Forty-five years after the Equal Pay Act, for every hour they work, women still earn just 81p of every pound earned by men. There are many ways of measuring the pay gap – pay for each hour worked, pay for each worker, total pay for all women, and for all men – but however you measure it, the story is the same: women earn less per hour, less per job and less overall.
In total, women earn just 52% of what men do every year because not only do they earn less, they are more likely to sacrifice the opportunity to earn a wage for the sake of their family. The contribution of women to our economy and our society is undervalued, both in paid work and at home. The OECD has shown that if we unleashed the true potential of women the economy could grow by an extra 10% by 2030 - adding an extra £180 billion to growth.
WE will ensure all women who want to work can do so and are paid fairly for it. WE will work to end the bias in pay for occupations perceived as ‘male’ or ‘female’ that means caring work is paid less than manual labour. WE will be ruthless in the fight against direct discrimination that sees women pushed out of work or held back because of their gender.
“I am backing the Women’s Equality party because I really do not want to die before closing the pay gap" ~ Emma Thompson, Actor.
WE stand for:
Transparency on gender pay
Regulations first proposed by Labour and enacted by the Conservatives are soon to come into force, requiring larger companies to publish data on their male and female employees’ pay. The details are yet to be finalised but WE believe a comprehensive approach is necessary. This should include extending these requirements to medium-sized businesses and utilising HMRC data to develop a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between gender, race, age, disability status and pay.
Zero tolerance for workplace discrimination
For a company to thrive, it needs happy staff: discrimination, sexism and intolerance undermine the working environment for everyone and hold businesses back. If we can stamp out workplace discrimination, the whole country will benefit. But this is not possible when those who find themselves victimised at work have no recourse to affordable justice; employment tribunal fees are now so high they are deterring people with legitimate claims and sending a message to employers that it is safe to discriminate. More claims should be settled through conciliation and mediation, and WE will strengthen and promote widely the role of ACAS.
Investing in childcare
The cost of childcare can be punishing, in particular for those on low incomes or wishing to undertake training or education. While many parents choose to spend time at home with young children, at least 600,000 stay-at-home parents would prefer to work if they could afford to do so. Evidence shows that a 10% increase in the proportion of mothers working could raise £1.5bn in increased tax revenue and reduced in-work benefits.
WE believe that childcare is a key area for government investment and have singled it out as one of just three areas where WE advocate significant additional expenditure, which WE will fully fund through our introduction of a single rate of tax relief on pension savings
Supporting savers and boosting women’s pensions
Women have historically suffered financially from our pension system, and are much more likely to live their retirement in poverty than men. On top of this, women have suffered as a result of swift changes to equalise retirement age; while WE support the principle that men and women should be entitled to their pension at the same age, many women did not have enough warning to plan for their retirement. WE will work with those worst affected to identify and campaign for a just and affordable solution.
Valuing experience: the workplace for older women
The pay gap widens for women after 50. There are many reasons for this: breaks in employment for children and other caring responsibilities, an increased chance of health problems or disability and the concentration of older women in low paid and part time work. Women over 50 are also vulnerable to “dual discrimination” – when women are penalised on the basis of both age and gender, rather than solely because they are women.
Equality for women requires real cultural change, and the media has to be at the centre of that. Women have the right to be taken seriously as human beings but media coverage is all too often casually reductive. Young women are sex objects or victims; older women are cougars or victims or invisible. All this harms young girls, the vast majority of whom believe the media should ensure women are properly represented.
We all know that the picture of women presented in the media is false. It has to change to ensure our girls and boys grow up comfortable in themselves. It has to change so women can be heard, and to make sure women get an equal chance to shape the way our society thinks. Equality in the media will support all of our other objectives, whether that is in helping show that dads can care, that female politicians shouldn’t be asked about their handbags, that girls don’t need to be stick thin and boys don’t need to be macho to be men. Although many broadcasters and journalists are taking steps to improve the representation of women, and WE celebrate that, it needs to happen now: it needs to change so that the equal country WE want is the one we read about in our newspapers and watch on our TVs.
