Tag Archives: gender equality

60 years of women in the House of Lords

The Mother of Parliaments had seen many fine sons, not least those who sat on the Liberal benches, but the number of daughters was far too few for the health of the nation.

Elizabeth Shields, Liberal MP for Ryedale (1986-87)

Today is the 60th anniversary of the Life Peerages Bill, which enabled women to sit in the House of Lords. Since that time 250+ women have sat on the red benches in Parliament, this represents something like 18% of all life peer appointments since 1958. The House of Lords is currently 26% female, so things are (slowly) improving, but the House …

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International Women’s Day – #AskHerToStand

100 years since women got the vote, and Parliament still woefully lags behind in terms of gender equality.

Whilst there are more women in Parliament than ever before, we are still on 32% of the Commons. We languish at 49th in the world for the number of women in Parliament. At this rate it will take 50 years to achieve gender equality in Parliament. 100 years after women won the right to vote 50:50 are aiming to achieve better gender balance in Parliament sooner than this.

I was thrilled to

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Jo Swinson is right on Thatcher statue – women’s achievements must be remembered

I was incensed to read this article in the Independent about our 30th anniversary. It’s based on interviews with 2 former leaders, Tim Farron and Paddy Ashdown and with one other person, Nick Clegg’s former staffer, James McGrory.

In the whole article, there isn’t even the merest hint of a mention of the women who helped build this party. Nothing about Shirley Williams. Nothing about Diana Maddock’s amazing victory in the 1993 Christchurch by-election. Nothing about Sandra Gidley’s unexpected victory in Romsey in 2000. Nothing about Sarah Teather’s ground-breaking by-election victory in Brent in the wake of the Iraq war. Nothing about Sarah Olney’s by-election victory showing we were back in the game. Nothing about Jo Swinson building up a seat and winning it at 25 and subsequently becoming the first Lib Dem woman to attend Cabinet. Nothing about our Presidents Shirley, Diana, Ros Scott and Sal Brinton. Nothing about how Lynne Featherstone built up her Hornsey and Wood Green seat. Nothing about the present day Lib Dem campaigners like Elaine Bagshaw.

I’m also updating this to add Kirsty Williams as per the first comment. She served the party so well as Welsh leader and is currently our only Lib Dem member of a Government. Her pioneering More Nurses law made Welsh hospitals safer.

Women have been at the forefront of some of the party’s most pivotal moments. Why not talk to some of them? I have come up with ten of them off the top of my head in about half a minute.

And if we think that’s bad, the article about our history on our own party website doesn’t mention a woman until its penultimate paragraph.

It was ever thus. A bloke does something and there’s statues everywhere. A woman takes a major step forward and does not get the same recognition. I loathe and detest virtually everything Margaret Thatcher stood for, but she was the first woman Prime Minister of this country.  Thatcher got me into politics because I so passionately opposed what she was doing to the country. That’s why I agree with Jo Swinson, who argues in today’s Mail on Sunday that Thatcher should have a statue in Parliament Square:

Maybe they think one out of twelve is enough, that they’ve ticked the woman box with the addition of Millicent Fawcett?

Apparently one of the reasons given for refusal was the state robes Thatcher would have been wearing.

Even in death, it seems there are no limits to how society judges women by how they look and what they wear.

She went on to say what Thatcher being PM told her:

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Does Vince look fat in this?

Not a question I’ve heard, but I got your attention!

The way we view men and women is still fundamentally flawed. I imagine our Lib Dem male MPs have several suits they use in cycle, only having to choose a shirt and tie.

But our women MPs? It’s a different matter, though it shouldn’t be. I imagine hair, makeup, matching shoes, accessories and the right outfit for the right occasion are all things our women MPs think about. Why??

As a prospective parliamentary candidate, one of the women-only training sessions I attended was on image. I …

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It shouldn’t be a man’s world, but it is….

The horrific tales of abuse that 156 women were brave enough to speak of in court led to Larry Nassar being convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse, with a sentence of up to 175 years in jail.

Reports say

The women — almost all of whom initially met Nassar for a sports-related injury — said that, because of the abuse, they struggled with anxiety, depression and instances of self-harm. Others said they no longer trust doctors or that they shrink from any physical touch.

This respected physician, the team doctor for USA Gymnastics through four Olympic Games, took advantage of young girls in his care.

Nassar’s sentence came on the same day that the story broke of the abuse of women hostesses at a charity gala in London.

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Everyday Sexism – a child’s experience

As the mother of three girls, I am constantly aware of the sexism they face. It is endemic in society.

Last week, having tea with the family, my 12-year-old daughter asks for another drink, and the waiter says, ‘Right away, young man.’ It happens to her constantly – she has a very short haircut, but that’s all.

