Tag Archives: equality

LibLink: Jo Swinson: Why the Government is spending £2 million to tackle bullying

This week, Lib Dem Equalities Minister Jo Swinson announced the eight organisations who will receive £2 million of government money to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. To accompany that announcement, she wrote an article for Pink News explaining why this money is needed:

Earlier this year singer-songwriter Sam Smith publicly came out and talked openly about being bullied at school. Denying he was gay made the bullying worse and the thing he most hated was how his friends and family heard the names he was called. Fortunately he’s gone on to have a multi-million album selling, Grammy winning career so I think we know who has had the last laugh.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing; bullying can take a terrible toll, have a devastating effect on a young person’s education, isolate them from their peers and damage their self-esteem for life.

How widespread is the problem?

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Jo Swinson MP writes… I’m proud to say we’ve finally got the Tories on board with gender pay gap measures.

In the final days of this Government Lib Dems are still delivering our agenda against the odds, and against Conservative obstruction.

Under the coalition government the gender pay gap had fallen to its lowest level, at just under 20% – but this is still 19.1% too high. Despite our high levels of women’s employment the UK has the 8th highest gender pay gap in the EU.

Not only is the gender pay gap socially wrong in modern society, but economically it’s nonsensical not to reward our most talented female employees properly. We should value the contribution of women and men in the workplace equally, so our goal has to be eliminating the pay gap completely.

As a Business Minister and Minister for Women, I have worked very hard to persuade my Coalition colleagues of the virtues of tough action to tackle this long-term inequality. Their traditional resistance makes it all the more remarkable that Nick Clegg has, in the last few weeks of our term, secured a government amendment that guarantees all large businesses will have to publish the difference between average pay for their male and female staff. So today (Tuesday) I will proudly vote for our party’s manifesto commitment – for large companies to publish the difference in average pay between male and female employees – to become law.

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Jo Swinson saddles up her feminist high horse…

Two pictures you might like. First, Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Jo Swinson:

Jo Swinson

And now, a feminist high horse.

See what I did there?

Jo Swinson has been going for the Daily Mail readers’ vote. She can certainly speak the paper’s language, as you can see from this parody press release from her office. Will editors get the joke?

Mother of one, Jo Swinson gave a speech today wearing a shocking pink dress and a new pair of heels.

While looking desperately in need of a ‘calming down dear’, Swinson railed against the established privilege of men in power and their unconscious inability to experience what discrimination was really like.

She did not say that government should determine what editors can publish. But it could have been what she meant really.

Swinson suggested that the Tories were too afraid to back a ‘feminazi’ clampdown on Fleet Street’s dinosaurs.

Swinson who last year abandoned her Ministerial post for six months on maternity leave, has persistently shown herself to be the possessor of radically liberal ideas as well as a feminist high horse.

If you want to see what she actually said in her speech, it’s all here.

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Jo Swinson on media coverage of pregnant women, sexism and having to ask to get ministerial job

On Friday, Jo Swinson spoke at a training day for women run by Omnicom UK, which Media Week reported. She gave a bit of an insight into how you get a ministerial job in, at least, our party. I have to say I was surprised:

It took Swinson a long time to realise that she had to ask to become a minister. “I thought I’d do a good job and then I’d get promoted,” she said. “It took me a while to realise I had to go and make the case.”

I’d like to know a bit more about this one. You wouldn’t expect things to be any different for the men in this party, but did Mike Moore, Ed Davey, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Norman Lamb and co actually have to go to Nick and say: “I’m here, this is what I can do, pick me.” Nick is generally very good on issues relating to equality. He’s championed shared parental leave for years, he’s expanded childcare, he’s spoken out on violence against women and girls. What he hasn’t done is put a woman in the Cabinet, despite the fact that some of the best performers in the government have been people like Lynne Featherstone and Jo herself.

We’ve seen recently from the appalling commentary on Rachel Reeves’ pregnancy that highly sexist attitudes exist in the media and amongst the people who make our laws. Jo said that such coverage makes her furious.

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Swinson and Clegg force Tory u-turn on gender pay gap

One particularly satisfying piece of news in the last week is that Jo Swinson and Nick Clegg have forced the Tories to agree to transparency on equal pay between men and women. 45 years after the passing of the Equal Pay Act, women still earn on average almost 10% less than their male colleagues for doing the same job.

