Today I spoke in a Parliamentary debate marking International Women’s Day. The UN describes the day as “an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women”.
I took the opportunity to raise my deep concerns about the persistence of the pay gap between men and women, even 45 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970.
Today men still earn almost 10% more than women for full time jobs, and I made the case that the Equal Pay Act is out of date and needs to be reformed if we are to close the pay gap once and for all.
It was appropriate that the International Women’s Day debate happened to be held on the same day that I welcomed a group of girls from a school named after a great feminist, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, to Parliament. I always enjoy meeting boys and girls from local schools and hearing about their hopes for the future.
But I’m also acutely aware of the challenges they face as they grow up. This is especially the case for the girls and young women in my constituency, who won’t be able to take it for granted that they’ll enter the world of work on an equal footing with men unless we comprehensively tackle unequal pay.
So I’m pushing for a new Equal Pay Act that meets today’s challenges head on, requiring company audits to root out discrimination and improving access to justice by reforming the settlement process and waiving tribunal fees for a limited period so we call allow comprehensive reform to take root.
As a matter of basic fairness we owe it to the next generation of women to do all we can to give them in equal chance in life, so they can build a career on an equal footing with men. After 45 years, women have been waiting long enough!
You can read a transcript of the debate online here: