York & North Yorkshire

PCC candidates: Women a minority in bid to head police

Julia Mulligan (left) and Ruth Potter
Image caption North Yorkshire is the only force to be guaranteed a female police crime commissioner

More than eight out of 10 candidates bidding to become Britain's first directly-elected police crime commissioners are men.

Of the 193 people standing in the 41 police force areas across England and Wales only 35 (18%) are women.

Female candidates are contesting 26 of the 41 seats, but in 15 of those areas, more than a third of the total, there are no women standing at all.

The statistics serve to underline the unique status of North Yorkshire, which is the only police force to be guaranteed a woman commissioner after the elections on 15 November.

The Conservative's Julia Mulligan and Labour's Ruth Potter are the only two candidates in the county.

Both say they believe women still face prejudice if they aspire to senior policing roles, despite the fact that North Yorkshire was led by its first female chief constable, Della Cannings, between 2002 and 2007.

Ms Potter said she had been sent emails saying she would be unable to do the job because of her gender.

"I have received emails telling me that as a woman I cannot be expected to stand up to the chief police officer, that only a man would be able to do this," she said.

"I think the world of politics can be difficult for women as they often have other caring roles in their families as well as holding down paid jobs that have to be balanced with a political life.

"I believe that the political culture in this country is still based on male-dominated late 19th and early 20th Century models and needs to be changed to work for women.

"I think that the women elected in North Yorkshire should be challenging these stereotypes and showing that women can do just as good a job as men in the political field."

'Macho world'

Ms Potter said she first became involved in politics in 1979 as a feminist fighting for equal rights for women.

She said: "I feel saddened that things have changed so slowly.

"I hope for all our daughters that women being elected stops being 'news' and is seen as a normal part of political life."

Mrs Mulligan said women were under-represented in Parliament as a whole.

"I think there's a general issue about how you get women more involved in these types of roles. I think women have a huge amount on their plate in terms of balancing families, children, jobs."

She said she believed the macho world of policing may have had an influence on woman standing as police commissioner.

"With this type of role I guess there is the emphasis on policing and there is a male rhetoric around that, which could be an issue.

"Personally for me it was all about what you as an individual can do to make communities safer and I think that's quite appealing for women."

Mrs Mulligan said her and her fellow Conservative female PCC candidates had created a network to exchange ideas.

"I think women naturally gravitate together and bounce ideas off each other," she said.

"The network has proved there are some very, very capable women and it's been very interesting to swap ideas and learn from each other's perspectives."

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