Welcome to the WE Wales blog.
Your candidates in the upcoming Welsh election, Sharon, Ruth, Emma and me, Sarah, are going to be discussing some key priorities, starting with women in business.
It’s important to me that I share with you my personal experiences. They are what have shaped my views and why I believe WE is needed to shake up politics and make real changes to our daily lives. I’ve always had a desire to set up my own business and didn't think I’d be driven to take that step because of inequality.
In 2012 I was made redundant from my job whilst on maternity leave. I made a promise to myself to stop bringing this up, but I can’t… it’s still too important an issue. I was informed of my redundancy by letter and when I raised a grievance about it I couldn't attend the meeting as my employer decided to hold it in London and I was breast-feeding a 12-week old.
I turned my negative experience into a positive by setting up my business, but what concerns me is that I talk to so many women who have faced discrimination at work after becoming a parent. WE want things to be different. WE know that business in Wales will thrive if we stamp out workplace discrimination. Join us now, tell your story (link to http://www.womensequality.org.uk/end_discrimination_and_sexism_at_work) and let’s end discrimination at work together.
My inspiration to set up a business came as I started to look for work and realised that there are few jobs advertised with part-time or flexible hours that are paid anything higher than a minimum wage. I didn't want to take a step backwards in my career because my lifestyle had changed, and so like many other new mums decided to become an entrepreneur.
Women are five times more likely to state family reasons for becoming self-employed than men. Yes, running is business is great, but it shouldn't be because employment is too rigid to allow families flexibility in their work. WE will make flexible-working default, becoming the springboard that launches Wales into the future of working practices. WE will enable women to thrive, taking up any job opportunity they want.
I had two hours a day to write my business plan whilst my daughter napped, and I can assure you, I wouldn't have needed investment if I had a pound for every person who said “oh great, you can work from home whilst your daughter plays.” Cue: inner scream from me whilst I smiled sweetly. Really I should have asked them to take her to work for the day and let me know if affected their productivity.
The biggest outgoing and barrier I had when starting up was the cost of childcare. There are lots of great schemes to support entrepreneurs, but whilst it was going to cost me almost £50 a day before I even began, childcare support simply wasn't available. WE are committed to providing 15 hours of government-funded childcare for all parents from the end of paid parental leave at 9 months. This would have been a dream for me, and the many mums I talk to who can’t afford to work within the current system of childcare support. In my household we pay more per month for childcare than we do for any other household bill, and that’s quite normal for working parents. With a WE representative in the Assembly, we can change this.
Running my own business means I’ve become more switched on with my finances, and one of my biggest worries is that I’m not saving into a pension. I’m a supporter of the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign, and want to change the other intricate inequalities to pensions. Women take time out of the workplace to care, resulting in years without pension contributions. Women are more likely to work part-time, and could be missing out on auto-enrolment – and that’s if they could afford to put anything into their pension pot after they cover their childcare bill! When it comes to business, less than half of self-employed women are saving enough for their pension.
Is it any wonder women are more likely to retire in poverty? WE will work to tackle gender equality in our pension system.
When you talk business, you have to talk about money. Closing the gender pay-gap would add billions of pounds to the Welsh economy. If you encourage just one person to join WE then you've made your first investment.