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Women Have Everything to Gain By Voting to Remain

01/06/2016 15:38 | Updated 01 June 2016

If last year's General Election taught us anything it is that opinion polls are not always to be trusted. However, multiple polls have now said that women are more undecided than men on whether to vote to leave or remain in the upcoming referendum. For that reason, it looks like women will have the final say in this important decision. I'd argue this is as it should be, because no group of people have more to lose if we decide to split from Europe than women.

With women hit the hardest by austerity - three quarters of government cuts have come from women's pockets - EU funding has become more important than ever in terms of keeping women's organisations running. In Wales, for example, more than 2,900 women employees were supported to develop their careers and undertake leadership training organised by the Agile Nation Project, funded by the EU. The organisation has also thus far worked with 500 employers to help them address equality issues in the workplace.

Which is highly appropriate, since by being in Europe we are secured by common rules that ensure protections for women in the workplace, tackle gender discrimination, and fight against income inequality. From maternity leave and work protections during pregnancy, to rules preventing harassment and unequal treatment at work, women in Britain benefit from EU protections every single day.

One clear example of how the EU been beneficial to women is equal pay. In 1975 the EU Equal Pay Directive redefined "the principle of equal pay for men and women" as being "for the same work or for work to which equal value is attributed". This means that women should get equal pay for work of equal value.

The UK was therefore obliged to amend the Equal Pay Act to include an equal value claim. This greatly expanded the scope for women to use the Equal Pay Act, as establishing equal value is much easier than demonstrating "equal work".

The EU isn't perfect; the fact that EU laws aren't always enacted by the UK, whether it comes to pollution levels or the continuing problem with the gender pay gap, means that just by being in the EU we don't solve all our problems.

Like our own government, the EU institutions remain dominated by middle-aged men in suits. The presidents of the Commission, the Eurogroup and the European Parliament are all men. Indeed, every President of the European Commission to date has been male. The elected Parliament last elected a woman president over a decade ago in 2002.

However, if we give up our place at the negotiating table, how do we ever expect to improve things? Furthermore, do we not, having seen how much the current and previous coalition government have acted punitively towards women, want the security that EU membership affords?

Whether it be EU funding or a reassurance that our right to flexible working and maternity leave is protected, and cannot simply be taken away at the whim of any future government, we have everything to gain by staying in the EU.

What is good for women is, as is always the case, good for men too. Who wouldn't want to be part of a strong group of nearly 30 countries when it comes to tackling the problems we jointly face, from economic instability to climate change and international security?

I am very hopeful that the UK will leave to remain and that women will decide that positive vote. The 'leave' campaign have contacted me several times to try to get more women involved in their message; no surprise that those emails have gone unanswered!

On June 23rd women will have the chance to shape their future, and that of their children and grandchildren. I hope and believe that, rather than choosing to turn the clock back and isolate us, they will vote for a secure future for us all.

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