Colchester Labour respond to #Vote4Equality questions

colchester labour partyIf elected would we do an equality impact assessment on all local budget cuts on women?

First and foremost I would say that we would not be looking at making cuts that impacted directly on any one group so the idea that we would be making local budget cuts to women directly is difficult to imagine. However if put in a situation where we had no option but to make cuts to any service, an EIA would always be undertaken.

If elected will you defend specialist women only services eg rape crisis centres and women’s refuges?
Absolutely – do we need to say more? Cuts to specialist services such as these need to be avoided at all costs. We will continue to work with the PCC in order to keep VAWG at the top of crime agenda.

If elected how will you improve representation of women on your council?
As a group we are aware that women can often be put off politics and that we do not have the proportionate representation in local politics. We have made a commitment to engaging people in politics at a much earlier age and that would include working with girls and encouraging them to think of politics as something they should/ could/would want to be involved in. We will work with our Equalities Officer and local women’s groups to identify ways in which we can make councils more inclusive.

If elected what will you do to re-open Sure Start centre that have closed and defend the one’s that already exist.
Sure Start Centres are funded by the Conservative run County Council and we are acutely aware that Essex County Council is looking to make budget savings of 2.5 million pounds in this area. We will continue to influence any decisions where at all possible and will campaign with families when fighting to keep services open. Fundamentally however we feel that these services will only be saved with a change of national administration.

If elected how will you ensure that women benefit from strategic/enterprise/partnership funding?
The Labour group acknowledges that women are the more likely to be users of public services and as such the current cuts are disproportionately effecting women (and in turn families) We are committed to defending public services and to working with unions and other organisations who also believe in the public sector.

If elected will you undertake a gender pay audit in your local council?
Yes, we agree that this would be a positive move.

If elected how will you improve your councils engagement with local women and women’s organisations.
We will work with our Equality Officer to look all possible ways of maximising engagement, we will work with local unions and their Women’s Officers, we will access appropriate training in order to our knowledge around these issues. We will engage with local women’s organisations to seek representation in all areas that effect women.

What will you do to tackle sexism and sex discrimination in your council.
We will acknowledge that it exists!
We have robust policies which seek to minimise any opportunities for such behaviour. We will also ensure that our policies do not disadvantage women
We will take all such accusations seriously .
We feel that sexism is far less likely to take place in a workplace where women are properly represented throughout the workforce and in positions of power so we would seek to get rid of any imbalances that exist in his area.

Is it time for a new debate about gender equality?

I’m delighted to have my piece on this issue published on the Society Women at the topCentral blog at the University of Essex. It is reproduced here:

‘Check your privilege’ is a phrase that increasingly crops up in equality debates and no more so than in feminism. It aims to hold to account the white, educated middle class women who spearhead the feminist movement, asking them to consider their narrow breadth of experience before speaking on behalf of ‘all women’. It has been a divisive concept, but the idea that feminism is only for the elite is nothing new.

A report from Institute for Public Policy Research  (IPPR) suggests that recent feminist campaigns are on the wrong track and the movement should, in essence, ‘check its privilege’ in order to change things for the many rather than the few.

The report, Great Expectations – Exploring the Promise of Gender Equality argues that a focus on ‘women at the top’ – that is to improve female representation in politics and on corporate boards – will not produce the changes needed to empower all women. Campaigns such as the Fawcett Society’s ‘Women and Power’ focus on getting already educated and privileged women into powerful positions rather than transforming the economic and social landscape that keeps most other women lagging behind.

Flexibility should occur at the bottom as well at the top of the labour market and we should aim to raise the status and pay of the jobs that women do, especially care work.

The report combines statistical analysis of the National Child Development Study, the British Cohort Study and Understanding Society with interviews of women in 50 families to examine progress on women’s equality across three generations.

Through this, the researchers examine the barriers to equality that women in the UK still face and conclude that legislation can only go so far. Women have gained legal equality in most areas and whilst this has helped reduce discrimination in the workplace, for example, there are other hurdles it won’t address.

Research released in July from the Economic and Social Research Council concluded that despite the increase in female breadwinners, women still do most of the housework and IPPR’s own research discovered that the burden of children and the elderly is still very much the female domain.

How fairly care work is organised is heavily correlated with women and men’s educational and class background. The more educated a woman is, the longer she waits to have children, which tends to result in a more equitable split of housework and childcare. Fathers too are increasingly spending more time with their children but these fathers are also more highly educated.

Listen to a podcast about the research with Glenn Gottfried, IPPR

Little has changed for women with no higher education or who work in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. These women tend to have children earlier, in their teens and twenties, but the impact this has on their potential earnings is actually worse than for the previous generation of women. Those born in 1958 who had children early would expect to earn 17% less than women without children. For those born in 1970. the figure is 20%. Read more