Women's Equality Leeds Blog

Women's Equality Leeds Blog

Why Flexible Working is Key to Closing the Gender Pay Gap

Written by Holly Curry – Change the Chat CIC www.changethechat.co.uk

Research shows us that the female talent pipeline starts to shrink around mid-management level from being roughly a 50/50 gender split down to around 3% of women at board level; a major factor for the Gender Pay Gap. One of the key reasons for this is that women are still taking up the majority of primary carer roles in families, meaning that their capacity to return to traditional 9 – 5, full time roles is reduced and as a result, there is an over representation of women in low paid, part time work; many of whom are overqualified.

Currently, women are opting for roles that fit around their families which is demonstrated by the 427,000 women in the UK on a career break, of which more than half will return to these lower skilled, part-time roles. Women returners earn around a third less than male counterparts, taking between a 12% and 32% pay cut, causing a bottle neck effect - as salaries rise the presence of women falls.

This affects opportunities for women on many levels; the lack of female presence in senior roles makes it the norm for men to be visible as the decision makers, and a lack of female sponsors for more junior women coming up the ladder continues the cycle of a lack of gender diversity and female presence in senior roles. In this way, it is easy to see how we have become stuck in a traditional, inflexible way of working and why women are excluded from more senior roles and higher earning potential, when their external commitments are equally as inflexible.

Flexibility in the workplace for everyone, at all levels, means that women are more able to progress, and more able to earn higher salaries. More women in senior level roles has a direct, immediate, and tangible impact on the Gender Pay Gap, as well as igniting a less tangible, positive shift in cultural change. Currently, the emphasis on flexibility is within those lower skilled roles; however, we need to start looking up, looking at how we can make roles flexible from the top down. Businesses need a cultural shift – as opposed to waiting for individual requests for flexibility.

Until flexibility is the norm, women will be stunted in their careers and in their potential to earn salaries equal to their male counterparts and the Gender Pay Gap will remain as prevalent as it is today.

Support our Leeds #Genderpaygap campaign

WE are launching our #Genderpaygap campaign today to raise awareness of the gender pay gap in Leeds, to celebrate the positive steps that local employers are making to tackle the gap, and to highlight those who aren’t making such positive progress.

We have written to 14 employers with offices based in Leeds with reported median pay gaps significantly greater than the national average of 18%. These employers are:

  • Jet2.com (median pay gap of 49.7%)
  • WYG Engineering Ltd (49.6%)
  • Shepley Engineers Ltd (43.3%)
  • Help-Link UK Ltd (40.3%)
  • Tech Search Associates Ltd (40%)
  • Henderson Insurance Brokers Ltd (35.8%)
  • Transunion (34.8%)
  • Leeds Bradford Airport Ltd (32.1%)
  • Bristan Group Ltd (32%)
  • Tenet Group Ltd (32%)
  • BJSS Ltd (30.7%)
  • Jemella Ltd (30.6%)
  • Alton Cars Ltd (29.1%)
  • Age Partnership Ltd (27.3%)

We asked them what progress they have made in regard to the actions that they committed to in the statements that they published in April 2018 on their gender pay gap data, and if they are taking any of the Government Equality Office recommendations into account.

Only four of these employers responded to us, are willing to engage in discussions about what action they are taking, and are being open and transparent. These employers are:

    • WYG Engineering Ltd
    • TransUnion
    • Henderson Insurance Broker
    • BJSS Ltd

We have asked these four employers to meet with us to discuss their plans in more depth, and we will be keeping in touch with all 14 employers to monitor what actions they are taking.

You can view their response letters here >>>

We would love it if you could get support our campaign by:


  • Contacting your local councillor or MP to ask them what actions they are taking to raise awareness of the number of employers with significant gender pay gaps in Leeds. Please download a template letter here>>>

        Please do let us know if you received a reply by emailing us on leeds@womensequality.org.uk


  • Taking part in the social media campaign – we will be tweeting on @wepleeds, posting on Instagram on @wep_leeds and on Facebook and it would be great if you could support the campaign using the hashtag #Genderpaygap


  • Sharing information about this campaign with family, friends and colleagues and asking them to support the campaign


This is just the start of our campaign. We will keep you updated on our progress, keep a look out for further information on this page, in our email updates, and on social media.

My First Party Conference

My First Women’s Equality Party Conference

Fiona Heseltine, Data Manager


This year’s Women’s Equality Party conference, 7th – 9th September 2018, was my first political conference and it was one I will never forget.


Starting on Friday evening, the conference opened with an introduction, a celebration and a drink. Unfortunately, I missed all of this, as it was time for Bramble, my baby, to go to bed.


