Jennette Arnold AM, the Labour Group equalities spokesperson on the London Assembly, writes about the battle that still needs to be fought for gender equality.
Jennette Arnold AM OBE (Labour, North East London – including Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest) is the Labour Group equalities spokesperson on the London Assembly
In recent decades progress has undeniably been made in the name of gender equality – but research by Plan International shows women and girls around the world remain disproportionately affected by the economic downturn.
The report says “austerity budgets, gender inequality and long-standing economic trends” have left women with “fewer resources, lower incomes and less access to basic services”.
Contextually, women and girls in Britain face fewer obstacles than millions of others worldwide who are deprived of such basic rights as education, employment and free speech.
Yet gender inequalities still exist here at home – especially in London. In 2012, unemployment rates for women in the capital reached 9.8 per cent – London’s women have the lowest employment rate in the UK.
Equally, women in London remain under-represented in top jobs, holding just 12.5 per cent (135 out of a total of 1,076) of the directorships of the FTSE 100 companies. More than half of FTSE 250 companies have no women on their boards and less than 20 per cent of businesses in London are owned by women.
Research also shows coalition cuts and tax rises have hit single mothers – both in London and nationally – the hardest. A report (pdf) by gender equality charity the Fawcett Society shows single mothers will be losing an average 8.5 per cent of their income after tax by 2015 – more than any other group.
It is women, too, who are – according to the Women’s Resource Centre (pdf) – increasingly unemployed or taking underpaid work, losing money for childcare and other basic needs through welfare and discriminated against because they are pregnant. Additionally, rape convictions are at an all-time low- just 5.6% – and one-in-four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
Britain has made great strides in the quest for gender equality and we have much to be proud of. But there are still myriad issues that need addressing if true parity is to be achieved.
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• The coalition are turning the clock back for vulnerable women – March 8th, 2012
• International Women’s Day: We can’t be complacent, there’s a lot still to do – March 8th, 2012
• Women, politics and the crisis: We cannot ignore gender in politics – January 16th, 2012