Sexism in the Capital City

Fabiana Summer Pamphlet 2013

The most recent census, in 2011, is interesting for all sorts of reasons. One of the things that is striking, is that in the UK, women now outnumber men by almost a million. Yet, the inequality between women and men on a number of levels continues; in political representation, in the boardroom, in the media and particularly in economic terms. 

The coalition’s austerity measures and cuts to public services are hitting women hard. The Office of Budget Responsibility now estimates 710,000 public sector jobs will be lost by 2017, which with women making up 65% percent of the public sector workforce, is of huge concern. As public sector cuts push women into the private sector, the Fawcett Society predict the pay gap between men and women could widen, a notion further supported by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) 2012 Gender Salary Survey, which suggests that a woman can earn a staggering £423,000 less than a man over the course of her career. 

I have recently been asked by Ed Miliband to be the Shadow Minister for London, where despite outperforming the rest of the UK in economic productivity, we still lag behind in gender equality. A report by the Fawcett Society just before the last London Mayoral election gave a pretty damning view of London’s lack of gender equality, and even went so far as to cite London as the ‘worst’ place to live in the UK if you're a woman! 

The report found that women in London are less likely to work, earn less than men when they do, and are more likely to be sexually assaulted in the capital than anywhere else. In 21st century London we should be ashamed that this is the case. How can we Londoners, who take great pride in living in one of the most cosmopolitan and progressive cities in the world be content with the fact that women are not only getting a raw deal but are effectively being hindered from fulfilling their potential? 

History tells us that the best way to get more policy on the statute books that supports women, is by having women at the heart of that policy and decision making process. Making policy decisions that close the gender pay gap, decisions that tackle gender inequality in the work place, decisions that support working mothers and single mothers and increase the level of support for those women that have been victims of crime and violence because of their gender are of utmost importance, and what we need is women leading the way on these issues. 

There are nearly 4 million women in London and the mission statement of Labour London must be to encourage more women to join our party so we can ensure that we mainstream the issue of fighting gender inequality. Let’s be frank, if the Labour Party doesn’t, no other political party will. And this mustn’t just be left to Labour women to argue and push as a priority. We all need to do our bit. Men and women. We absolutely must have more women representing people in all areas of government, both locally and nationally. As a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, I have been a supporter of all women shortlists in the selection of candidates and regularly encourage women that I meet to make the decision to stand for public office. This is why we are pushing forward with the Future Candidates Programme to train, mentor and encourage the next generation of Labour representation which must include more Black, Asian and ethnic minorities, disabled, working class and women candidates. And why we will select at least 6 women out of the 12 parliamentary candidates in target seats in London with at least half of the 106 target seats around the country being women also. I am really pleased that the most recent new MP is a woman, Emma Lewell-Buck. The first ever woman to represent a seat that has always been Labour. But we must do even more. 

June 4th 1913 saw the death of Emily Wilding Davison, killed whilst protesting for women’s rights under the suffragette slogan ‘Deeds not Words’. A century later, this call for action could not be more valid. We must make sure that we continue the push for gender equality, despite the cuts. Communities across the country are feeling the strain in these tough economic times, but if we allow women to suffer disproportionately and be sidelined in the process, then we will not only be going back in time, but we will be undoing much of good work that has been done to reduce gender inequality over the past hundred years. I hope that at next year’s council and European elections, and the general election in 2015, we see a marked increase in the number of women being elected and that together we can work collectively to create a more equal society and eradicate gender inequality. 

The Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP is Member of Parliament for Tooting, Shadow Justice Secretary and Shadow Minister for London 

You can read the full pamphlet here.

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