Mid Wales

Powerful positions a 'closed shop' for women in Wales, says Prof

Prof McAllister Image copyright Steve Pope
Image caption Prof McAllister says there is limited respect for Wales in centres of power at a UK level

Powerful positions in Welsh life are a "closed shop" to women, according to one of Wales' leading academics.

In her BBC Radio Wales Patrick Hannan lecture, Prof Laura McAllister highlighted a "limited respect" for Wales in centres of power at a UK level.

She urges Wales to be a more confident country with "more confident leadership".

Click here to listen to the lecture live and replay after broadcast

Speaking at the Hay Literary Festival, Ms McAllister - Prof of Governance at Liverpool University, former international footballer and chair of Sport Wales - said leadership should be based "on aspiration, confidence and a little bit of positively channelled anger".

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The annual lecture is held in memory of Patrick Hannan, dubbed the "doyen of the Welsh journalists", who died suddenly in 2009 after a short illness.

Citing research showing there are just two female chief executives running Wales' top 100 companies, Prof McAllister said: "The truth is that our senior echelons of power and influence are a closed shop to all but the most persistent women.

"Plus, persistent women whose faces and backgrounds fit. Dare to be slightly different in style, speech or appearance, or, for that matter, non-conformist in any way, and you are likely to be patronised, sidelined or overlooked (or all three)."

She also suggested a "giant succession planning scheme, whereby no male leader is allowed to appoint a male successor to himself and every female must find a female successor but one who is qualitatively different to herself".

On the subject of Wales' lack of self-confidence, she argued that this is reflected in the attitude of UK institutions towards Wales.

"When I represent Wales in meetings in London - whatever the organisation, sector or subject - a few things have become increasingly obvious to me," she said.

"First, that those wielding power at British level have limited respect for we Welsh."

She also added that it was "blindingly obvious" that Wales' football side qualifying for next year's European Championships would be more significant than the rugby team winning the World Cup this autumn.

"A generous interpretation would put a maximum of 25 nations as playing rugby globally; 208 play football," she said.

"The European football market alone is worth an estimated 20 billion Euros.

"The reason why this example is significant is that it edges us to the themes of my lecture.

"If our fragile confidence as a nation remains tottering precariously on a sport where yes, we can dominate but which is small-fry globally, then, not only are our chances of selling ourselves to the world, becoming an international brand and reaping the economic dividends that come with that rather squeezed.

"But it also has implications for our confidence.

"No-one would dream of denying the proud history of rugby here, or its historical and social import, but we simply cannot let rugby define us as a nation."