On holiday in San Francisco last year, the same child was allowed to (dangerously) hold on to the bars of a streetcar, half hanging out the door, having the time of her life, with the staff …

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Orange The World – 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

Last Saturday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Orange The World is the 16-days of activism against gender-based violence led by the U.N. Secretary General’s initiative UNiTE to End Violence against Women. The theme of Orange The World this year is Leave No One Behind – End Violence Against Women and Girls.

This is Day 6 of Orange The World. Women and girls around the world are subject to the most dreadful human rights violations. Female Genital Mutilation; child-marriage; rape; molestation; harassment; domestic violence, death. …

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Things are changing in women’s football – but is it just a clone of the men’s game?

A football groundFrom showing games on mainstream TV to featuring in the sports pages of newspapers, a lot has happened in women’s football in the last 5 years. In a country obsessed by football the women’s game is beginning to gain the recognition it deserves.

I have long believed that equality of pay would be the best way to get the football business to focus on promoting the women’s game. Change the economics and there is an incentive to stimulate the demand – generating gate receipts, TV rights and brand endorsement. I …

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LibLink: Jo Swinson: Five things you need to know about gender pay gap reporting

When Jo Swinson was Minister for Equalities, she introduced the requirement for companies with more than 250 employees to report on their gender pay gap. That requirement came into force this week. Jo wrote on the Huffington Post about why this is important and how the information will help organisations understand what they need to do to improve their gender equality.

The numbers are really a springboard for further questions, and companies can delve into the data at much more granular levels than what will be published to understand what’s driving the pay gap. If it seems high in some divisions, you might do a deeper pay review to check pay levels and pay rises are being fairly decided. Staff who identify as neither male nor female can be omitted from the calculation, but given the discrimination non-binary people face at work you may wish to look more closely at the data for these individuals to reassure yourself pay and reward systems are working as they should. Similarly if your monitoring data is good enough, look at the data by race, disability, sexual orientation and other equality strands (and if it is not good enough, then now is a good time to improve your monitoring practices). This is an interesting exercise to identify potential problems – and it may give you a head start in the event that pay gap reporting is extended in future.

And what happens once they know the size of the pay gap?

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LibLink: Jo Swinson: if we lose focus, progress on gender equality can easily be lost

Jo Swinson has written a piece for the Huffington Post as part of their “All women everywhere” series in which she warns that progress on gender equality is under threat.

The chairman of Tesco’s board may feel that white men making up three quarters of his board constitutes being an “endangered species” but Jo sees the progress she made as a minister being eroded:

With the efforts of Vince Cable, Lord Davies, Helena Morrissey and many others we drove women’s representation in FTSE boardrooms up to record levels, yet Egon Zehnder found that the proportion of women appointed to Boards in 2016 actually decreased. The Equality & Human Rights Commission finding last year that 54,000 women a year lose their jobs due to pregnancy and maternity discrimination is shocking in itself, but even more so when you consider that this figure has almost doubled since 2005.

In all the metrics about how many years it will take to achieve gender equality in any given field we are used to depressingly distant dates like 2067 or 2095. For women in technology the answer to when equality will be achieved if current trends continue is never.

Some men, she remarks, see a tiny number of women in power as a threat. She wrote this before the Tesco Chairman’s comments so clearly proved her point but she cited the usual social media whinging about International Women’s Day:

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LibLink: Miriam Gonzalez Durantez: I don’t want my 3 sons to grow up in a world where girls feel second rate

Another Lib Dem woman who inspires many – in fact, she makes a mission of Inspiring Women is Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.

She has written for the Telegraph about the need for men and women to work together to make life better for the next generation of boys and girls.

She outlines the threats to hard-won progress:

In the US, President Donald Trump is putting into question women’s reproductive rights; in Russia, laws are being considered to decriminalise some aspects of domestic violence.

Just last week, a Polish MEP declared that women should earn less than men because they are “weaker, smaller and less intelligent.” Breitbart, the right-wing website pioneered by Steve Bannon, now Trump’s chief strategist, has claimed that birth control makes women unattractive and crazy. And so on.

Women still suffer from society’s expectations:

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Lorely Burt writes: We can’t call ourselves a democracy when men monopolise public life

The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is ‘Be Bold for Change’ – this got me thinking about how we, as Liberal Democrats, can do our bit to help forge a better and more gender equal world. Of course, as a party we have already taken a great leap forward for the future to make sure we reflect the diversity of the country with the ‘Electing Diverse MPs’ motion passed almost a year ago. But as individuals what can we do to make sure that more women get involved and active in the party at every level?