Our e-Quality campaign launched in June 2016, aims to protect the rights of women online. Together with the Liberal Democrats, WE are put forward amendments to protect victims of revenge porn. Read more about the e-Quality campaign >>
WE stand for:
An end to sexualisation and violence against women
When violence against women is trivialised, women are discouraged from reporting it, and offenders feel freer to continue. Sexualisation and “asexualisation” have different effects on different groups of women, in particular those who are marginalised for other reasons in our society. For example, disabled women are often portrayed as asexual, BAME women as hypersexual, and Muslim women who choose to wear a headscarf as oppressed regardless of their own views. All these stereotypes reduce women’s healthy exploration of their sexuality and identity and undermine efforts to create a culture of consent and end to violence against women and girls.
Challenging gender stereotypes and ideals
When children are force-fed gendered stereotypes in every advert they see, teachers and parents face an uphill struggle to challenge them. And when images are deliberately manipulated – legs lengthened, wrinkles smoothed, lashes thickened – to sell products or magazines, is it any wonder women feel under increasing pressure to focus on unattainable ideals of beauty instead of other forms of achievement?
Representing the people
Researchers have shown that in the most popular TV programmes across three genres and four channels, men outnumber women by a ratio of almost 6:4. WE value the dynamism and creativity of the UK’s media industry and recognise the UK’s strong tradition of free speech, but believe more must be done to ensure fair and balanced representations of women.
Safer online and social media
Social media have enabled people to connect and communicate throughout the world in an unprecedented way. These new methods of communication are welcome and thrilling to be part of. However, some platforms have permitted an atmosphere to develop where abuse, trolling, revenge porn and threatening behaviour are tolerated or even endemic; restoring mutual respect and decency to people’s online interactions will benefit us all.
The damaging impact of entrenched ideas of gender has been overlooked because these days, girls outperform boys in exams. This success masks a real problem: from the moment they are born, our children are fed gendered expectations about their future life that undermine our ability to make progress. This has to change. Many schools and teachers are at the forefront of this debate, but there are too many places where gender assumptions remain unchallenged.
By focusing on the environment in which our children are raised, we can make progress on every one of our other goals. We can teach our children to challenge what they see in the media. We can teach mutual respect in sexual relationships and tackle the underlying causes of violence against women and girls. We can show boys as well as girls that caring for others does not make you weak, and start to set an expectation of shared parenting for the next generation. We can use our nurseries and schools as engine rooms for possibility, inspiring young women and men to achieve their full potential, free from gendered expectations about the life they should lead.
WE stand for:
Beyond pink and blue: the earliest conceptions of gender
Girls need to know they can be astronauts and train drivers as well as fairies and princesses, and that it doesn’t matter whether they want to do it in pink sparkles or blue checks. Boys, too, can be liberated by letting go of the gender rules. Our sons can learn to care for a doll or express emotion without fear of mockery.
Equal opportunities in teaching and school leadership
Nurseries and primary schools are overwhelmingly dominated by women, building an expectation among young children that looking after and educating them is not work for men. At both primary and secondary school level, men are far more likely than women to be in senior leadership roles, embedding the equally troubling assumption that men should lead and women follow. While many schools do an excellent job of challenging those assumptions, all need to show gender equality in practice as well as teaching their pupils about it.
Supporting all young people into adulthood
Schools are right to focus on their pupils’ achievement in exams, but too often this happens to the exclusion of all else – including supporting children to become able participants in society. In England, “destination data” is now collected, tracking what happens to pupils after they have left school, which WE hope will be the beginning of a shift in schools’ approach, to think more about life after school. However it needs to be improved: destination data should be broken down by gender, race and whether pupils were eligible for Free School Meals, so heads can identify problems that are disproportionately affecting some of their pupils.
Sex and relationships education
There is a taboo around sex and relationships education which means many politicians dare not raise it for fear of being attacked. The tone of the debate has made it incredibly difficult to make progress from our bizarre set of rules where the mechanics of sex are taught in science lessons by specialist teachers – but vital discussions about relationships, consent and sexually transmitted diseases are reserved for optional lessons elsewhere in the curriculum, and taught by those with little or no expertise. It is reckless and cruel to continue to ask our children to navigate the complexities of sexting, revenge porn and sexual consent with so little support.