Saturday started early for me as my son had me up at 5.30am. The venue didn’t open till 8.30am so we kept busy with one of us having a nap. After registration I dropped Bramble off at the free child care provided at the venue and headed to the first event – Vamps Victims and Feminazis. Rob Berkeley (Co-editor of BlackOut UK), Catherine Mayer (Co-founder and President of the Women’s Equality Party), Athena Stevens (Equality in the Media Spokesperson for WEP and founder of Aegis Productions) and Yvonne Thompson (WEP Executive Committee Member) discussed equal representation in the media. They led a conversation around the prevalence of older white men in the media, and the danger of the one-dimensional output that produces. They put the argument forward that increased representation of women and minorities within the media can make a huge difference, and that creating our own WE media platform would have a positive impact on shaping a more inclusive conversation and representing wider society.


Next, Big Data: Will Technology Fix Inequality or Deepen It? Seyi Akiwowo (Founder and Director of Glitch!UK), Kate Delvin (Writer and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London), Catherine Mayer, Karen Salt (Director of the Centre for Research in Race and Rights at the University of Nottingham) and Audrey Tang (Digital Minister of Taiwan via video link) discussed how data driven technology is transforming the world and how skewed data can drive inequality. It took me a while to understand this discussion but after a while the meaning became obvious - if you build new technology based on skewed data then your tech isn’t going to be inclusive. For example, Fitbit gather interesting customer data, but that data is not representative of all people as it is only collected from people who can afford/know how to use/use accurately/want to own a Fitbit. So the technology created, based on that flawed data, is pronominally going to benefit that narrow, privileged group.


Two hours away from my baby was long enough, so I collected him from childcare and navigated the rest of the conference with him. Although I had to duck out of presentations if he was being too noisy, having him with me at the conference was great.


The Northern Hub meet up, led by Caroline Hunt (WEP Northern Hub Coordinator) was next, and a fantastic chance for us to discuss issues that affect the branches in the North (e.g. The Northern Powerhouse initiative and gender pay gap worst offenders in the north).


Everyone attended the leader’s speech by Sophie Walker and, as you might expect, she was very inspiring. Unfortunately, this was one of the moments that my son was being noisy, so I left before the end. Luckily, you can watch the whole speech here.


My next stop, ‘Parity Begins at Home’ with Giselle Cory (Data Scientist and Public Policy Analyst), Halla Gunnarsdottir (Special Adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, Iceland), Dr Tracey Jensen (Lecturer at Lancaster University) and Dr Victoria Showunmi (Senior Lecturer at Maynooth University and UCL Institute of Education) explored the lack of progress in achieving equal childcare and how it is impossible to achieve equality in the workplace if we still don’t have it at home. Having recently had a child myself, I was very interested and staggered by the differences in parity around the world.


Halla Gunnarsdottir had chosen to move back to Iceland when she decided to start a family since Iceland is one of the top 10 countries for parental leave. As a couple, Hella and her partner were able to make the choice of splitting their parental leave straight down the middle. New moms get three months, new dads get three months, and then it's up to the couple to decide how they'll split the remaining three months. Neither parent can transfer any portion of their three-month chunk, however, as the government wants to ensure both parents can work and that kids get to spend time with both. Each parent receives 80% of their salary while on leave.


This is in stark contrast to the situation in the UK, where paternity leave is only two weeks, with any extra time dependant on the mother sharing her maternity leave allowance, something which only an estimated 2% of fathers have chosen to do. WE are fighting for equal paid leave for both parents to ensure that the pressure on women’s careers is alleviated (a Swedish study found that for every month of leave taken by men in the first year, the woman’s long-term salary was 6.7% higher) and partners can enjoy sharing the parenting, something I think is an imperative to achieving equality.


Saturday’s final segment ‘Turn Off the Red Light’ by Mia de Faoite (Activist at End Demand UK/HLFG Ireland) allowed important personal experience of the sex industry to be shared. It was very emotional and, at times, difficult to listen to, but I felt it was extremely important that this experience was shared and heard. The theme on how to end demand for sex workers has particular relevance to our branch, as Leeds is home to the only managed prostitution zone in the UK, and it is clear there is much work to be done on the impact the managed zone has on sex workers and local residents.


I had to call it a day at that point as Bramble needed to go to bed, but I was sad to miss Rebecca Lammers (WEP) talk The Power of Saying No, and of course the WE FUNdraiser comedy night.


Sunday was an even earlier start for me (4.30am!) and a day of party business involving motions and voting. Each motion was put forward and anyone who wanted to talk, either in favour or against, could put their name forward - this gave everyone a chance to voice their opinion. Once everyone who put their name forward had spoken on the motion, there was a vote and the motion were either passed, fell, or referred back if more work was required on the specifics. It took me a while to understand what was happening, which is no doubt in part due to the fact that I hadn’t read all of the motions. Everyone was very helpful though and I got the hang of things quickly and started to vote. You could dip in and out, listening and voting on the motions that meant the most to you.


