The South West’s 1.1 million women workers are represented on the region’s new Local Economic Partnerships by just 14 women out of 74, according to research by the South West TUC.

The research – 81% of LEP board members are men – is released on International Women’s Day and has prompted trade unions to call for a better gender balance. On the Gloucestershire LEP Board there is just one woman.

Nigel Costley Regional Secretary of the South West TUC, said: ‘We need to develop the economy for the benefit of all and having such an imbalance on local partnerships is bad for all of us.

‘Women, as well as men, need to help plan our regional economy. It cannot be right that women have been sidelined – not only is it unrepresentative, but it makes poor business sense too.’

LEPs were introduced by the government when they announced the abolition of the Regional Development Agencies. They only have a fraction of the resources and powers of the RDAs but are designed to bring local councils and business representatives together to promote economic growth in six sub-regions of the South West.

Guidance from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says it expects LEP boards to give due consideration given to diversity issues.

Nigel Costley, Regional Secretary of the South West TUC, said: ‘The boards in the South West appear to have ignored the diversity issue. The appointment of so many businessmen on the boards makes them look too much like a cosy old boys club.’

* The South West has been split into seven sub-regions:

Cornwall (which has 11 board members, two of whom are women), Dorset (15 members, two women), Gloucestershire (11 members, one woman), Heart of the South West (15 members, three women), West of England (10 members, three women) and Swindon & Wiltshire (12 members, three women).