Belfast Telegraph

Northern Powerhouse 'risks becoming just another boys' club'

Women are under-represented in leadership jobs in the so-called Northern Powerhouse, where men dominate senior positions, according to a new study.

Two out of five councillors in the region are women, but in the combined authorities, just 28% of top posts are taken by females, said the Fawcett Society.

The charity said women make up a fifth of council leaders and directly elected mayors and occupy just one of the seven chairs of the established and proposed combined authorities.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: "The truth is, whether we intend to or not, we are devolving power from women to men by establishing new structures for local government with no regard for gender equality or diversity.

"We know that 75% of local government employees are women and women are disproportionately dependent on local services. Women's representation matters but at the moment the Northern Powerhouse risks becoming just another boys' club."

Lauren Lucas, head of projects at the Local Government Information Unit, said: "The diversity of leadership across local government is simply not good enough. We see this very clearly as the prominent voices around the devolution agenda continue to emerge."

The study included authorities in Manchester, Liverpool, West Yorkshire and the North East.

A Government spokesman said: "This Government is determined to rebalance the economy through building a Northern Powerhouse - a long-term project aimed at creating growth.

"This is about empowering local people who know their areas best and while local government employment is a matter for individual authorities, we would expect such decisions to be taken with regard to gender equality and diversity.

"Ministers have been clear that by encouraging diversity, harnessing talent and encouraging collaboration across Northern businesses, we can help the North reach its potential as a driver of UK economic growth."