Comment Any mayor you like, as long as she’s a woman...
– four out of a grand total of 17, since you asked.
For us, mayoral government, launched nearly 20 years ago in the early days of New Labour, has clearly been the slowest of burners.
Such, though, is the humungous scale of our so-called ‘local’ government that, even if the Blair Government had required, rather than requested, all councils to adopt some form of elected mayoral government, we would still have barely 400 mayors, compared to France’s 36,000, Germany’s 11,000, Italy’s 8,000 and so on.
True, not all these are directly elected, but all will be prominent and powerful figures in their communities, and all qualify for the World Mayor Prize.
Next question, then, is how many of these tens of thousands of world mayors are women?
The CMF’s estimate is only about 20 per cent, and even within that imbalance there is a further one: city size.
Women mayors are rarely in the biggest cities: just one woman mayor in the world’s 50 largest cities, five in the 100 largest, and 26 (9 per cent) in the 300 largest, which equates to populations of over 500,000.
There are, however, some outstanding exceptions. Best known is probably Anne Hidalgo, Spanish Catholic-born, atheist socialist Mayor of Paris.
Virginia Raggi is the wildly popular mayor of the debt- and corruptionridden city of Rome, and leading member of the populist party of the moment, the Five Star Movement; and Madrid’s mayor is former Supreme Court judge, Manuela Carmena.
Most remarkable, though, is surely Yuriko Koike, Mayor (though officially ‘Governor’) of Tokyo, the world’s sixth largest city.
Unsuccessful in her attempt last year to form a new party and challenge sitting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, she is back now attending to the small matter of preparing Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.
My Japanese interrogator’s real question, therefore, was: if, even in her country with its still conservative gender role attitudes, a woman can be elected to the top local government post, isn’t a World Mayor Prize open to only a fifth of the world’s mayors, both unnecessary and somewhat patronising?
I could demonstrate statistically how Koike really is the exception proving the rule, but I needed more, on previous World Mayor Prize recipients.
If these things worked perfectly, the CMF’s estimate of 20 per cent women mayors would mean than the eight rounds of World Mayor Prizes to date – each awarding a main prize and two runners-up Commendations – would have produced two women prize winners and perhaps three commendations. Remarkably, they have.
The 2005 Award went to Athens Mayor, Dora Bakoyannis, and 2008 winner was Helen Zille, Cape Town Mayor, and within a year Premier of Western Cape Province.
Less good news, though, is that those two winners plus one runnerup came in the first four rounds, with women taking just two commendations in the four rounds since 2008.
My totally proofless hunch, therefore, is that the CMF organisers, concerned at the trend, decided to make a virtue out of fixing this year’s election.
My actual response to my Japanese questioner, however, was that, for essentially the same reasons as I have long supported electoral gender quotas to increase women’s representation in national parliaments, a one-off restriction of a World Mayor Prize to women mayors seemed acceptable and should be given maximum publicity. Chris Game is a lecturer at the Institute of Local Government Studies, at the University of
Women mayors are rarely in the biggest cities: just one woman mayor in the world’s 50 largest cities
> Yuriko Koike, mayor of Tokyo