I am profoundly frustrated that it is taking so long to achieve real equality. And the older I get, the more impatient I am for rapid and radical progress.
As a Welsh Lib Dem, I believe passionately in the link between a stronger economy and a fairer society. I believe in the fundamental importance of the economic empowerment of women.
In the last five years, we have championed significant legal changes to empower women in the workplace. But we recognise that economic change is half the story. We need social change as well – hence the Coalition’s work to stop violence against women and girls.
What we have done is about more than simply fair treatment for women. It’s about liberating the full political, social and economic power of women. And our society – our economy – can only benefit from that.”
The Lib Dem manifesto will contain a commitment to a full month of paternity leave after a child’s birth to incentivise take-up from fathers. If we are to achieve true gender equality and to eliminate the pay gap, we have to re-shape families. Parenting is a joy and a challenge best faced as a team and the earlier a father is fully engaged, the better that team will play.
For many men this isn’t a question of radical feminism, it is simply common sense – dragging the law and the state into the 21st century.
We are ambitious to see 1million more women in work by 2020. To achieve this, we realise that childcare has to be tackled head on. We are committed to expanding free childcare further to 15 hours a week for all 2 year olds and 20 hours for all 3 and 4 year olds.
We recognise the role of carers – overwhelmingly women – and want to support them to return to work if they want to, including by increasing the amount they can earn before benefits are withdrawn.
To reach our target, we need more women to see that it is financially worthwhile to work. The increase in the personal allowance is fundamental to this. The Budget announced an increase to £11,000 by 2017. We want to increase the personal allowance to £12,500. That would take all full-time employees on the minimum wage out of income tax altogether.
Legislation is needed to nudge those employers who have not yet understood that female employees are good financial news for them. Larger employers should be obliged to publish the average pay of their male and female workers.
I believe we should go further and oblige employers to report an analysis, by gender, of job applicants and those interviewed and appointed. Neither of these measures involves quotas. They do not force employers to take on unsuitable people. But they do force them to publicly come to terms with their own record on gender equality. To me, that is all part of the crucial interaction between legislation and changing attitudes.”
To embark on a scientific career, girls need to choose the right GCSEs and A Levels.
Girls of that age are susceptible to peer pressure but also are very open to the influence of role models. Professor Karen Halford from this University’s Engineering Department makes an exceptional contribution mentoring young girls into engineering. The only problem is that we need to clone her hundreds of times over. Again, in England, the Government has run a “Not Just for Boys” campaign on career options.
I’m also a huge fan of the “Inspiring Women” programme set up by Miriam Gonzalez-Durantez, which seeks to show that women can and should work across professions and industries in which they are traditionally under-represented.