It was less than six months ago that we, both men and women pulling together, managed to get Sarah Olney elected to Parliament. Like many of you there was a defining moment that made her join the Liberal Democrats and get stuck in, but we have to remember that not all women will put themselves forward like that and some may need more encouragement than others. We all have a responsibility to reach out to those women we think would make great Liberal Democrat elected representatives, and let’s face it we can all think of one or two. The evidence is clear – if a woman is approached to stand then she is most likely to consider it.

Change will not happen overnight, it will take all our efforts to make these incremental changes. Let us never be complacent, as this year’s theme reminds us – we must be bold. We are a country that prides itself on being progressive and inclusive – yet Parliament, our country’s highest decision-making body, is only 30% female.

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LibLink: Jo Swinson: The media’s reporting of the Child’s Review sums up why we are still light years from equality

Recently Jo Swinson commented on the media coverage of the Childs Review, a report which made a number of recommendations about how the diversity of Parliament could be improved. The reporting put a huge emphasis on breastfeeding in the Chamber despite this having barely been mentioned in passing.

She wrote this for the Huffington Post:

None of these 43 recommendations are about breastfeeding. The word ‘breast’ is mentioned just twice in the body of the report, in a sub-section under recommendation 12 on page 21, which covers the need for a clear policy on maternity, paternity, parental,

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Embrace feminism, says Justin Trudeau. Lib Dems could learn from that.

It seems that every day there’s a new reason to admire Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Guardian has a report of a panel session in Davos where he said that everyone should embrace feminism. He said that a more diverse team makes better decisions in both politics and business.

I particularly liked the clip in the video in which he said that his wife had reminded him that he not only had to encourage his daughter into taking leadership roles, but also to talk to his sons about treating women properly.

He also said that he thinks there will be as big changes in attitudes to equality in the next 20 years as there has been in the last 40.

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Opinion: Let’s look at the harm caused by Page 3

Given that Page 3 wasn’t in The Sun this week, it sure took up a lot of media space, especially among Lib Dems. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that loads of us want to wade into a fight that was framed as free speech and sexual expression vs gender equality and quality news reporting. But that’s not actually what’s going on at all: so here is a rundown of what Page 3 is, and why it’s harmful.

Page 3 is normalising objectification of women. The Sun makes printing nude women for the sole purpose of titillation in a national newspaper, which would otherwise be totally weird, normal. Images of nude women and breasts are perfectly normal and widely available in a sexual context (see, 80% of the internet), but a daily national newspaper is not the place for it, because it’s supposed to be for news. “Women have breasts” is pretty much the oldest story there is. Unless, like my mother, your breasts make it into the paper because they are testing the new mammogram machine at your local hospital they don’t need to be in there. If the Guardian decided to swap Polly Toynbee for a massive naked man next week, I’d find that equally inappropriate, because quality reporting is not about getting your rocks off (unless you have a particular fetish for bad photos of Ed Milliband).

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Daily Mail tells us a 20 year old story on Jo Swinson’s equalities report

The Daily Mail alights on a Government Equalities Report commissioned by our Jo Swinson and, of course, hones in on the one paragraph in 12 pages that mentions sex.

But just doing the dishes can really spice up a marriage.

That, at least, is the advice from a report backed by Liberal Democrat equalities minister Jo Swinson. It calls on men to do more to support gender equality campaigns – and isn’t coy when it comes to spelling out the potential perks of hoovering.

It claims that everyone in a family becomes ‘happier and healthier’ if men participate ‘fairly in the home’ by sharing childcare duties or household chores.

It goes on to say: ‘Equity in the home is associated with a range of benefits including improved sexual relationships.

‘Where women report an equitable relationship with their partner they are more likely to be having frequent sex.’

The thing is, the research cited in that report is 20 years old. It is, of course, stating the obvious. Let’s face it, if everyone shares the work, there’s bound to be more time for fun.

If the Daily Mail had devoted even half the space it gives over to stories that can be filed under the heading “Woman Goes Out Wearing Clothes” or to having a go at women for working outside the home, or being stay at home mothers, or being too fat, or being obsessed with diets, or being too needy in relationships, or scaring men by being too independent, to promoting this research, they could have driven a really positive cultural change.

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Lynne Featherstone: Good riddance to Page 3

There’s some interesting discussion on my social media timeline about  the Sun’s decision to stop printing clothes of topless women on Page 3. On one hand you have the male dominated group of people who think this is a dreadful infringement of liberty enacted by sinister feminists with An Agenda. Just you wait, they’ll be after your porn yet, they warn. They don’t like the fact that the No More Page 3 campaign started by Lucy-Anne Holmes and backed by more than 200,000 people has got what it wanted. It’s illiberal, they scream, for one group of people to interfere with the freedoms of others. That’s interesting. Presumably they would also be in favour of continuing to use the deeply racist language that was deemed acceptable when I was a child. Perhaps they’d oppose interfering in employers’ rights to send children up chimneys.

