Last Night We Launched Jeremy Corbyn's Blueprint For Advancing Women's Equality

01/09/2016 13:00
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Yesterday I joined Jeremy Corbyn, Angela Rayner MP, Diane Abbott MP and Christine Blower, Jeremy for Labour campaign spokesperson, in launching policies to advance women's equality. Jeremy announced commitments to address the underrepresentation of women in our society, democracy and Party, economic inequality and to tackle violence against women and girls. These announcements demonstrate that equality is at the centre of Jeremy's 10 pledges to transform and rebuild Britain, creating a society in which women are able to fully participate and fulfil our potential.

Women are woefully underrepresented in our democracy and wider society. There are still more men in Parliament today than all the women who have been elected to Parliament throughout its history. Women are just 29% of current MPs and 39% of senior civil service roles. Women make up a quarter of FTSE 100 board members, 14% of police commissioners and 21% of high court judges.

Yesterday Jeremy reaffirmed support to achieve 50:50 representation in Parliament with All Women Shortlists and announced support for 50:50 representation across all public offices with gender balanced shortlists. Labour will publish a regular 'gender audit' of the Party's policies to ensure that progress on women's equality is at the heart of all Labour's policies. They will consult on setting up a Women's Advisory Board and support an annual decision making women's conference to ensure that the policy process and decision-making by the Party leadership better reflect women from all walks of life.

As a trade unionist and advocate for equality and women's rights, I have been dismayed at the deepening of discrimination and disadvantage facing women under this government and the previous Coalition. Women have been disproportionately hit by cuts to public services and benefits. In their cumulative assessment of 10 years of austerity, the Women's Budget Group found that since 2010 86% of government tax and welfare 'savings' measures have come at women's expense.

We will invest in an economy that delivers for women. Jeremy's public investment strategy will provide a foundation for the economy to grow, and from which to properly fund and democratise our public services and end the cuts, the brunt of which has been borne by women. And this investment will not only be used to grow our economy but to create decent jobs at every stage, and increase women's access to occupations such as science, technology, engineering and manufacturing.

Over 40 years after the Equal Pay Act women are still not receiving equal pay for equal work, being paid on average 19% less than men across the whole economy. The Women and Work Commission estimate that the under-utilisation of women's skills costs the UK economy between 1.3 and 2% of GDP every year. Eradicating the full-time gender pay gap would contribute additional spending into the economy of £41 billion each year.

Jeremy is committed to giving enhanced powers to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to penalise companies that do not publish detailed gender pay data at a company-wide level, and will tackle other barriers to women in work, including through establishing universal childcare.

One in four women are in low paid and insecure work and over half of those on the minimum wage are women. Jeremy's Labour will address low pay and insecure work by ending exploitative zero-hours contracts and increasing the statutory minimum wage to the Living Wage level. A report released today by the Women and Equalities Select Committee shows that the number of pregnant women and new mothers who have left work because of concerns about the safety of their child or because of pregnancy discrimination has doubled in the last decade, now standing at 54,000 each year, the majority of whom are in casual, agency and zero-hours work. Strengthening trade unions in our workplaces is key to achieving equality in the workplace and defending our rights.

Jeremy has announced a wide-ranging consultation on strengthening the law and its implementation in relation to sexual harassment and misogynistic online abuse, and to increase organisations' responsibility towards promoting safe and respectful 'community standards' online. With Jeremy as leader, Labour will also take forward the recommendation of the Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry to consult on and introduce a wider Equal Opportunities Policy, and training and guidance for Labour members and staff, to address all other forms of abuse.

These measures, as part of Jeremy's 10 pledges, present a blueprint to tackle the structural inequalities, barriers and prejudices facing women from all backgrounds, throughout their lives. From closing the gender pay gap, ending exploitative zero hours' contracts and poverty pay, strengthening workers' rights and collective bargaining, to ensuring compulsory Sex and Relationship Education in schools and reversing detrimental cuts to vital domestic and sexual violence services and shelters; this blueprint will place advancing gender equality and tackling violence against women at the core of the Labour Party.

Now we need to ensure its implementation by re-electing Jeremy as leader.