Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the amazing women we know, to celebrate how far we have come in championing women’s rights, but also to take stock of how far we still have to go.
The theme for this year’s IWD is “pledge for parity.” When the Scottish Parliament was first elected in 1999 it would have been unthinkable that all three major parties would be led by women. It’s symbolic and is certainly a major step forward in terms of political representation, but as Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, has often said – it’s not enough to have a women in charge, you need to have a feminist in charge. I’m proud that Scottish Labour will have an equal balance in our candidates for May’s elections, something none of the other parties can claim. Parity in our political representation, as well as our policies, is vital in taking the next steps towards equality.
Key area where women are still consistently let down is pay. That new analysis has found that over their lifetime, women are likely to earn £300,000 less than their male counterparts is totally shocking. Moreover new research has uncovered that 1 in 4 Scots have witnessed gender discrimination in the workplace. Not only are men paid, on average, 24% more than women each year, but gross earnings for women only grew by 1.4% compared to men’s 1.6%. While we can celebrate the fact that more women have been appointed to boards of public bodies than ever before, the volume of women struggling to earn as much as their male counterparts, and the number struggling to get back into the workforce after having children, means we aren’t tking full advantage of half of the population’s skills and knowledge.
As expensive childcare costs and timings are often what prevent many women working the job, the hours or for the pay they want, Scottish Labour has pledged to act. We’d use the new welfare powers coming to Scotland to raise the Sure Start Maternity Grant, and to add 1p onto income tax to stop the Tory and SNP cuts to schools and childcare, as well as continuing to fight for women everywhere – for their rights, for equality and for better representation.