The joys and responsibilities of parenthood are not shared equally in our society. And in later life, care for elderly parents tends to fall to daughters, rather than sons. This holds back women in the workplace – but men suffer from this imbalance, too: denied the opportunity to care for and enjoy time with their children or parents and penalised if they do choose to leave or reduce their work for caring.
Our goal is to achieve truly shared parenting and caregiving. This will help reduce the pay gap, make it easier for employers to hold on to good staff, permit more women to take on decisionmaking positions in business and beyond, enable more men to take part in childcare, and allow more children to benefit from time with both their parents.
WE stand for:
Equal parenting: equal leave
The new system of Shared Parental Leave is a step-change from the previous split between maternity leave of 52 weeks and paternity leave of just two. However, there is still a long way to go to ensure a fully balanced system of parental leave, where mothers and fathers are both able to take time out from work to care for their young children. Most working mothers are entitled to six weeks leave at 90% of pay while fathers are guaranteed no such leave: their paid entitlement is only two weeks and paid at the statutory level of just £139.58 a week. International evidence demonstrates that the best way to increase fathers’ take-up of parental leave is to allocate a longer and better compensated period on a “use it or lose it” basis – otherwise the stigma and cost of taking time away from work remain huge barriers to take-up.
Flexibility for all
Enlightened businesses now understand that, managed properly, flexible working is not a cost but a benefit to all involved, regardless of gender. Opening hours can be stretched and doing business with other time zones is easier; home working can save money by enabling you to use less office space; and flexibility can enable you to retain talented workers who otherwise would retire, move jobs, or devote themselves full time to caring responsibilities at home. WE will work with the business community to make flexible working the default.
Dads matter: changing the stigma
It is no wonder many fathers feel unable to take time away from work for their children when this is widely portrayed as unmanly, and services – from playgroups billed as “Mum and Baby time” to nappy-changing facilities located in the female toilets – seem built exclusively for mothers. WE will tackle the stigma and reform services, both public and private, to make it clear that a parent’s gender or sexual orientation does not determine their ability to care for their child.
The value of care
Care is undervalued despite its vital importance in nurturing our children, helping our families and friends through adulthood, and providing support and dignity at the end of life. It is often taken for granted that women enjoy caring and they often find their work sold short as a result. Meanwhile, men who wish to stay at home or enter the caring professions – in particular with children – are penalised and sometimes looked at with suspicion.
Those who care at home are classified by national statisticians as “economically inactive”, and most employers see time spent caring at home as a black hole, even though most parents and carers understand it is a huge learning experience that can enhance your skills. This must change.
Shared parenting and relationship breakdown
48% of couples divorcing had at least one child aged under 16 living with the family. When a child’s parents separate, the best thing for the child is to have a good relationship with both parents and for its parents to continue to co-operate. Of course, this is not always possible, and single parents need support, advice and – where relevant – a reliable system of child maintenance support. Nevertheless, WE will work to build a general social and legal expectation of the full involvement of both parents in the lives of their children even if the parents are not together, unless there is a pattern of violence or clear risk to either parent or child.
Power is not shared equally in our society, and this hurts us all. The problems outlined in our other objectives would not be so profound if women were equal decision-makers in our political and economic systems.
If women held equal power, the whole country would benefit. Women’s experiences would be better reflected in the decisions Parliament takes. Our economy would grow more strongly. Violence against women and the specific needs of women in our health service would be taken more seriously.
To this end, WE have concluded that – as a temporary measure – quotas will be necessary to drive substantial change. Progress otherwise will simply be too slow. Quotas will not, as some claim, permit mediocrity: on the contrary, drawing on only half this country’s talent in politics and business diminishes the effectiveness of our whole political system and economy.
WE stand for:
Equal Opportunity in Politics
It should be simple: half the population are women, so half of our legislators should be women, too. WE recognise that across the world, proportional voting systems tend to be better at electing women, and that an appointed House of Lords is neither equitable or democratic. But WE also know electoral reform may never happen – and everyone is losing out in the meantime on the progress a more diverse Parliament could achieve. Therefore WE will put Parliament into “special measures” for two elections. Women make up 29% of MPs and 24% of Peers: to correct this women should make up at least 66% of new MPs and 75% of new Peers for the next two elections.
