The Fawcett Society asks Lib Dems: What About Women?

Ceri Goddard is Chief Executive of The Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading campaign for equality between women and men. Fawcett’s aim during the coming general election is to get women and the impact on women considered as part of mainstream policy development by the parties. Ceri explains more here …

This week Fawcett, with more than 40 other organisations are launching our pre-election campaign. Instead of the usual “manifesto” of policies we’re turning the tables on the parties and literally asking What About Women?

All the leaders, Nick Clegg included, have been courting women voters – noted by the mainstream media, this campaign was briefly dubbed the ‘Mumsnet’ election.

But there’s a stark difference between making nice gestures to a group of voters and actually giving tangible policies that will deliver. That’s why we’re running our campaign. We want the leaders and their parties to properly explain how the policies they’re proposing will actually affect women and women’s equality.

Fawcett are genuinely excited by some of the policies being put forward by the Liberal Democrats.

Lifting everyone who earns below £10,000 out of income tax will overwhelmingly benefit women. Banning advertising to children using touched up images, and indicating in adverts where models have been electronically improved, will help tackle girls self-perceptions as they are growing up. We strongly advocate the idea of parental leave rather than only maternity leave.

Perhaps where we’re most impressed with Liberal Democrat policy is tackling the pay gap. Your party supports the use of hypothetical comparators rather than the current law that requires women to find an actual example to prove they are being underpaid – it’s wrong and it’s out of step with other equalities legislation. Compulsory pay audits and allowing group complaints to be taken to court could also be taken straight from Fawcett’s wish list. It’s heartening to see mainstream political support for what were once were fringe concepts.

But for all the good policy there is, across the three parties, there are still gaps – both in policy and the debate. Our campaign is an attempt to get politicians to plug these gaps and account for how policies will affect men and women differently. And to make sure voters ask them to.

Often people don’t properly understand how policies can have different impacts – in fact, Fawcett polling demonstrates very little public understanding that policies can have very different impacts.
So here goes. 65 per cent of public sector employees are women. So any cuts to jobs have an automatic gender bias. Women are also heavier users of public services. They provide more care, both for children as mothers and for dependent adults – a free service that contributes a whopping £89bn to the economy each year and yet largely goes unrecognised.

There’s still a significant pay gap meaning more women are lower paid. This means that many more women than men are likely to be more reliant on services, benefits and tax credits provided by Government.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on where policy can have a disproportionate and detrimental impact on women. This is why Fawcett and our campaign partners from over 40 other organisations are challenging politicians to really explain what their policies mean for women, what will the impact on their lives be and will it make them more or less equal with their male peers.

We simply don’t think that this is being done by any party at the moment. We hope that Lib Dem Voice readers will join us and our partners in asking all politicians What About Women?

‘The Independent View’ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

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4 Comments

  • Cllr Patrick Smith 10th Mar '10 - 10:06pm

    The Fawcett Society is right to look at how policies actually impact on women in all areas of life and work.

    I would ask if sufficient import is attached to the role of women as Carers ?

    Only token `lip service’ has been paid by this present Government to `At Home Carers’ .

    `At Home Carers’ still wait for real practical initiatives to be put into place by Government, to fully recognise that more women,then at any time in history, in the 21st C, sacrifice their own human potential, to look after sick,disability and elderly relatives and children, at home,often with understanding male partners but often alone.

One Trackback

  • By Female MPs: how’s the party doing? on Fri 12th March 2010 at 4:55 pm.

    […] balance in (Westminster) politics in recent days with the challenge from the Fawcett Society What about women? and Dinti Batstone’s call to Make politics fit women’s lives, not […]

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