Labour-run Bradford Council’s equality plans, which aim to ensure that the top 5% of most senior Council jobs are made up of 65% women, have come under fire from Conservative Deputy Group Leader Cllr Debbie Davies who asked if the plans leave the Council open to accusations of misandry and if positive discrimination would be used to meet the targets.
Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe and Chief Executive of Council Kersten England disagreed saying that what the Council was doing was levelling the playing field within society and using positive action rather than positive discrimination.
After the meeting Cllr Davies said "I don't understand why there is a target of 27.8% BAME for the top 5% of employees by income when 33% of the district's working age population is BAME and yet the same target for women is 65% when the equivalent district percentage is presumably around 50%.
“This doesn't sound like equality to me and I believe encouraging inequality will cause tensions when we should be encouraging people to work together regardless of race, gender, disability etc. Instead I think we should be giving everyone opportunities to progress, to undertake training and development if they want to and for appointments to be made based on experience and suitability for the role, not on any other factor."
Later on in the meeting Debbie also queried why the Council had said in a statement that COVID would have a disproportionate impact on women when reports state that twice as many men die from COVID than women.
Kersten England responded by saying that economists had said that the long-term impact of the pandemic would impact keyworker sectors of retail and hospitality, where the young and women are disproportionately concentrated.
Debbie later said "The Council Plan states that pretty much everybody has been adversely affected by Covid except for men which makes no sense when in every news report we hear men are more likely to die from this awful disease than women."
Please take part in Bradford Council’s consultation on Equality Objectives and Council plan here: https://bradford.moderngov.co.uk/mgConsultationDisplay.aspx?ID=261. The consultation is open until Thursday 19th November.
On Equality Plan...
DD “Do you intend to use positive discrimination to reach your targets (top 5% of most senior Council staff being 65% women) and two, by setting a target of the top 5% of employees to be female at 65% rather than 50% do you think you leave yourselves open to accusations of misandry?”
SH: “No, obviously we have to act within the law but what we need to make sure we do here is we create a level playing field because what we have to accept is that society is not a level playing field and therefore we have to make sure that people are enabled and encouraged to not actually just apply for these positions in the first place because they do have the talent, the talent is equally distributed amongst everyone in the District we just have to make sure we enable them to realise that.
KE: “Cllr, you’ll be aware that positive discrimination is unlawful whilst positive action is not. You cannot literally put people into positions because of their background whereas you can invest in support and development for under-represented groups, that’s positive action. That is the distinction. We have never and will never pursue a course of positive discrimination.”
DD “I was a bit puzzled by the statement that the Coronavirus pandemic had had a disproportionate impact on women when reports say that twice as many men have died with COVID that women so that just confused me a little and I wondered if you could explain?”
KE: “There is quite widely accepted research from economists which shows the long-term impact of the pandemic will be hardest on young people entering the Labour market and women, who are disproportionally concentrated in the front line keyworker sectors such as retail and hospitality which are very hard affected at the moment by the pandemic so I think that’s where that comes from Councillor.”
DD = Debbie Davies - Conservative Councillor in Baildon Ward and Conservative Deputy Group Leader
SH = Susan Hinchcliffe - Labour Councillor in Windhill and Wrose & Leader of Labour Group
KE= Kersten England - Chief Executive at Bradford Council