We left at 2pm to coincide with nap time, and to allow us to get home in time for a little play time with Daddy before bed. If you missed the conference this year, I urge you to attend the next one. I left the conference feeling inspired and motivated, there is still so much to do, and I have met so many brilliant people who are working to do it. This weekend confirmed what I already knew, that the Women’s Equality Party represent my politics and the kind of society I am interested in being a part of, an equal society.

New Branch Team

Our new branch has been announced!

Thank you so much to everyone who attended the WEP Leeds branch election. It was a great evening and we are thrilled to introduce you to the new Women’s Equality Party Leeds branch committee!


Alice White, Joint Campaigns Officer:

‘I've been volunteering with the Women's Equality Party in Leeds as a Communications Officer and have helped with press activity, social media and strategic partnerships. I would really like to broaden my knowledge of equality issues and play an active role in campaigning in future with WEP so I have decided to become a Campaigns Officer.’


Laura Wood, Joint Campaigns Officer:
‘I joined WEP last year and straight away started campaigning in the Shipley general election campaign. After this fantastic experience, I became the leader of the Leeds Branch. I’m very proud to continue on the branch with a different role and excited to continue working with all of the wonderful people in the party who work so hard to fight for equality.’


Caroline Hunt, Election Agent:

‘I've been involved with WEP for 18 months now.  I am the coordinator of the Northern Hub, trying to bring all the Northern branches of the Women's Equality Party together to work strategically and share best practice. However, Leeds is my home city and I love elections.  As such I've asked to stay on as election agent for the Leeds branch.  This means that when it comes to the local elections in 2019 I will organise our candidates and campaigns.  I believe we could stand up to four candidates in the local elections next year but for that to happen we need candidates to come forward.  Let me know if you are interested and we can start working together, the sooner the better!’


Jess Hankins, Community Officer:
"Hi I'm Jess, formerly Fundraising Officer for the Leeds branch and now in the newly-created role of Community Officer. I'm looking forward to finding ways to connect with local organisations that share our aims, working with local businesses who wish to support us, and finding ways to build our membership and grow the party locally."


Jenni Richards, Treasurer:

‘I am a new mum and will shortly be returning to my job in environment/health and safety. I joined the party last year and I have been looking for an opportunity to get more involved in the local branch ever since. I have held Treasurer positions in other groups I am involved with, so I feel this role is the best way I can help the branch.’


Su Edwards, Joint Data Manager:
‘I’ve enjoyed being joint data manager for the last 18 months. I have returned to active feminism after a 30-year quiet spell and it’s great fun to do politics differently!’


Fiona Heseltine, Joint Data Manager:
‘I wanted to get more involved with the Women's Equality Party as I am passionate about achieving equality in Leeds. I'm currently on maternity leave from my day job as a head receptionist and I chose the Data Manager position as I feel the skills I have learned through my job will help me to be an asset to the party in this role.’


Bethany Alice Barry, Ending Violence against Women and Girls Champion Officer:

‘I have been volunteering for the Leeds Women’s Equality Party as the Communications Officer for the last year. Taking a key role on the branch committee has been an amazing experience and I am now excited to start my new role, focusing on how we can help tackle violence against women and girls in Leeds.’


Jenny Manuel, Equality in Healthcare and Medical Research Champion Officer:
‘I am a 60-year-old retired GP. I worked in Chapeltown Leeds for the majority of my career, providing direct patient care and training new GPs. I amassed working knowledge of the health system and feel that my experience may be useful for the branch to tackle inequality in Healthcare and Medical Research.’’


Louise Jennings, Equal Education Champion Officer:

‘I was the WEP candidate for Headingley & Hyde Park in the 2018 local elections. This was a great experience and I would like to continue making a difference with the Leeds branch.  I work in STEM higher education and am a School Parent Governor at my son’s school, so I would like to use this experience to champion equality in education.’


Rachel Hawker Equal Media Treatment Champion Officer:

‘I am a PhD student, studying atmospheric modelling at the University of Leeds. I chose the Champion Officer for Equal Representation in Media role because I'm continually frustrated by both the under-representation and the biased portrayal of women in the media.’


We hope you are as excited as us to welcome the new branch officers!


As you can see, we still have several branch positions open. These include: Branch Leader, Communications Officer, Fundraising Officer, Equal Representation in Politics Champion Officer, Equal Pay and Opportunity Champion Officer and Equal Parenting and Caregiving Champion Officer.


Please get in touch if you are interested in finding out more about any of these roles by emailing wepleeds@gmail.com


Help our Campaign!

