In response to you open letter regarding NEC elections here are my answers:
- How will you increase women’s representation as council leaders, metro mayors and police and crime commissioners?
When Dan Jarvis was elected as South Yorkshire mayor I asked him if he would consider having a female deputy mayor - indeed suggested this should happen. As devolution continues apace metro mayors are gaining in significance, especially in the North, and there is no legislative reason not to have a female deputising. Indeed I would suggest that going forward mayoral elections should have running mates to address gender balances. The same would apply to Police and Crime Commissioners.
There also needs to be much more attention paid to the role of mentoring and shadowing. By this I mean a substantive programme where women can shadow people over a period of time to gain both experience and understanding of roles. The LWN #leadforwomen should also be enshrined in all Councils with guaranteed places for a woman in senior Cabinet positions. But genuine mentoring within Labour Councils is patchy at best and should be best practice within and between Councils, especially along geographic areas. Alongside this is a huge role for those who have stepped down from senior roles to support and mentor women - something that happens informally rather than proactively.
If the PLP falls below 50% women at next GE will you implement positive action and push for a manifesto commitment to make AWS legal until unnecessary. Yes!
- Will you support and promote the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Scheme and other evidenced ways of accelerating the advancement of diverse Labour women across the country?
Yes absolutely. Having just helped to run Marie Tidball's selection campaign for Pennistone and Stocksbridge I really recognise the training and support that the Jo Cox programme provided. Maire undoubtedly benefited from it because it gave her the confidence to believe in herself. Without that and the support of Mother Red initiative she would have found the process harder.
Her selection however shone a light on the difficulties for disabled candidates and in particular female candidates with families. Selections are gruelling, and rely on candidates to be able to travel around the constituency easily. If you cannot drive, or have mobility issues, as well as caring responsibilities this is a huge challenge. The first question I had to ask Marie was have you got a driver?'' The second was have you got child care?'' We still need to work harder to ensure selections are a genuine level playing field and in the case of disabilities the Party selection process still falls short.
I think the other thing to note is one of general accessibility. Diversity is not evenly spread across the UK, but somehow we expect representation to be evenly spread without recognising the barriers. If you live outside of city hubs, diversity narrows. But access to places outside of our cities is a challenge for many, especially on a low income and with poor public transport. So we can provide training but support in places outside of our cities needs to be extended to providing simple things like helping women from diverse backgrounds to physically get around and feel safe and welcomed.
- How will you reduce male harassment, assault and misogynist abuse within the Labour Party and ensure women activists, staff and representatives are safe on Labour’s watch?
I dont think I can add much to the LWN campaign on this as you have been tireless on this for over a decade. Its a no-brainer that there should be an independent process for sexual harassment complaints and its really troubling to note theres been no futher movement on this. Indeed in the light of the Ford report you would like to think that David Evans and Keir Starmer will now act. I would be more than happy to raise this as an urgent issue asap if elected onto the NEC.
I think also we need to consider some sort of basic guide for women in terms of what to do and how to report a complaint and even how to recognise what is evidence of harassment, bullying and inappropriate behaviour. I think sadly all too often younger or more inexperienced women in the workplace are unsure of what is, or is not, appropriate. I think in particular party staff and staff working in the palace of Westminster would benefit from this - although obviously this behaviour knows no boundaries!
- How will you ensure women are front and centre of Labour’s manifesto development and General Election campaign?
Get a team of women together to gender proof stuff from National Policy Forum and that emanating from LOTO and Shadow Cabinet.
In terms of policy forming gender proofing works! At least if properly understood and applied it *should* work. One of the many hundreds of benefits of being in the EU was a real drive to bring in gender mainstreaming.
When I was Chair of South Yorkshire Development Trust we were in receipt of a not insubstantial chunk of Objective One funding. Any grants applied for had to be gender proofed by a recognised bid writer. It was onerous but necessary and actually we developed better policies because of it.
The other thing is to have policy analysis that is written from a woman's perspective, whether it be housing or productivity. Women experience policy outcomes in different ways but that is often overlooked by those who actually end up writing the manifesto.
- After over a century of male Labour Leaders and likely 3 female Conservative Prime Ministers, what steps will you take to ensure Labour’s next Leader is a woman?
Have Women Only shortlist. OK a little facetious but if the basis of AWS is to reach gender parity AND we have never had a female leader then I would suggest that is entirely reasonable.
I hope this answers your questions.
Thank you for all you are doing and best wishes