Julys mark the annual LGBT+ Pride festival in London on Monday 2 July I joined fellow Common Councilmen, Aldermen, Corporation colleagues and representatives of LGBT+ networks in the Square Mile to raise the Pride Flag above Guildhall, and the City of London Corporation will be taking part in London Pride for the first time this year. In addition, throughout the year the Corporation is also supporting ‘Women, Work and Power’ – a series of events to mark the centenary of votes for women. Some my ask why there is a need to keep mentioning diversity, equality, and inclusion quite so often? Because, as Alderman and Sheriff Tim Hailes recently so eloquently put it: “Inclusion brings together a richer set of perspectives and broader engagement, more lively conversations, and a better quality of environment for all.”
Tim Hailes rightly writes in City Matters this week that if we look at businesses in the City of London and across the UK, they remain overwhelmingly dominated by white heterosexual men. Indeed, women make up just 25 of the 267 executives on tFTSE 100 boards.
There are 125 Elected Members in the City of London’s governing Court of Common Council, but 28 – fewer than one-quarter of them – are women. Although of course, Catherine McGuiness is leading our most senior committee – the policy and resources committee, 28 women out of 125 elected representatives is simply not good enough.
The Commonwealth has set a target of 30% women in political life and corporate boards are taking action to achieve the same target. The Fawcett Society’s annual Sex and Power index shows 32% of House of Commons and 28% House of Lords are women.
The City’s Court of Common Council is lagging behind with just over 22%. This is why I worked with other elected colleagues to ensure the City Corporation is going to take action. We have successfully set up a diversity working group to look into what positive and proactive actions we can take to make the Corporation more representative of the rich diversity of the City we represent. The working group will report back to the policy and resources committee in September.
Last year the Fawcett Society and Local Government Information Unit established a Commission to look into improving women representation in local government. Drawing on existing work and evidence from many sources including interviews with Council leaders, the report makes a wide range of recommendations, which are relevant for City of London. My summary:
Getting more women in
Unless we build a pipeline of women who want to stand, we will not be able to achieve equality. We need to do more to encourage women to stand.
- Set target of 30% (or 10 more women who become Common Councilmen/Aldermen) and create a clear action plan. Make significant progress at next elections – the general election for Common Councilmen will take place in March 2021; but we should also look at by-elections and Aldermanic elections. If this is not achieves commit to set time limited quotas
- Proactive campaign to encourage more women to consider getting involved and standing as candidates. Put in place a well-funded recruitment campaign. Reach out into the business and residential community to actively ask women to stand; engage with CEOs of major businesses in the Square Mile to encourge more City workers to get engaged and consider standing for elections
- Provide better information about the work and impact of being a councillor [perhaps time to change our title of ‘Common Councilman’?]
Removing structural barriers to progress
- Introduce maternity, paternity and parental leave entitlements for councillors and Aldermen
- Childcare and caring costs must be covered
- Consult on meeting times to better meet the needs of those with caring responsibilities or disabled people
Networks, mentoring, and building confidence
- Provide active sponsorship of new councillors
- Introduce mentoring programme for City workers and residents who are interested
- Establish strong contacts with gender equality networks within City businesses
- Encourage City businesses to promote and support engagement of staff in the City’s civil and democratic institutions
- Engage with external initiatives such as LGA, 50:50 campaign etc.
- Adopt a requirement for gender-balanced leadership
- Create new leadership roles & support women into leadership positions. Look at shadowing or deputy positions filled on a gender equal basis, so that women are enabled to develop the skills and knowledge
- Establish a permanent women and equalities committee to drive our action programme
- Appoint a senior officer to lead our action programme under direction of the Town Clerk – the Corporation’s ‘Chief Executive Officer’
- Proactively seek out and target women councillors for leadership programmes; introduce (compulsory!) unconscious bias training for all councillors and senior officers
Of course diversity and inclusion is more than gender equality, and we need to look at wider issue of representation such as sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, age, and disability or indeed social mobility.
But the numbers, our failure to attract and promote women in the Court of Common Council is stark – which is why I believe this requires a key focus in our actions. When I was elected I promised to promote action on inclusion, diversity and social mobility, and my fellow Ward colleagues fully support action in this respect – read our priorities here.
Former Lord Mayor Dame Fiona Woolf raises the Pride Flag at Guildhall as her last official engagement before stepping down as Alderman
And it is in this spirit of inclusion that the City of London Corporation has decided to participate in this year’s annual Pride Parade for the first time, a move driven by City Pride, the City Corporation’s LGBT+ Staff Network.
Furthermore, the Corporation will fly the LGBT+ Pride Rainbow Flag over iconic buildings such as Guildhall, The Mansion House (i.e. the Lord Mayor’s official residence), Old Bailey, and Tower Bridge.
As Tim Hailes says: “Some people may say, perhaps fairly, that the City of London Corporation is a bit late coming to the game. But I would argue that 950 years getting onto this field is better than 951 years – and we are joining with genuine enthusiasm and in a spirit of happiness. And yes, pride.”