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Launch of Family-Friendly Toolkit in Wicklow to Boost Women’s Representation in Local Government

Published: Monday, May 08, 2023

Politics continues to be dominated by men: just 34% of councilors in Wicklow are women.

The National Women’s Council (NWC) has launched their Family-Friendly toolkit in Wicklow, a resource for local authorities to assist women and those with caring responsibilities to enter local government and providing support for those already there.

Despite progress in recent years, women remain underrepresented in local government, making up just 25% of all councilors nationwide. In Wicklow, that figure is slightly higher at 34%, but women from minority backgrounds are even less represented, and there are significant geographical variations.

The Family-Friendly Toolkit includes a 10-step plan for embedding family-friendly practices in local government, including the development of parental supports such as maternity leave, childcare and good hybrid working practices which are vital for those with caring responsibilities.

Speaking at the Wicklow launch of the toolkit, NWC Director Orla O’Connor said:

“We are delighted to be launching this toolkit in Wicklow, where women are slightly better represented than the national average, but there is still much work to be done to ensure that all women have the support they need to participate in local government. As it stands, women continue to be forced to choose between their career in public office and their family commitments. This toolkit is intended to help drive change, so that it becomes normal to see women with young families in decision-making spaces.

Lack of maternity leave and affordable childcare are preventing women from entering into and staying in politics. This particularly affects women from already disadvantaged groups. For example, Traveller women are more likely to shoulder caring responsibilities, migrant women may not have access to family support networks, and lone parents may not have the support of a partner. The lack of representation for these groups can mean crucial decisions which affect their lives are being made without them.”

The Family-Friendly Toolkit has been developed with input from local authorities, women in politics, and experts in the field of gender equality. It is designed to be a practical resource that can be used by local authorities of all sizes and in all parts of the country.

In 2021, the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality called for urgent action to provide the family-friendly policies needed to diversify politics. The research underpinning the development of the toolkit examined the current issues for councillors with caring and family responsibilities and makes practical recommendations and guidance on how to address these barriers in a toolkit.

 NWC invited the views of local councillors, local authorities, and other relevant stakeholders to identify what supports and measures need to be put in place to ensure entering and remaining in local political life is a realistic, accessible option and choice for women in all their diversity.

Women continue to be underrepresented in local government, currently holding only 25% of Council seats. This is a marginal increase from 21% after the 2014 local elections and only ten councils have 30% or more women councilors. There is also a significant urban and rural disparity in women’s representation, with many rural councils having less than five women councilors.


Find here NWC’s Family-Friendly Toolkit

For more information, please contact Sinéad Nolan, NWC Communications and Social Media Coordinator, 085 8619087.

About NWC

The National Women’s Council is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters.

The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.

We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. Find out more on www.nwci.ie