Now, after a voluntary scheme saw only five companies publish details of men and women’s pay in their company, an amendment to the Small Business Bill will make the reporting mandatory, with a potential £5000 penalty (as well as the bad publicity) for failure to comply.

The Guardian quotes Nick Clegg and a Liberal Democrat source on this:

Welcoming the move, Clegg said: “While the Liberal Democrats have made real progress in areas like shared parental leave and extending the right to request flexible working, the labour market is still stacked against women.

It simply cannot be acceptable that, in the 21st century, women on average still receive a smaller pay packet than men.

We can’t wait and we can’t dither. We need to sort this out now. Both Jo Swinson and I have pushed for this to happen within government for a long time.

These measures will shine a light on a company’s policy so that women can rightly challenge their employer where they are not being properly valued and rewarded.”

A Lib Dem source added: “In discussions this week, it was clear that the Tories wanted to delay taking any action on equal pay and kick the can down the road, just like they have for the last five years.

“This is extraordinary International Women’s Day, you have some Tories feigning support for women in the economy while dragging their feet on gender pay transparency.

“It’s a huge U-turn from the Tories but it’s welcomed. At last we can take some real action before the election to make companies publish pay differences between men and women.”

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Jo Swinson defends Rachel Reeves from “staggeringly sexist” attack

Jo Swinson GlasgowRemember in 2010 when the Daily Mail went apoplectic and Tory backbenchers’ murmured criticism made headline news as David Cameron took time off after the birth of his daughter Florence just weeks after becoming Prime Minister? No, me neither, because it didn’t happen.

Five years on, however, Labour’s Rachel Reeves is under fire from the Mail and Tory MP Andrew Rossindell after announcing her plans to take 3 months’ maternity leave after she gives birth to her second child in June. From the Guardian:

Andrew Rosindell, the Tory MP for Romford, told the Daily Mail that a role in the cabinet required a person’s full attention. “I don’t want to say someone who is having a baby is not eligible to be a cabinet minister, but I certainly think perhaps the demands of that particular job will require someone to give it their full attention.”

“I don’t expect Rachel Reeves to be in the cabinet after the election because I expect the Conservatives to win, but clearly people need to be put in the positions they can handle.

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What can we learn from this year’s World Gender Gap Report?

Climbing beans production in Rwanda - Photo by CIATThe BBC reports on this year’s Gender Gap report published by the World Economic Forum which shows a narrowing of the gender gap worldwide. 105 companies have seen improvements and Rwanda becomes African’s newest entry, right in at number 7, reflective of its high female participation in the workforce.

It’s worth having a look at the full report and individual country profiles.

Rwanda finds itself a whole 19 places above the UK. While we do ok on health and education, our gender pay gap is not good, and neither is our female participation in politics. We also get extra points because we have a female head of state which, if things continue as they are at present, will not be the case within, most likely, the next decade and a half.

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Why would you not be a feminist? says Clegg

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 17.45.31Elle magazine is doing  a big push for feminism at the moment. It attempted to get the three main party leaders south of the border to wear their “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt.

Ed Miliband was happy to do it and so was Nick Clegg, who said:

I support equality and choice – so yes, I’m a feminist. How on earth in this day and age can you not be? As a wiser person than me once said: “Men who actually treat women as equals are the ones with more cojones.”

That wiser person is, of course, is his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, who made the comment in relation to childcare earlier this year, much to the consternation of the Daily Fail.

David Cameron decided not to risk the wrath of the right wing tabloids by daring to wear a t-shirt with the F word on it. Elle magazine aren’t wildly chuffed about that. Editor-in-chief Lorraine Candy said:

We asked the Prime Minister five times if he would wear the Fawcett Society’s iconic This Is What A Feminist Looks Like slogan T-shirt and send us a snapshot (it would only take 10 minutes). Five times, he declined. This is a shame on so many levels, especially given he knew Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband had agreed without hesitation, alongside many other influential men who were more than happy to call themselves feminists. It seems the Prime Minister still has an issue with the word “feminist”.

I was personally disappointed that we couldn’t feature Mr Cameron in our Feminism Issue because it is ELLE’s aim to engage with men in the fight for equality: because of parliament’s current gender imbalance, it is men who have the power to make changes in every area of British women’s lives. When the man in charge doesn’t engage, it doesn’t bode well. Given the huge international male support for UN Women’s #HeForShe campaign, it does rather make our Prime Minister look like the odd one out.’

