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The Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, Rosemary Butler, AM, was named U.K. Devolved Parliament or Assembly Member of the Year at the annual Women in Public Life Awards in September 2013 following her work in putting the issue of barriers to women entering public life firmly at the top of the political agenda. Here she outlines the Women in Public Life (#POWiPL) campaign, and why it remains a core focus of her work

Mrs Rosemary Butler, AM, in Cardiff Mrs Butler was elected as Newport West’s first Assembly Member in May 1999 and has been re-elected in each subsequent Assembly election. She was appointed to the first National Assembly cabinet as Minister for pre-16 Education and Children, and chaired the Culture, Welsh Language and Sport Committee and was the Assembly’s representative on the European Union’s Committee of the Regions. In May 2011, Mrs Butler was elected to the position of Presiding Officer by a unanimous vote of Assembly Members.

continuously until 1999 when I was elected to the National Assembly for Wales.

My tale illustrates that women can make a real difference to decision making and achieve outcomes that benefit men, women and children; whether it is by becoming school governors, magistrates, local councillors, or holding other public offices

Mrs Rosemary Butler, AM

As a young mother of two small children I had to overcome many barriers to have my voice heard. It first started when I approached my local council to get a bench in my local park. A small issue you might think, but where were mothers supposed to sit to watch over their children as they played? So, I campaigned and rallied support from other mothers. Following many frustrating months, I decided to stand in the forthcoming election to confront the male councillors about not providing a bench. The shock result was that I won the seat and I got my bench within four weeks. I held that seat

176 | The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three

The Assembly has an excellent record when it comes to the representation of Women, a record that is second to none when you compare it to other U.K. Legislatures. At one point, a few years ago, 51.6 per cent of Assembly Members were women, but sadly that number has fallen since then. Although we still perform reasonably well when it comes to the world rankings, only 41.6 per cent of Members in the Fourth Assembly of Wales are women which I feel isn’t good enough. It is a step backwards and one I hope that political parties in Wales will address ahead of the next Assembly elections in 2016.

There are women in key roles in Wales, most notably the National

Assembly’s Chief Executive, and until recently Wales’ Chief Civil Servant. On reading these figures, one could be forgiven for thinking the job has been done in terms of achieving women’s equality in Wales. Granted excellent progress has been made, but these women have achieved in spite of the very real barriers that are still in place. While women are no means better than our male counterparts, we simply offer a different perspective.

Research from Cardiff University suggested that gender parity in the National Assembly had an impact on the type of policy issues that were debated as well as the style of debate. A different approach to policy, and different perspective on issues, can only improve the decision-making process at all levels.

The reality of representation of women in Welsh public life and the boardroom shows that:

• Only four per cent of Chief Ex- ecutives in top 50 Welsh Companies is female; • Only five per cent of council lead- ers are women;

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