Katy Gordon, our top list candidate in the West of Scotland for the 2016 elections, marks International Women's Day:
I’m speaking at a hustings to celebrate International Womens Day tonight, so I have been reflecting on where we are as a society and a party on gender parity.
To be honest, the issue that really makes me the most outraged is that, nearly 50 years after the Equal Pay Act, women are still paid on average 80% of what men earn. I can’t actually believe that politicians of all parties haven’t managed to get this sorted by now. After all, Vince Cable as Lib Dem Secretary of State for Business managed to force our biggest UK companies to massively increase the number of women on their company boards from a shockingly low 12% to a still low but much improved 24%, in 4 short years, just by telling them he would legislate for quotas if they didn’t get their act together. Now we are pushing for 30% but I’d like to see it go still further. My worry is, without the Lib Dems in government at Westminster, the Tories will slow down all the progress we made in the past few years.
We should be doing the same with equal pay. There should be no delay in implementing the mandatory gender pay audits in companies with 250+ staff. We should also be looking at whether to extend this right to smaller companies. There is a lot the Scottish Government can do to encourage business and the public sector to take gender parity seriously, from writing conditions into contracts to promoting gender balanced representation on all public sector bodies. Paying the Living Wage in all public sector bodies would also help women particularly, and I’d love to see the SNP go further in this than just the care sector.
However, it is not all bad. Thanks to our excellent ministers in government at Westminster, we introduced shared parental leave, which means employers will no longer be able to assume that women of child bearing age might duck out of the workplace to have children. It should stop the continuing discrimination against women on maternity leave, because it might just be dads that are staying home instead. Our team also brought in the right to ask for flexible working for all employees, which again should start to create a cultural shift in thinking about caring responsibilities, which frequently fall mainly to women.
In politics in Scotland, we do now have a female First Minister, 3 out of the 4 main party leaders are women and there is much more awareness of the importance of both sides of the gender divide being in the room at decision making times. I was so proud of our party leader, Willie Rennie, at our conference in February. He laid his reputation on the line to commit our party to radical steps to increase the gender balance of our parliamentarians. By voting to allow all women shortlists and the creation of a diversity fund, our party recognised that liberal values are not at odds with positive action, if the alternative is doing harm. I look forward to encouraging a new generation of women to take their place alongside our excellent Lib Dem male parliamentarians at Holyrood, Brussels and at Westminster.
So as I take to the stage tonight, I will be thinking, we’ve done a lot in a few short years in government, we’ve helped take the cause of women forward, we are making great strides as a party, but we should never let our ambition to do better falter by not reaching for the moon because we have the stars…..