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Conference Speeches: Lynne Featherstone: I have been able to do über-Liberal things in Government

Lynne FEatherstone 2007 Brighton conference by Liberal DemocratsConference may have been a week or so ago but we still have some keynote speeches to post. Lynne Featherstone spoke about the work she had done to help the most vulnerable people across the world with great humility. She said she had been able to introduce über-liberal policies but was also keen to pay  tribute to Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg for getting the economy on track.

She spoke powerfully about what she’s dong to protect women and girls around the globe and talked with great humility, saying that whenever she meets people in desperate circumstances she’s very aware that that could have been her. “I didn’t choose where I was born” she said. Here is the video and the text is below:

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Jo Swinson marks Bisexual Visibility Day

Bisexual Pride Flag23 September every year is Bi Visibility Day. Why, I hear you ask, do we need such a thing in these tolerant and accepting times? Didn’t we just pass same sex marriage?

Well, actually, there is still a fair amount of homophobia around. And if you are bisexual, you can actually experience  discrimination even from within the LGBT community.

A couple of years ago, The Bisexuality Report produced by the Open University and contributed to by LGBT+ Lib Dems’ Jen Yockney gave a snapshot of what life can be like for bisexual people in the UK. Many of its recommendations aim to tackle marginalisation of bisexual people and to promote a wider understanding of the specific problems they face.

Last year on Bisexual Visibility Day, LGBT+ Lib Dems’ Dave Page wrote an excellent post in which he outlined why this day is needed:

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Senior Liberal Democrats sign letter praising former FA inclusion adviser Edward Lord after his abrupt sacking

Earlier this month, Edward Lord, who until last Thursday sat on the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board, criticised the FA for not taking inclusion and diversity seriously enough. In an interview with the Telegraph on 3rd September, he said:

The public and the rest of the sport industry are getting fed up with football’s inability to tackle discrimination in the game.  Most other governing bodies have really embraced the need for change, to make their sports more inclusive. It always seems as though football is lagging behind. The FA must take action when participants so flagrantly breach their rules against discrimination.

He was referring in part to the fact that the FA took no action against Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore when his highly sexist emails were published.

Last Thursday, the FA sacked him from his role on the Inclusion Advisory Board. You have to wonder what this says about their actual commitment to tackling discrimination. Their statement was uncompromising:

It is not about what Edward has stated publicly, but a matter and question of conduct and respect for colleagues. The group collectively felt that all trust in Edward, due to his repeated failure to work in the spirit of collaboration, had broken down irretrievably.

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Opinion: Kippers’ squeals show we are a more liberal country

UKIP logoPoor judgment: that’s the reason UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson has given for referring to a Thai-born supporter as “ting tong from somewhere”. I was “completely tired out”: that’s how Farage explained his statement during the European election campaign that he’d be concerned if Romanians moved in next door. Excuses, excuses.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever consider whether or not to use a racial epithet. I don’t think to myself, on balance I judge it right to refer to that person as …

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Jenny Willott on action to get more girls into science and technology based careers

Teen scientist Alexa Dantzler in the labToday is the first National Women in Engineering Day. This BBC story tells of both the success of apprenticeships (the expansion of which was personally championed by Nick Clegg, and how women are establishing successful engineering careers. Earlier this month, Equalities Minister Jenny Willott launched a project, Opening Doors, aimed at getting more girls into science based careers. The aim is to get women with successful careers into schools to inspire girls to take science subjects and follow them through into university and, …

photo by: IntelFreePress
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Cambridge Liberal Democrat Sarah Brown up for a National Diversity Award

Sarah_Brown_(politician)Voting is currently underway for the National Diversity Awards 2014. These annual awards, whose headline sponsors are Microsoft and The Guardian, are a celebration of those in the UK who have shown an outstanding devotion to enhancing equality, diversity and inclusion.

This year I nominated fellow Lib Dem Sarah Brown for the LGBT Positive Role Model Award. Sarah has just ended a term as a Cambridge City Councillor and headed up their leisure and community services as the councillor in charge. She was one of the only openly trans elected …

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LibLink: Lynne Featherstone: More action needed on reproductive rights for all

Lynne FeatherstoneThis week, International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone is attending the UN Commission on Population and Development. She has written for the Huffington Post about how crucial it is to make sure that women have the choice about when to have children by having access to contraception, potentially saving 800 lives every day:

Globally there are 222million women who wish to space or delay the timing of births, but do not have access to modern forms of contraception. This has real and devastating consequences on their lives. In 2010, 800 women a day died from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth and in 2008 an estimated 8.7million young women aged 15 to 24 in developing countries resorted to unsafe abortions. All of this was preventable.