We are asking for donations.  If you are happy to give one without being convinced then brilliant!  As long as you are a registered UK voter then click here to donate and make sure you provide your address. 

If however you need a little more convincing let me tell you why we need your donations. 

One of the biggest challenges new parties like the Women’s Equality Party face is letting voters know we exist. Political coverage on television is based on previous vote share so the status quo is heavily maintained. Even when we can get coverage in print media, its reach is heavily limited.

Running for council is not the most expensive part of politics in the UK but it still costs.  Headingley and Hyde Park has over 19,000 voters making it almost as large as a small parliamentary constituency. 

£150 would buy us 5000 leaflets.  Leafleting is the most direct way we can communicate with our voters.  If only three people could donate £50 then we would be well on our way to having our next batch of leaflets funded.

However, many voters live in blocks that are not accessible, particularly students in halls of residence.  We can communicate with them through targeted social media advertising for as little as £10.  Even a small donation can help us bring the message of gender equality to the people who need to hear it.

WEP Membership fees go towards brilliant parts of this party, such as our dedicated staff in central office, and providing childcare support for our general election candidates, but our local branches still need donations to put forward candidates in local elections.

If you wish to donate you must be eligible – political parties can only accept donations from individuals on the electoral roll in the UK.  Any donations from individuals who are not on the electoral roll must be returned.

Whatever you can give to help us get Louise elected in Headingley & Hyde Park will make a difference to all of Leeds.. 

Click here to donate

No Longer Childs Play: Childcare Costs and Current Consequences

In October 2017, it was widely reported that the average childcare cost in England rose seven times faster than wages.  In fact, the cost of child care sky-rocketed by 48% between 2008 and 2016a period when wages fell,1 and in Yorkshire and the Humber, the cost of childcare climbed by almost four times more than wages did.1

At the time, Trade Union Congress General Secretary, Frances O’Grady reflected on these astonishing and unfortunate statistics, emphasizing the vital importance of government-funded initiatives. 2

“Parents need subsidized, affordable childcare from as soon as maternity leave finishes to enable them to continue working, and so mums don’t continue to have to make that choice between having a family and a career.”2

To tackle this problem, the Conservative government launched the woefully inadequate ‘30 hours free childcare’ scheme. Under the scheme, working parents of children aged between three and four who are lucky enough to find a childcare provider offering free places (providers are free to opt out of the scheme) are entitled to 30 hours of childcare a week, for 38 weeks a year, with no cost to them. However, to fund this the government only offer providers, on average, £4.59 per hour per child. A subtraction of 7% is then made to this amount, to be retained by local authorities for administrative purposes.3

Research4 has found that hour for hour, pound for pound, the rate childcare providers receive from the government is not enough to match the cost of providing childcare. A staggering 74% of childcare providers say the current funding rate is less than the cost of a place, meaning there is an average shortfall of 18% per ‘free’ place when it comes to funds5. Furthermore, information from the Pre-school Learning Alliance5 details that 49% of childcare providers plan to increase how much they charge for additional (non-government funded) hours as a result of the current scheme. Proposals of this kind include charging extra for meals, snacks and trips for the children.5 Simply put, insufficient funding from the government is resulting in costs having to be made up by others—parents who are already struggling to cover childcare costs.



Our branch team surveying the parents of Leeds about Childcare Costs on Briggate


With canvasing now in full swing, it has been a great few weeks for WEP Leeds!  So far, we have knocked on over 2000 doors - but there is a lot more to do.  The inclusion of Hyde Park in the new Headingley and Hyde Park ward means an extra 6,700 voters have been added to the area - a roughly 50% increase! Though this is a potentially daunting prospect, with your help it need not be.

We need our members in Leeds to come out and canvass to ensure we have a councillor who puts equality at the heart of everything they do. Understandably, everyone is nervous about their first-time canvassing.  It is hard not to imagine a Paxman-esque figure answering the door, expecting you to be able to recite a detailed critique of each page of the WEP manifesto!  However, the reality is quite different.  In fact, the initial feeling can be one of anti-climax - nobody answers the door for the first six or seven times you knock!  Once somebody does answer, you quickly realise it is not nearly as daunting as you first imagined. 

As Laura Wood, WEP Leeds founding member, recently found, her worries about canvasing quickly evaporated as soon as she got started, “on my way to my first day of canvassing in last year’s general election, I was so nervous I looked like a rabbit in the headlights! But when I got there everyone was real friendly and it was all very laid back. I was paired up with someone who I’ve since become good friends with and when I got used to what to say and got some confidence I started to really enjoy it. Canvassing for WEP has brought out a side of me I didn’t know was there and I’m so glad I overcame my initial fears and got involved.”



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