Lord Mayor of York: 'Pointless gendering' of title is putting off women, says councillor

The “pointless gendering” of the historic York Lord Mayor title is at risk of putting off women and girls from thinking they can do the job, a councillor has said.

Councillor Katie Lomas acknowledged that the council had no control over the Lord Mayor title – which in York dates back to the 1200s – but said the authority should make it clear the role is not only fulfilled by men.

She raised the issue while a committee was discussing the council’s constitution, which is currently being reviewed.

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She added: “I do think that we should make reference in our constitution to the fact we have no control over pointless gendering of roles like Lord Mayor, but the roles are open to people of any gender or no gender, despite the terminology that we have to use.

The last female Lord Mayor of York was Coun Janet Looker, who was succeeded by Coun Chris Cullwick in 2021

“I think that’s important because research shows that when roles have a gender attached to them, either due to common perception or due to the words that are used to describe the role, then girls and women do not put themselves forward for the role, they do not see themselves in the role and they do not see that as something that is open to them.”

York’s Lord Mayor, who is elected by fellow councillors, is second only to the Lord Mayor of London in precedence.

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Based in Mansion House during their term in office, the Lord Mayor represents the city on ceremonial occasions, welcomes international visitors and attends events organised by local people and community groups, as well as chairing meetings of the full council.

The role was held exclusively by men until 1941, when Edna Annie Crichton was made Lord Mayor.

Eleven of the 21 mayors to have held the role since 2000 have been women. The current Lord Mayor is a man, councillor Chris Cullwick.

Coun Lomas added: “I do think that where we are stuck with pointless gendering, we should reference it in our constitution and we should make absolutely, explicitly clear that because of equal opportunities, people of any and no gender can fulfill these roles.”

She praised the “absolutely magnificent” last female Lord Mayor, councillor Janet Looker, but added: “Just because a woman has held a position, does not mean to say that the fact that the position is called a Lord Mayor is not putting women off and making women believe that it’s not a role for them."