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Opinion: I will not hide…

rainbow flag on white background  : harvey milk plaza, san francisco (2012)Boy, has this been a tough week. This week I suffered some homophobia. This is tough to write.

It came in the form of an e-mail from someone who should know better, but sadly doesn’t.

Someone who believes their faith gives them the right to put pen to paper (or fingers to keypad) and accuse me of being immoral.

I’ve been lucky since I came out as a gay man, in 2011, in that I’ve faced very little homophobia (at least that …

photo by: torbakhopper
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Lynne Featherstone MP writes…A great leap backwards for gay rights

Uganda’s new anti-homosexuality legislation is abhorrent. It imposes draconian penalties for repeat offences of homosexuality, so-called ‘aggravated’ homosexuality, same-sex marriage, attempting to commit homosexuality and for the loosely defined ‘promotion’ of homosexuality. This is nothing short of a great leap backward – not just for Uganda but for gay rights across Africa. I believe it marks a growing state-backed homophobic trend across the continent, one we cannot and should not ignore.

From Day 1 in my role as Africa minister at the Department for International Development (DFID), strengthening the department’s LGBT rights strategy has been one of my top priorities. I …

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Jenny Willott: Gender stereotyping of toys harms the economy

I’ve been an auntie for 21 years and a mother for almost 15. In that time, it’s safe to say that a large part of my disposable income has gone on toys. I find nothing more frustrating than going to a toy shop and finding that the wares are segregated into boys’ and girls’ stuff. Often the girls’ stuff is all pink and glittery and sparkly and involves dollies or little dogs or animals to put in houses. Anything remotely interesting that you can build or make rather than look after is over in the boys’ section.

Now, I don’t have …

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Opinion: The male voice on Female Genital Mutilation

Please note that the second paragraph of this article contains some graphic details of the procedure of FGM which some people might find distressing.

I’m very glad to see Liberal Democrats at the forefront of the drive to rid this country and the world of female genital mutilation (FGM), one of the most horrible expressions of male power over the female. The debate about it, around the world, as well as in this country, is often blurred by comparisons with male circumcision, which many people also campaign against actively (and in my view rightly). When the topic of FGM comes …

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Opinion: So who are those Rock the Boat people?

Rock the Boat logoEleven months ago the Liberal Democrat world was tipped on its axis when Channel 4 broadcast reports from women making serious allegations of sexual harassment against one of the Party’s most senior, loved and respected figures.  As the sorry tale unfolded it was clear that the party had failed to deal with the complaints they had made and had failed to let anyone involved in the terrible situation get justice. It became clear that we, as an organisation, had a cultural problem and no idea of how to get our house in order.

As one would expect – if you know Lib Dems at all – the grassroots spoke, and James Shaddock set up a Facebook group called “Rock the Boat.” It grew rapidly and now has over 400 Liberal Democrat members.  The idea was that sometimes you have to say or do uncomfortable things to stop sexual harassment – whether that is to speak out about your own experiences, write policy motions, tell your friends if you think they are behaving inappropriately, or even reflect on your own actions and behaviours and perhaps change them after some soul searching and analysis. Sadly, eleven months ago it became quite obvious that when people had spoken up on sexual harassment, they had been told “Don’t Rock the Boat” – hence the name.

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Opinion: Merry Christmas, Mr Turing

Merry Christmas. What’s on your tree this year? Baubles? Tinsel? Some of that fake snow that looks a bit like candy floss and gets everywhere by New Year? Almost certainly some fairy lights.

However you decorate your Christmas tree, you would probably think it looked a bit bare if it only had the star on the top. You’d be right. Which is why, however big an achievement it is for those who have campaigned for it, I can only raise one-and-a-half cheers today at the news Alan Turing has at long last received a posthumous pardon for the conviction he received …

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Opinion: Women must stop stepping into the political shoes of men

It’s a cute piece of research for two reasons. It sits comfortably with what so many of us think, even if we don’t say it out loud. Yet it challenges every one of us.