I just wonder how some of the men complaining about this decision if, every single day, there were pictures of naked men in a newspaper in a society where most of the positions of power were occupied by women who were never depicted in such a way. I don’t think they’d like it very much.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 32 Comments

New campaign aims to give women equal representation in Scotland’s parliaments and councils

A cross-party campaign aimed at ensuring gender equality in the Scottish Parliament has been set up. The idea comes from Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale and Green MSP Alison Johnstone and has the support from MSPs across the political spectrum including Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes.

Scotland on Sunday has the details:

With Lord Smith of Kelvin’s newly established commission examining the transfer of more powers to the Scottish ­Parliament, the group of six MSPs believes control over equality legislation should be moved from Westminster to Edinburgh.

This would allow MSPs to introduce legal quotas to achieve a 50/50 ratio of females to males at Holyrood, in local government and in the ­Scottish Government’s public bodies.

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Sex and Power 2014 – Six recommendations to improve representation of women in public life

Last week, the annual Sex and Power report was published. This is produced and researched by a coalition of organisations, Centre For Women and Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society, the Fawcett Society, the Hansard Society and Unlock Democracy which asks the question Who runs Britain?

It made no less grim reading than usual. This handy infographic shows exactly what we are dealing with in terms of the under-representation of women at all levels of public life.

Who Runs Britain info graphic

 

The figures for the proportion of women amongst elected representatives are bad enough but there are precious few women in positions of power in the media to care about it and few in the higher echelons of the Civil Service. The report draws the depressing conclusion that a baby girl born today would be drawing her pension before there is any hope of equal representation if progress continues at its current glacial pace.

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The Gender Agenda #3: Is there such a thing as “Women’s Policy”?

LDW stallI was long-winded last time so let’s try brevity: yes, and no.

When people talk about ‘women’s policy’ they usually mean one of three things:

1. Policies which only affect women directly: men (apart from trans men) do not, for example, suffer FGM or need access to abortion, so they will only ever be indirectly affected by policy on those issues.

2. Policies were your gender directly determines your rights and treatment in society: that includes gender separation in schools or prisons, or access to parental leave.

3.  Policies aimed at everyone, but that …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 33 Comments

Jenny Willott MP writes… Historic milestone for women on company boards

Canary Wharf photo by Jim NixOn Thursday, 26th June, 2014, I was delighted to hear the news that the mining and commodities trader Glencore Xstrata had appointed Patrice Merrin, a Canadian former mining executive, as an independent non-executive director.

This decision means there are no longer any all-male boards amongst the UK’s top companies. In 2011, 21 of the FTSE100 companies had no women on their boards, and now there are none. This is an important step forward and one which Liberal Democrats can be proud of helping to make happen. …

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Lynne Featherstone on giving women “rights, voice, choice and control over their own lives”

Lynne Feahterstone visiting a Haringey primary school. Some rights reserved. http://www.flickr.com/photos/lynnefeatherstone/3010645357/It was International Development questions in the Commons yesterday. Lynne Featherstone was questioned about her work to end Female Genital Mutilation in a generation. She said that the subject should be a required subject on the school curriculum in areas of high prevalence. What I thought was most interesting was that in my young day, you didn’t get Tory dames asking questions about gender equality as Dame Angela Watkinson did. I liked Lynne’s choice of language in her answer. The whole …

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Opinion: What are we going to do about male underperformance?

What is our society going to do about underachievement by males? It is well documented at school level that girls overall significantly outperform boys. This is now repeated at University level. In non-science subjects admissions are large majority female. In nearly all subject areas females outperform males on average by up to 10% (more exaggerated in arts and social sciences). There is the same pattern in graduate jobs. If you look at the professions: medicine, dentistry, vets, law, the new intake is heavily female dominated. New members of barristers’ chambers, solicitors’ firms and accountancy practices are usually overwhelmingly female.

Look at …

Posted in News | 27 Comments

Opinion: Gender blindness or… why we don’t want token women

To the delight of many party members, Mark Pack recently announced his decision to decline invitations to sit on all-male panels at Liberal Democrat fringes, urging other men to take the same course of action. A few of us, however, feel uncomfortable with the suggestion that women should be invited to speak for their contribution to the diversity of the panel, rather than for what they can bring to the debate.

Currently, anybody who is invited to speak at a fringe can be confident that they have been asked – obvious choice or not – because somebody thought they had something …

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | 60 Comments
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    There is no way of stopping free movement cry a number of posters. Actually there is we chose not to take it. Easier to blame...
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    There should also be an investigation (and potentially prosecutions) for the use of British government money to attempt to influence the results of the referendum...
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    Good piece, Joe. I, like no doubt many or all Lib Dems, consider free movement to be one of the main benefits of EU membership,...