Rhoda Grant MSP, Scottish Labour’s Equalities Spokesperson, announces the launch of Achieving Women’s Equality, a Scottish Labour consultation paper on how we can overturn the inbuilt gender inequality in our society.
The headlines have not been kind for women in the workplace this week. Monday was Equal Pay Day – the day of the year when British women effectively start working for free because of the wage gap.
Then Wednesday brought the latest job market figures, which showed that the 11,000 increase in unemployment overwhelmingly saw women lose out with 9,000 women becoming unemployed over the summer months.
We may have three female leaders in the Scottish Parliament, but it is clear we still need to answer the big questions on women’s equality.
Scottish Labour has always led by example on women’s equality. The first Scottish Parliament had 50:50 representation. We thought we had made major inroads; however without action, gender inequality still pervades.
We have promoted policies that tackle women’s inequality issues, and have published Women’s Manifestos, but these are only steps in the journey that we must continue until we gain real equality.
If we are to tackle our society’s many inbuilt inequalities that prevent women from achieving their potential we need to focus on specific areas where inequalities are at their worst, and also ensuring women have access to power to make real change.
That is why today Scottish Labour has launched “Achieving Women’s Equality” – a consultation paper covering a range of issues from health, to the economy to justice.
This paper asks how we should achieve this, not only looking at the age old problems of caring responsibilities and childcare, but how we value women for being women.
How do we overturn the inbuilt gender inequality in our society and ensure that we go forward on an equal footing?
It is widely understood that women need to be better than men to compete; to be super woman, a nurturer, carer and genius. This is simply not practical. We all know people who achieve all these things and leave us watching in wonder and in awe but this cannot be the norm for one gender and not the other.
We in the Scottish Labour Party have a vision about how we change society, but we want to test this more widely. Neither do we believe we have all the answers and are keen to hear views and thoughts about what we should do and indeed issues that we may have missed.
Our paper lays out a number of issues, both about how women can achieve more and also looking at the barriers that hold them back.
These barriers can be physical, they need to give up opportunities to carry out a caring role, or they can be attitudinal; the idea that women cannot do a job as well as men, or that they will not be so committed. These attitudes pervade.
When women push themselves forward and compete, there is often someone there pulling them back. The press when discussing women are more likely to include their age and a comment about their personal appearance, something that never happens with men.
There are also a whole raft of words used to describe women who compete: “pushy”, “harridan” and many many more.
We need to have a zero tolerance approach to this kind of portrayal if we are to encourage women into positions of power.
We also need to give women the confidence and self-esteem to push themselves forward. Again men tend to have more confidence in their own ability while women tend to question theirs – why does that happen? Are we able to tackle these very fundamental ingrained attitudes which are held as much by women as men?
I believe that by valuing women and empowering them we can go a long way towards creating an equal society.
This is not only important for women now, but also for future generations. A child’s life changes are inextricably linked to its mother’s wealth and opportunity. We can ensure that we all reach our full potential by ensuring women reach theirs.
This consultation document is not just for women, it is for men also – we need more male feminists if we are to challenge the age old inequalities and attitudes that exist.