women

Is it time for a new debate about gender equality?

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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 »Is it time for a new debate about gender equality?

CEDAW – what have budgets got to do with it?

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First published on the Women’s Resource Centre Tumblr

cedawNext week the government comes under review by the UN to see whether they are complying with the catchily-named Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The government must report to the committee about the steps they have made towards women’s equality in key areas such as health, employment, education, representation, social and economic benefits, sex role stereotyping, trafficking and marriage and family law.

Just three weeks prior to this, the Chancellor announced his spending review for 2015-16 detailing government spending cuts and increases in advance of the 2015 election. But how and why are CEDAW and the government’s economic policies connected?

How governments spend and raise money have different implications on women and men. When the some of the Women’s Budget Group, a network of over 200 academics and experts, met to discuss the Chancellor’s spending review, it was clear his announcement held significant disadvantages to women.

Though CEDAW makes no specific references to public expenditure, it does ask the government to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against and ‘ensure the full development and advancement of’ women (Articles 2, 3). They must achieve this not only through active government policy to improve gender equality but also to ensure that their policies don’t unintentionally discriminate against women.

Read More »CEDAW – what have budgets got to do with it?

Turning back the clock on women: Northern Ireland and the recession

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‘The model of society being held up for women is, “go back to the home, pick up the unpaid caring role that we, the governments, cannot cover and we will focus on incentivising your husband to support you”.’

(The Northern Ireland Economy: Women on the Edge, Women’s Resource and Development Agency 2011)

This is the message being sent by the government to the women of Northern Ireland according to a new 160 page report on women and the recession – The Northern Ireland Economy: Women on the edge? – a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the financial crisis on women.

It examines a range of issues including childcare, lone parents, older and younger women, migrant women, pensions, welfare reform, debt and housing.

The report, published at the beginning of July by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency and funded by the Office of the First Minster and Deputy First Minister,  provides evidence that women are being disproportionately impacted by the financial crisis and ensuing budget cuts.

The dry statistics of job losses and low wages are brought to life by quotations from interviews and focus groups held with a range of women across the region. One said, “my wages are not going anywhere. Diesel has gone up. I’ve had to use the tumble dryer in bad weather. The cost of nappies has gone up. And I’m expecting another child.”

Another said, “I go and stay with my mum 2/3 nights a week because I cannot afford to keep the heating on. The price of oil is terrible and I have to cut back until I get paid again.”

Read More »Turning back the clock on women: Northern Ireland and the recession