“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to recognise and give thanks for the enormous contribution that women make to our society.
As bosses, as carers, as teachers, as students, as nurses, as doctors, as engineers, as mechanics, as scientists, as MPs, as councillors, as friends, as family and as everything in between – we must use this occasion to be grateful for the women in all our lives.
And in doing so, we must also recognise the challenges that women have overcome throughout history; identify the challenges that many women continue to face, and break down the barriers many are still forced to overcome.
Girlguiding’s 2017 ‘Girls Attitude Survey’ found that 64% of 13 to 21 year olds have experienced sexual harassment in school in the past year (up from 59% in 2014) and 55% of girls aged 7 to 21 say gender stereotypes affect their ability to say what they think. These figures are the product of systematic discrimination and sexism that remains prevalent in our societies.
Across the world, women and girls are still subjected to rape and other sexual violence, including in the context of conflicts and in countries with large numbers of refugee and internally displaced populations. Violence against women and girls continues to be a global epidemic; global estimates published by WHO indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their life time. These numbers are hugely distressing and simply not acceptable.
Clearly, we are still some way from gender equality. Even 100 years after women were first given the vote, many of my female colleagues face unacceptable levels of harassment in the online and offline worlds and despite it being the highest proportion on record, still only 32% of MPs are women, and only ¼ of the Cabinet is female. All chancellors to date have been men, and a Directory of Social Change 2017/18 report found that only 4% of companies surveyed had boards with 50% or more women.
It is high time we took the #NextStep to achieve true gender equality, and I am proud that Labour has committed to doing so.
A key step towards equality is achieving economic equality for women. In April 2017, the gender pay gap for hourly pay was a staggering 9.1% for full-time employees.
We must take concrete steps towards ending this gap, and a future Labour Government is committed to requiring all private and public employers to obtain government certification for their gender equality practices or face consequences.
The gender pay gap is just one of the examples of the deep and corrosive structural barriers that still exist within our society, and prevent many women from achieving their full potential.
On International Women’s Day, and on every other day, we say thank you to the women in our lives; and we tell them that we will not stop until women are fully represented, and until all barriers have been overcome. If not now, why?”