University of Pennsylvania researchers have shown that women’s brains are wired from left to right – that’s linking logic with intuition. In men, the neural connections go from front to back. That strengthens their spatial and motor skills. This research suggests that those age old stereotypes are true. Overall men are better at reading maps and being single-minded when tackling a problem. Women are in general …

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Liberals launch new European network for LGBT rights

Giles Goodall at ALDELast weekend, over a thousand European liberals met in London for the annual ALDE congress, hosted by the Lib Dems and opened by Nick Clegg. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – the European family of liberal parties – became the first to adopt their joint manifesto for next May’s elections to the European Parliament.

But a second historic event took place at the congress: the launch of a new European liberal campaign for LGBT rights: Liberals for Equality. LGBT rights are human rights, …

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Opinion: Race must be central to rebuilding and reorientating the party

Black, Asian and minority ethnic voters could help the Lib Dems could win seats from the Conservatives in 2015 if we improve our appeal to the BME community.

The Guardian ran a front page today based on a new study by Operation Black Vote which found 168 marginal seats where BME voters outnumber the majority of the sitting MP, far outnumbering the swing 100 seats that could change the government.

The study, which I authored, also reveals there are 13 marginal constituencies where Lib Dems are in second-place and where the BAME electorate is larger than the majority of the sitting …

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Nick needs to talk the talk as well as walk the walk on women’s equality

Some of the things Nick Clegg has championed in Government have been revolutionary for women. He’s spent years talking about shared parental leave, for example, and it’s now on the way to becoming a reality.  His interest in improving mental health and smashing the related stigma doesn’t just help women, but it does show that he’s willing to take a stand to challenge our long held assumptions. He quickly and vocally embraced equal marriage to the delight of those of us who have supported it for decades.

I know that Nick gets it on a lot of the barriers facing women …

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LibLink…Jo Swinson: Only women can help us now

Jo Swinson has been writing for Management Today about the importance of ensuring that businesses ensure that women have equal opportunity to reach senior and board levels of companies.

Women are vital to Britain’s economic recovery and we need to ensure we are making full use of their talents. That’s why the government is focused on removing the barriers that prevent women from getting ahead and achieving their full potential. We simply can’t afford to lose out on the talents and skills of over half the population.

She acknowledged progress on this but said that there was more to be done, outlining …

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Opinion: Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference supports retention of Section 3 of the Equality Act

At the Welsh Liberal Democrat conference in Cardiff yesterday, a comfortable majority of representatives carried a motion urging that Lib Dem peers be allowed to vote with their consciences on amendment 35 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. By so allowing, the party will send out the signal that our commitment to equality and human rights is undiminished despite being in coalition with a party whose commitment is at best questionable.

Amendment 35 was originally moved in the Lords by disability campaigner Baroness Jane Campbell and passed in March, supported by Labour, cross Benchers, a majority of Lib Dem peers, …

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Opinion: Why we’re rocking the boat in Brighton this weekend

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership in relation to the party over the past few weeks in the wake of the allegations about the conduct of Lord Rennard, which he denies.

Why did no one tackle this effectively at the time? Why did it take several brave women talking to the media for us to finally deal with such a serious problem?

Credit where credit is due, Tim Gordon, the party’s Chief Executive has been impressive so far but is it enough?

Not for me or other Liberal Democrats members. That is why we set up

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Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece writes…

On Monday 4 March, Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, a renowned and respected disability rights campaigner, tabled an amendment, to which I included my name and support, opposing the Government’s proposal to repeal the ‘General Duty’ of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, arguing that doing so will fundamentally change the purpose, role and scope for the only equality and human rights statutory organisation in the UK.

The General Duty says that the EHRC ‘shall discharge its functions with a view to encouraging and supporting a society in which:

.. people’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice or discrimination,

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Marriage for same sex couples, but not yet equal for all…

In 2013 we celebrate 15 years of having been ‘going out’ together.  That’s a long time to be ‘going out’ – even for the decidedly commitment-phobic.

Over the last fifteen years we have attended many weddings, christenings, funerals of friends and family that mark out the great stations of life.

Apart from the occasional birthday bash and Eurovision party- we haven’t provided a similar opportunity for our friends and family to celebrate our life together.

On Tuesday the House of Commons will have a free vote on the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill – it’s not a perfect bill and in committee and …

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