Proposals published to improve gender balance in the Senedd

Landmark legal proposals to increase the proportion of women standing as candidates in future Senedd elections are published today (11 March).

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The Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill aims to make the Senedd more effective by being more representative of Wales.

The Bill delivers on recommendations made by the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform, which were subsequently endorsed by a majority of Senedd Members in June 2022 and reflects the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

If the Bill becomes law, political parties putting forward more than one candidate in a constituency at a Senedd election will need to ensure women make up at least half of the list.

To help ensure this increase translates into a more balanced Senedd, parties would also need to place women at the top of at least half of their constituency candidate lists.

Women are currently an under-represented majority in the Senedd – they make up 51% of the population of Wales but just 43% of Members of the Senedd.

Wales was the first country in the world to achieve equal representation of men and women in what was then the National Assembly in 2003 but since then the proportion of women represented in the Senedd has fallen.

In the 2021 Senedd election, less than a third (31%) of the 470 candidates put forward by political parties in Wales were women and of the 60 seats in the Senedd, 26 (43%) are held by women.

Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip Jane Hutt, said: “Twenty years ago Wales made history when 50% of members elected to the then National Assembly were women, but that number has since fallen.

“This Bill aims to achieve a gender balanced Senedd. Having a Senedd which better reflects the make-up of Wales is good for politics, good for representation and good for policy making.”

Leader of Plaid Cymru, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said: “We want to create a more effective Senedd that truly represents Wales and that means ensuring more women standing for election and taking seats in the chamber.

“The reforms being put forward are a leap forward in strengthening democracy in Wales so that the Senedd reflects our modern nation.”

A study by the European Institute for Gender Equality in 2021, found 11 EU Member States with legislative gender quotas increased the share of women in their parliaments almost three times faster than countries without quotas.

In Ireland, there was a 40% increase in the number of women elected to the Irish parliament in 2016, after statutory quotas were introduced.

The Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill is part of a wider package of reform, including the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, which is currently being scrutinised by the Senedd.

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