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Councils holding LEPs back on gender balance

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England’s local enterprise partnerships are struggling to meet government targets for female decision-makers, due in part to an overwhelming number of men placed on boards by councils.

LGC analysis has found that of the 38 LEPs in England, just 23% of all 625 board members were women. Of the 625 board members, 185 are made up of representatives from councils but just 16% of those are female.

The government in July announced its aim to “improve the gender balance and representation” of local enterprise partnership boards by ensuring that women comprise “at least one third” of membership by 2020 - rising to 50% in 2023.

However, some LEP representatives have told LGC that it will be difficult to achieve that target due to the make-up of council representatives on their boards - the overwhelming majority of whom are men.

LGC found that 16 LEP boards reported no female council representatives while only five LEP boards had equal numbers of male and female members.

LEPBoard membersWomen board membersPercentage of board members that are womenCouncil board membersFemale council board membersPercentage of board members that are female council representatives
Black Country 16 3 19% 4 0 0%
Buckinghamshire Thames Valley 10 4 40% 5 2 40%
Cheshire & Warrington 15 4 27% 3 2 67%
Coast to Capital 18 3 17% 5 1 20%
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly 19 6 32% 3 0 0%
Coventry and Warwickshire 19 2 11% 7 0 0%
Cumbria 13 3 23% 5 0 0%
Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire 10 4 40% 3 1 33%
Dorset 18 5 28% 4 2 50%
Enterprise M3 23 4 17% 6 1 17%
GFirst 12 3 25% 2 0 0%
Greater Birmingham & Solihull 19 3 16% 7 1 14%
Greater Lincolnshire 14 2 14% 5 0 0%
Greater Manchester 15 6 40% 2 1 50%
Heart of the South West 20 7 35% 4 0 0%
Hertfordshire 15 5 33% 4 2 50%
Humber 18 4 22% 4 0 0%
Lancashire 19 2 11% 5 0 0%
Leeds City Region 17 4 24% 8 2 25%
Leicester & Leicestershire 15 2 13% 4 0 0%
Liverpool City Region 21 6 29% 7 0 0%
London 15 6 40% 5 2 40%
New Anglia 16 3 19% 6 0 0%
North East 16 3 19% 6 1 17%
Oxfordshire 17 5 29% 6 2 33%
Sheffield City Region 21 6 29% 10 4 40%
Solent 18 2 11% 6 0 0%
South East 28 4 14% 6 0 0%
South East Midlands 19 6 32% 7 1 14%
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire 20 5 25% 7 1 14%
Swindon and Wiltshire 13 3 23% 2 1 50%
Tees Valley 18 3 17% 7 1 14%
Thames Valley Berkshire 10 5 50% 2 1 50%
The Marches 13 2 15% 3 0 0%
West of England 18 2 11% 4 0 0%
Worcestershire 10 2 20% 3 2 67%
York, North Yorkshire and East Riding 15 4 27% 5 0 0%
Total 625 145 23% 185 29 16%

A spokesperson for the Liverpool City Region LEP, which has no female local government representatives, said it is “required” to retain the six council leaders and the metro mayor on the board – all of whom are male. Of the remaining 14 private sector members, six are women.

Jo Lappin, chief executive of Cumbria LEP, another with no female local government representation, said: “LEP boards are not entirely masters of their own destinies on this, as public sector roles are filled by nomination processes, with partners nominating whoever currently occupies the role.

“We are therefore reliant on our public sector partners to help us deliver on gender equality targets and if their roles are filled predominantly by men, then we start from behind.”

Women leaders LEPs prime minister theresa may

Women leaders LEPs prime minister theresa may

Source: LEP Network

Prime Minister Theresa May stands with Christine Gaskell (left), chair of the LEP Network and Cheshire and Warrington LEP, and Dr Ann Limb (right), chair of the South East Midlands LEP. Council of LEP Chairs, Downing Street, June 2018.

Christine Gaskell, chair of the LEP Network, an advisory group for all LEPs, said: “LEPs are actively looking at better ways of targeting and encouraging local women business leaders to join and lead their boards to achieve equal representation of men and women by 2023 as indicated by government.”

She said the LEP Network has organised a roundtable in September with women business leaders to see what additional actions LEP boards can take to better achieve gender balance.

The Fawcett Society reported on Monday that local government is “stuck in the past” on female representation, with the number of women on councils increasing by less than 1% at the last elections in May.

This story was updated at 10.19 on 25 September to correct the configuration of figures relating to Hertfordshire LEP.  

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Readers' comments (2)

  • In around a third of the LEPs the council nominates a greater proportion of female representation than the business members

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  • There are only 4 Local Authority reps on Cumbria LEP, not 6. It is true they are all male, but the LEP recently appointed 3 new private sector Board members - all male - which was a missed opportunity to improve the gender balance.

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