Some good news for women in the UK in worrying times

December 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Some good news today from the Office for National Statistics. The UK pay gap between what men get paid and what women get paid has narrowed  at the fastest rate in more than ten years.

This comes in a worrying time for women in the UK. Not only are the budgetary cuts predicted to hit women much harder than men, but this week the Fawcett Society also lost its attempt to challenge the Budget in court for discriminating unfairly against women (see my earlier posts on this).

This is despite Karon Monaghan QC, the Fawcett Society’s barrister, saying in court yesterday taht spending cuts were having a ‘grossly disproportionate and devastating’ impact on women. Of the £8.1bn in savings identified in the Budget, £5.7bn or 72%, were being borne by women, compared to 28% by men, she said.  

The Equality and Human Rights Commission will now carry out a separate assessment of the equality impacts of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

So in the light of this it’s good to hear that the pay gap in average salaries has fallen from 17% in 1997 to 10%  in 2010.

It’s still 10% too much, of course, and pessimists will point out that 7% in 13 years is not a galloping change. If it continues at the same rate then it will be 2023 before the pay difference is down to only 3%. The Trade Union Congress has warned that the UK cuts are likely to set back this progress too on closing the pay gap.

 But let’s mark this as an achievement for women in business, and celebrate the gradual roll of the ball in the right direction.

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UK minister takes government to court over sexist Budget

October 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Just a quick note to follow up on my post on the spending cuts in Britain impacting most dramatically on women. The Fawcett Society and MP Yvette Cooper are taking the government to court in the country’s first ever legal action taken against a budget.

Yvette Cooper

The move sends a clear and powerful message on a desperate situation – Cooper says she has calculated that women will burden 72% of the cuts. David Cameron’s government already has a very poor record on women – there are only four women in a 23-strong cabinet – compare this to Spain where women make up 53% of the cabinet, Sweden where women form 50% and 38% in Germany, according to the Centre for Women and Democracy. In a further example of a very narrowly foccused cabinet, Lady Warsi is the only ethnic minority cabinet member and 69% of the Cabinet went to Oxbridge universities.

It is shaming that a nation which portrays itself as a centre of opportunity, fairness and diversity can put forward such a poorly representative government, and such a unfairly biased budget.

It will be interesting to see how far this legal action goes to makes the government rethink their policies – although as Chancellor George Osborne admitted yesterday to the BBC, they “don’t have a Plan B”.

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