Women chief executives in Scotland’s councils

Why are women more frequently found as chief executives of Scottish local government than as council leaders? Any ideas? Prof. Mitchell would be interested to hear what you think.

Academy of Government @ Edinburgh University

By Professor James Mitchell

Local by-elections in Orkney rarely draw much attention but the West Mainland by-election in August has done so because of the all-women field of candidates. That this is deemed newsworthy speaks volumes. The position of women in local government is mixed and a significant difference outlined below invites careful attention.

While women continue to be under-represented in candidate selection, election and leadership positions across Scotland’s thirty-two local authorities, a different picture emerges in the appointment of senior officers. For over six months, both Glasgow and Edinburgh City Councils – Scotland’s two largest authorities in population terms – had women chief executives before Dame Sue Bruce retired from her position in Edinburgh in July. There are now 14 women heading up Scotland’s 32 local authorities compared with only five women council leaders (out of 33 when we account for the two men jointly heading Aberdeenshire Council).

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