walks of life and those with a wide range of skills and experiences. The figures make clear that many public bodies are still not benefiting from the different perspectives that women bring to the decision making process.

The increasingly high number of women with power and status in public life today do not speak solely or even largely on behalf of all women - but women's experiences as women, their perspectives and their voices can and do inform the way they do things. They are vital in ensuring that women in society have their views reflected. Women are not all the same and do not speak with one voice. So it is important that women of all backgrounds play a part - women of faith; women of no faith; women from different ethnic groups; disabled women; lesbians; younger and older women. Statistics collated by the Government Equalities Office (GEO) show continuing low rates of representation of women in public bodies.

 Women's Representation in politics across the UK - an overview

  • 19.7% House of Lords Peers
  • 4% Ethnic Minority Women Members of Parliament
  • 34% All Ministers
  • 26% Cabinet Ministers
  • 22% Members of Parliament
  • 33% Members of Scottish Parliament
  • 15% Northern Ireland Assembly
  • 46.7% Welsh Assembly Members
  • 26% Members of European Parliament
  • 0.9% Ethnic Minority women councillors

Women's Representation in Other Public Bodies

  • 9.26% High Court Judges
  • 8% University Vice-Chancellors
  • 30% Police Authority board members
Speakers Conference Online Forum PDF Print E-mail

The Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Representation was established by the House of Commons to look into the reasons why there are not more women, disabled people and people from ethnic minority communities in the House of Commons. The Speaker’s Conference launched an online forum on 12 May, seeking views from the public on the following questions: 

  • Why do people think that to succeed in public life they have to hide aspects of themselves?
  • What would persuade you to represent your community? 
  • What is the best way to increase the representation of under-represented communities at Westminster?

The forum can be accessed here or via the main website. It ran until 23 June 2009.
Comments from the forum were considered by the Conference as it looked to find practical ways to tackle under-representation. 

The Speaker’s Conference was convened under the leadership of the Speaker, Mr Michael J Martin.  Its membership was as follows: Miss Anne Begg (Vice-Chairman), Ms Diane Abbott, John Bercow, Mr David Blunkett, Angela Browning, Mr Ronnie Campbell, Mrs Ann Cryer, Mr Parmjit Dhanda, Andrew George, Miss Julie Kirkbride, Dr William McCrea, David Maclean, Fiona Mactaggart, Mr Khalid Mahmood, Anne Main, Jo Swinson and Mrs Betty Williams.  It had to:

  • identify any particular difficulties people in these groups face in becoming Members of Parliament,
  • to recommend ways of supporting them; and
  • to recommend ways of tackling those barriers to their success.
  •  A Speaker’s Conference has been established from time to time to investigate issues relating to the franchise and electoral law.

    BAME Women Councillor Shadowing Scheme PDF Print E-mail

    Operation Black Vote and the Government Equalities Office Black Asian Minority Ethnic Women Councillor Shadowing Scheme.

    The representation of Black and other minority ethnic (BAME) women at every level of governance from the Houses of Parliament to local government is markedly low. Of the 646 MPs in Westminster, two are BAME women and out of 20,000 Councillors, 149 are BAME women. This represents less than 1% of Councillors nationally.  

    On 24th April, Operation Black Vote launched the country’s first national BAME Councillor Shadowing Scheme; applications were accepted until 31st July.  The scheme invites 50 women from BAME communities across the country to take part in a ground-breaking leadership programme, which is designed to encourage them to find out about the wide-ranging role of councillors. 

    The project aims to demystify the role of councillors and open up the process to allow greater diversity and to help tackle the under-representation of BAME women within the UK’s elected Council Chambers.

    Women in Public Life Today: A Revised Guide PDF Print E-mail

    The WNC are delighted to announce that its newly updated Women in Public Life Today: A Revised Guide has now been published.

    The 2009 Revised Guide builds and expands on the document produced in 2004, explaining how women can become active in public life and why their representation is so important.  It contains information about various public bodies and advice about how to apply for positions.  Furthermore, the Guide profiles a number of women from various backgrounds who are holders of public appointments.  They share their experiences, routes to public life and offer suggestions about how to overcome any barriers that women might encounter along the way.   Their examples demonstrate that women from a variety of backgrounds and regions can use their skills and experiences to make a valuable contribution through a public appointment.  This is especially important in light of the persistently low figure for women’s representation in public office, which still stands at less than 35%.   

    We therefore hope that this Guide will encourage other women to use their wealth of talent and experience to make their voices heard. 

    We hope that you find the Guide a useful and informative tool for encouraging more women to become involved in public life.  We would also welcome feedback on the Guide; send any comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


    Click here to download the full guide.


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