THE BLOG

Let's Make London a City Where Women Are Finally Equal - Let's Choose Tessa

13/08/2015 16:04 BST | Updated 13/08/2016 10:59 BST

We are deep into the 21st century, and living in one of the most exciting and forward-looking cities in the world. London arts and culture are second to none, our tech sector is starting to rival California's, and the city is a magnet for people looking to create a better life for themselves. There is much for Londoners to enjoy, much to be proud about.

And yet, in at least one respect, this great city still seems stuck in the Dark Ages.

A hundred years since women won the right to vote, and nearly 50 years since the Equal Pay Act, there are still major barriers in the way of true equality between the sexes in the city. And London, that hotbed of modernity - a city which should know better - is not yet leading the way.

Take London's tech and digital sector, one of the most exciting parts of the city's economy which I visited recently with Yvette Cooper. There are 95,000 science and technology businesses in the city, employing 700,000 people - just over 15% of the London economy as a whole. And the sector has grown by 10% since 2009 - faster than California. It's an area that diaspora communities have done well too - as seen in the recent Asian Tech Stars awards.

But women in tech are badly under-represented - only 17% of London's digital and IT workers are women, shutting them out of the incredible opportunities we know that this sector can and will bring.

Or take the rest of the economy. All those decades after Barbara Castle made it illegal to pay women less than men for the same day's work, there is still a huge divide between the sexes. The gender pay gap in London currently stands at 16%, and women are much more likely to be low paid than men in London.

And it isn't just in the workplace that women face challenges. In the last year, there has been a 17.9% increase in domestic violence crimes in London - there are now nearly 70,000 cases of domestic violence every year.

This week, Tessa Jowell has set out what she will do to build One London for Women. Her vision is of a city where women and men have equal rights, equal pay and an equal chance to get on, feel secure and do well. It's a simple idea, but it takes someone with a plan, a record of delivery, and real courage to make simple ideas become a reality. Tessa is that someone.

If she becomes Mayor, Tessa will act to make London workplaces more welcoming for women. She will help women to break into London's flourishing tech sector by setting a target for at least 50% of participants in her 'One London' tech skills programme to be female. And she will require all companies with more than 50 employees who contract with the GLA to undertake a gender pay audit each year.

Tessa's work with Doreen Lawrence on Stop and Search in London has led her to make a strong commitment to body-worn cameras for the police. This will have a direct impact on the prevalence of domestic violence: in trials of body-worn video cameras in the UK, evidence suggests that they have led to higher conviction rates against domestic violence, giving victims and witnesses more confidence to carry prosecutions through and providing more evidence to secure a conviction.

Giving women an equal chance isn't just a women's issue - it's a concern for all of us. That's what One London is all about - a city where women and men are equal, nothing more, nothing less. And that's why I'm backing Tessa Jowell to be Labour's candidate for Mayor.