Women on Boards
Many British businesses have woken up to the benefits of having women in senior leadership positions. But progress is not fast enough and we need to support women in the so-called “pipeline” to board level, so they do not continue to fall behind their male peers in their 30s and 40s because of family responsibilities. WE believe quotas will be necessary as a short-term measure – not just at Board level but at Executive Committee level too.
Help to Fly
In the UK, women are much less likely than men to start their own business, and this reduces the dynamism and diversity of our economy. Too many aspiring female entrepreneurs are held back by gender stereotypes, a lack of role models and a lack of access to finance and childcare. The very networks designed to support new businesses – Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – are shockingly unrepresentative, with women making up just 15% of board members. As a result, women’s specific needs are often sidelined in local growth initiatives. WE will invest in the support structures women need to take the leap as an entrepreneur.
Leading the way from government
Government at all levels, from councils through the devolved legislatures to the UK government in Whitehall and Westminster, ought to lead the way on diversity, not be pushed into action by others.
The Women’s Equality Party’s work will not be complete until violence against women because of their gender has been ended. It is a stain on our society that women can be murdered, violated, assaulted or oppressed because of their gender. No woman is free until she is safe: by diminishing women’s freedom to participate in their societies, violence against women and girls acts as one of the most pervasive barriers to gender equality.
To end this violence we have to recognise what it is: structural violence, overwhelmingly carried out by men. It is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. WE recognise that men and boys are also affected by violence and abuse. The protective framework suggested in these policies should also apply to men, children and older people who experience domestic violence and sexual abuse.
WE consider any denial of reproductive rights to women to be an act of violence and will always oppose any attempt to limit access to contraception, termination or medical support during pregnancy.
In March 2016, WE launched our #WEcount campaign to reclaim our streets.
WE stand for:
Sanctuary for those fleeing abuse
Fleeing an abusive partner can be the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence and her family. WE believe in the absolute right to a place of sanctuary for women, children and other victims of domestic abuse. While current legislation helps in some instances, the most effective way to save lives on a large scale is to improve police practice and protect the vital services that support women exiting abusive relationships. WE recognise it is essential to fund independent specialist women’s support services to help women rebuild their lives, particularly while they might choose not to use the criminal justice system.
Prosecuting violence against women and girls
Prosecution rates for sexual violence remain shamefully low. WE will work tirelessly to change the culture of disbelief that pervades our criminal justice system and ensure services are available that encourage and enable victims to come forward, and allow evidence to be collected.
The importance of specialist support
Women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, with disabilities, insecure immigration status, in poverty or suffering from addiction, often face deeper and different forms of violence, so our approach must be as complex as the problem. Many women do not want to use the criminal justice system to take action against their families; WE will ensure support services are available for all who need protection, not just those ready to report problems to the police.
To end violence against women and girls, the whole of society needs to change: all women need to be able to walk down the street in peace. Our country has a gendered culture where men are seen as entitled to dominate, a media which portrays women as sex objects and minimises the significance of rape and domestic abuse: this creates an environment in which sexual violence is tolerated, condoned and enabled. Our policies to tackle misrepresentation in the media, and to teach comprehensive sex and relationships education in our schools, will help change this.
An end to trafficking and sexual exploitation
Violence against women and girls is a global problem and calls for international co-operation as well as local solutions – in particular on defeating the cross-border crime of sex trafficking. The UK should adopt and implement all international treaties focused on eliminating violence against women and girls, including the Istanbul Convention, and be a leading force internationally to persuade other countries do the same.
Traffickers and pimps operate and make a profit from exploiting women because there is demand for the sexual services their victims provide. Without that demand, there would be no reason to abuse women in this way.
WE will make the case for a managed process to end demand for the sex trade in the UK, by legislation that first establishes and funds necessary support and exiting services and then moves on to criminalise the purchase of sex after one to two years to remove the demand.
However, WE also recognise that this issue divides individuals, organisations and political parties across the UK. There needs to be a national debate that raises awareness of the realities of the sex trade, so that anyone buying sex understands the likelihood that women who sell sex may well have been trafficked, forced or abused, and understands how the expectation that women and girls can be bought and sold feeds into wider misogyny. The status quo cannot prevail.