Bristol Women’s Commission Annual Report to Full Council

Every year, Bristol Women’s Commission presents a report to full council to give an overview of its work and achievements over the past 12 months.

Chair Penny Gane, in her speech to full council every November, highlights the work of the Commission’s Task Groups and give councillors an overview of the wider situation around issues impacting women and girls’ equality in Bristol.

There have been some changes to the make-up of the Commission this year, with the May local elections resulting in some councillors on the commission losing their seats, and having to leave the commission, and some new councillors joining.

Events

Bristol Women’s Commission has worked with city partners on some key events.

We worked closely with the newly-elected Police Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford, as we did with his predecessor Sue Mountstevens, for the first Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Summit in May – which Avon and Somerset Police’s first female Chief Constable Sarah Crew wrote about in this guest blog for us (hosted on our old web pages).

Our Economy Task Group organised ‘A Caring Economy’ event at City of Bristol College in October which brought together people from across the paid and unpaid care sector to talk about the current crisis in social care and explore potential solutions. Read more in our recent blog from Economy Task Group Chair Diane Bunyan.

Chair Penny Gane spoke at a 50: 50 Parliament event sharing the work the Commission did on its successful 50:50 campaign to boost representation of women councillors on Bristol City Council, seeing the number rise from around 1 in 5 to almost 1 in 2 (more on that later).

We also attended and spoke with women at citywide protests, including the March of the Mummies in which hundreds of women marched on City Hall to urge the government and others to take steps to address the childcare crisis. More on that in this Bristol Cable article, which we are quoted in.

Campaigns

Bristol, the UK and the world remains an unequal place for women and girls.

Our campaign pushing for a nil-cap approach to licensing Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEVs) in Bristol proved unsuccessful when the Licensing Committee voted against it in July. We co-produced a report with Safe & Equal Bristol which outlined the link between sexual entertainment, objectification and entitlement and male violence and secured support from city leaders and organisations but the pro-sex industry lobby won the support of the media and all bar one councillor in the Licensing Committee. Read our response to the decision here.

Later this month (25 November – 10 December), we will be running an online campaign for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence which we’ll be encouraging commissioners and partners to get involved with to shine a light on the action being taken, and action that could be taken to address male violence against women and girls in Bristol.

The Commission has supported the citywide anti-drink spiking campaign as drink spiking continues to prove a significant issue for women, including students. We were pleased to hear from some University of Bristol students who planned and delivered their own powerful ‘Never Have I Ever…’ campaign in the city centre.

We are also supporting ACORN’s campaign to ensure appropriate public toilet provision – which particularly impacts women and girls, and are urging the council to revisit the community toilet scheme approach which many say is failing them.

Influencing national policy

Bristol Women’s Commission’s Women’s Health Task Group has fed into the new national Women’s Health Strategy – the first of its kind. After contributing to the consultation, we were very pleased to see almost all of our recommendations taken on board by the government. Locally, we are working on a refresh of the Women’s Health Chapter in the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) – another first of its kind in the country.

Womens representation

Following the May elections, we’re pleased to see that the make-up of the council remains much more balanced post our 50:50 campaign than before – with around 40% female councillors. We undertook an important survey of outgoing councillors to understand the barriers and issues for women wanting to be councillors. Lack of time and an unwelcoming culture for women was a common theme which needs addressing.

In the business world, almost 40 businesses are now signed up to the Bristol Women in Business Charter, which cover 35,000 employees in the city. It has resulted in more women appointed to boards, coaching programmes established for inspiring female leaders, and more flexible approaches to the working week to accommodate working parents.

Read Bristol Women’s Commission’s 2021/22 full report to council here.

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