Tue, 13 Aug 2019
THE deputy leader of Newbury Town Council is on a mission to get more women involved in local politics.
Olivia Lewis, who was elected in May, says something needs to be done to address the imbalance between male and female politicians.
Mrs Lewis was shocked by a report from women’s rights campaign group the Fawcett Society, published earlier this year, which highlighted the lack of women across local government.
The report found that West Berkshire Council is among the worst local authorities in England in terms of female representation.
Of the council’s 43 members, only six (14 per cent) are women.
Although Mrs Lewis doesn’t sit on West Berkshire Council, she is deeply concerned by the statistics.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, she said: “One of my priorities when I was made deputy leader [of the town council] was to understand more about why women aren’t getting involved in politics.
“I want to use the position I have been lucky enough to be given to contact women and understand what would stop them from standing.
“Is it child care? Is it meeting times for example?
“I know you are never going to have a time that suits everybody, but it’s something that might be able to be looked at.
“I think some of it down to confidence too.
“It is important that we empower women to speak up and let them know what they have to say is valid.
“There is no one magic bullet, but it is definitely an issue I feel needs to be addressed.”
Mrs Lewis said she also wants to go into schools to speak to girls and find out what barriers would prevent them getting involved in local politics.
She added: “I’m personally very lucky that my husband works locally and can normally help with the kids when I’ve got meetings.
“Being a working mum and juggling my council role is difficult, but I want to tell people it is possible.
“I think you become more productive and realise that it is okay if the house is a bit unorganised sometimes.
“You get a schedule of meetings at start of the year for the year ahead, which makes planning childcare and other stuff easier.
“For my self-esteem this has been brilliant too – it’s given me a lot of confidence.
“It can be a scary thought, but if you dare to take first step, it really is rewarding.
“I want to reach out and get as many women as possible involved.”
After being elected to the newly-formed Newbury East Fields ward with 820 votes, Liberal Democrat Mrs Lewis said: “I’m a mum of two kids with a part-time job and I want to show people that if you want to do something, you can.
“Historically, the council has been predominantly older males and I think it’s important to address that balance and encourage more women to apply to be a councillor.
“A little girl came up to me earlier and gave me a hug and said to me ‘I think you’re amazing’.
“That’s what inspires me.”
Mrs Lewis has asked women to get in touch with her by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org