WISERD Co-Director, Professor Paul Chaney’s research into gender equality and public policy was featured in an International Women’s Day blog written for the ESRC by former political correspondent and Daily Telegraph social affairs correspondent, Sarah Womack. International Women’s Day 2017 took place on 8th March with the theme: #BeBoldForChange. The aim of this globally-supported day is to focus on driving action for equality while celebrating the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women.
The ESRC is funding projects to see whether political change, such as devolution, is beneficial for women. Professor Paul Chaney describes the current picture in Wales:
“Wales scored a world-first when the National Assembly for Wales achieved 50:50 male-female representation following the 2003 Welsh elections,” he says. Currently, women constitute 42 per cent of Assembly Members – compared to 34.9 per cent women MSPs elected to the fifth Scottish Parliament, and 30 per cent of MLAs elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly following the March 2017 election.
“Gender equality is more firmly embedded in public policy than before. There are specific Welsh laws to underpin this, and political decision-making structures are more open to women,” he added.
However, Professor Chaney also acknowledges: “In some areas, progress has been disappointing: “If you look at the largest civil society organisations in Wales, just over a third of chief executives are women,”
“But devolution is very much a force for good,” he concludes. “The Brexit vote is, however, deeply troubling for gender equality in Wales – and the UK. It was European considerations that led to our first major equality laws in the 1970s, and Objective One Economic Aid for Wales in the early 2000s forced the Welsh Government’s Executive Agency to take equality matters seriously.”
Devolution in Wales and its potential benefits for women is just one part of Professor Chaney’s WISERD Civil Society research project Territoriality and Third Sector Engagement in Policy-Making and Welfare Provision. He presented the latest findings recently at the House of Commons, as part of an ESRC presentation on Feminizing Politics: Voice, Access and Accountability. This event highlighted the role of civil society as political space for accountability, with a focus on its role as an arena for claims-making by feminist policy actors.
Read more about the event at Westminster: Feminizing Politics: Voice, Access and Accountability.
Read more about findings from the Territoriality and Third Sector Engagement in Policy-Making and Welfare Provision project that have been published in the chapter, Women and Policy-Making: Devolution, Civil Society and Political Representation, in a new edited collection by Dr Dawn Mannay (Cardiff University School of Social Sciences) entitled Our Changing Land: Revisiting Gender, Class and Identity in Contemporary Wales (2016, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, ISBN 978-1-78316-884-2).