15 July 2021

Online conferences boosted women’s representation

While much work is needed to reach our goal of 50:50 representation, one benefit of having this year’s conferences online was an increase in the number of women attending.

Women make up 60% of our union’s membership but are not fully represented in our democratic structures, and our activists are always encouraged to continue working together to improve this at all levels. 

There are still many issues to navigate on the path to equal representation. PCS is gathering evidence on how women are disproportionately impacted by cuts to facility time, which make it even more difficult for them to attend our conferences or to stand for elected positions such as the NEC. The decision to amass more data – with a view to considering pursuing a judicial review over the adverse effect on women – was made via a motion to our national conference in June.

However, while much more work is needed to reach our goal of 50:50 representation, one benefit of having to take this year’s conferences online has been an increase in the number of women attending.

Just under 40% of conference delegates were women, which was an improvement on the 33.2% figure from the last conference in 2019. 

Going online helped to overcome barriers to attending such as caring responsibilities, lack of spare time, travel and accessibility.

Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) rep Maz Gaskell attended conference for the first time this year and says the only the reason she could make it was because it was online. 

“I couldn't have attended in person because I've got young children so it would have been really difficult. My partner and I both would have had to take time off work for childcare. Also, I like to keep my leave for the kids. It was really interesting to be able to take part.” Click here to read more from Maz.


PCS has a proud tradition of putting equality at the heart of everything we do, yet at many levels of the union many equality groups are under-represented in union roles – from branch right up to national level. 

As well as PCS Women, the union has active equality groups for black, disabled, LGBT+ and young members.

What are the barriers and what we can all do to help to tackle them? They include:

  • Branch reps holding onto roles/multiple roles
  • Think about, and improve, your succession-planning; mentor someone to take over your role/one of your roles
  • Lack of time
  • Use the PCS Advocate role to enable interested members to do as much or as little as they are able.
  • Need for childcare
  • PCS offers assistance to members for childcare and other caring responsibilities so they can by fully involved at all levels of the union.
  • Adjustments for disabilities
  • Reasonable adjustments for those with disabilities is crucial to getting members involved. Signers can be provided, hearing loops, materials produced in Braille, and other disabilities can be catered for.
  • Lack of confidence/skills
  • PCS Academy has all kinds of courses for brand new to more experienced activists: see here for bookings for this autumn.