Catherine Hakim argues over on Conservative Home that the Conservative Party should ignore ‘discredited feminist myths’ and declares the ‘gender war is over’. Indeed if this was true I would join her in celebrating gender equality, but I’m simply not convinced.
The Conservative Party has been quick off the mark to disregard equality legislation, the consequences of which are hurting women financially already. I could cite reams and reams of statistics about the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling, women’s pay after children, sex discrimination and harassment in the workplace, the lack of women on the boards of businesses etc… but on this occasion I don’t need to. You need look no further than the government’s slash and burn emergency budget rushed in just 50 days after the election.
It is widely reported that the impact of the cuts will disproportionately impact on women. The Fawcett Society were quick to highlight that women would bear almost three quarters of the cuts and took the government to the High Court last month seeking a judicial review on the grounds there was impact assessment of how the cuts would effect women. They have been backed up by The Women’s Budget Group who published a report in December 2010 that showed how cuts to public services affected different groups. It found that lone parents – the vast majority of whom are women – and single female pensioners were the hardest hit, losing services equivalent to 18.5% and 12% of their respective incomes. Overall, single women lose 60% more than single men. In court the government admitted they had not carried out an assessment of how the budget would impact on women and men, something they’ve described as ‘regrettable’.
While it is disappointing there was not a judicial review granted of the budget, it was pleasing that the government and the country heard that budgetary decisions are not above equality law. The court agreed that the government’s economic processes need to be looked at again – a decision that is a credit to the Labour government’s commitment to equality legislation. Catherine Hakim argues that this legislation is not helpful. Perhaps it’s not helpful if you are a Conservative government, but if you’re an ordinary woman on the street, a single mother or a single woman pensioner, it is very helpful indeed.