Last night, Jeremy Corbyn – alongside MPs Angela Rayner and Diane Abbott, and trade unionists Liz Snape and Christine Blower – launched a document detailing how Jeremy Corbyn’s flagship 10 pledges will advance equality for women and tackle gendered violence and harassment.
The document sets out Corbyn’s plans to build an economy that delivers for women by ending austerity. Plans to produce a high skilled, high tech, low carbon economy by investing in infrastructure will create new jobs in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing sectors. This will be accompanied by measures to improve women’s access to these male-dominated sectors and break down this occupational segregation. This will be combined with a National Education Service open to all.
Corbyn is committed to ending the gender pay gap. Over 40 years after the Equal Pay Act women are still being paid on average 19% less than men across the whole economy. Pay gaps facing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and disabled women are even greater. Corbyn has pledged to give enhanced powers to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to penalise companies that do not publish detailed gender pay data at a company-wide level.
There were also further measures to tackle barriers to women in work, including through establishing universal childcare and adopting measures to end discrimination towards pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace. A report released yesterday by the Women and Equalities Select Committee revealed that the number of women forced to leave their job because of fears about the safety of their child or pregnancy discrimination has doubled in the last decade, with the majority of these women being employed in casual, agency and zero-hours work.
The new policy document commits to ensuring women’s maternity rights are enshrined and enforced, abolishing tribunal fees to improve women’s access to justice over workplace discrimination, and strengthening the role of trade unions within workplaces to defend employment rights.
One in four women are in low paid and insecure work and over half of those on the minimum wage are women. Corbyn’s Labour will address low pay and insecure work by ending exploitative zero-hours contracts and increasing the statutory minimum wage to the Living Wage level.
Within the party, the new pledges include a Women’s Advisory Board and an annual decision-making women’s conference to ensure that women are at the heart of policies and decision-making. Labour will also publish a regular ‘gender audit’ of the Party’s policies, and aim for 50:50 representation in Parliament and across all public offices, using gender balanced and all women shortlists.
With 20% of homeless women having escaped violence, Corbyn’s guarantee to invest in homes and end insecurity for private renters is essential in providing secure housing for women leaving abusive relationships. Labour would also make Sex and Relationships Education compulsory in schools, educating young people about sexual health, healthy relationships and consent, and introducing programmes to tackle homophobic bullying.
Corbyn’s Labour would prioritise ending violence against women and girls within a foreign policy centred on the promotion of human rights, peace and justice, and would seek to end inhumane treatment and assault experienced by refugees and asylum seekers within UK detention centres.
The policies announced last night provide a detailed vision of how Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership will ensure women able to fully participate in society and fulfil our potential. At last night’s launch Angela Rayner MP explained that the support she received from the welfare state, which enabled her to overcome the barriers to education and employment she faced on the basis of her gender and class background, would not be available to her today, saying that “the Government are pulling up that ladder of opportunity that helped me”.
The wide-ranging policies announced yesterday seek to restore opportunities to women to address the structural and systemic disadvantage and discrimination that women continue to face across society, which is often compounded by other forms of discrimination on the basis of identities such as race, religion, ethnicity, class, disability, and sexuality.
This is a vision that places women’s voices at the centre of policy process and decision-making, improves women’s representation in politics and society, and places women’s equality at the centre of the Party. As Corbyn put it himself: “we will not transform society overnight, but working together we can take us further along the path to an equal society to rebuild and transform Britain so that no one and no community is left behind.”