My 2020 vision
It may be a little early to be thinking about the next General Election but I’m already looking forward to another choice being added to the ballot paper in 2020.
The broadcaster Sandi Toksvig took the admirable step of quitting her job poking fun at politicians to help establish a new political party focused on gender equality. She is hoping that the Women’s Equality Party will field parliamentary candidates in 2020.
The new party will, she says, focus on issues such as the gender pay gap and the lack of female representatives in politics.
It is vital that we address both. Indeed, I wrote in my last blog about how increased female participation in politics needed to begin with more young women voting. That’s how we’ll eventually end up with more women MPs and cabinet ministers.
As for the gender gap, it is important to be clear what we mean by this.
Sandi Toksvig is quoted querying why the UK still has the sixth largest pay gap in the EU. "There's a huge issue,” she says. “Women are certainly not equal. How is it that we still have a pay gap? What is it, 45 years since the Equal Pay Act?"
But the Equal Pay Act 1970 can only ensure that men and women doing the same jobs get the same pay and conditions – and rightly so, of course. It cannot address the fact that too many women simply don’t get a chance to do the same jobs as men.
The problem begins as soon as young women leave school. As we explained in our report Scarred for Life? Creating a Working Future for Young Women, young women are funnelled into a narrower range of training and work options than their male counterparts, sometimes regardless of their qualifications: 61% of female apprentices work in just five sectors, whilst the same proportion of men work in more than 10 sectors, and these tend to offer higher pay and more opportunities.
That’s why I Tweeted Sandi Toksvig to say that I hope that young women trapped by low pay or no pay have a voice in her new party. Too many young women will have felt they didn’t have a voice in the 2015 General Election but the Women’s Equality Party could change that in 2020 and in the process force the other parties to raise their game too.