Pledge your support for equality on this International Women’s day

all-mepsToday is International Women’s Day, and the theme this year is Pledge for Parity. The campaign is calling for everyone, regardless of their field, to support gender equality at work and at home.

This is a brilliant way of approaching inequality, for all of us to commit to stand up for female colleagues made to feel uncomfortable about taking maternity leave, and to speak against comments that undermine the abilities of women in the office or in the pub.

I am saddened that women are still so under-represented in my field, politics. Globally, just 17% of government ministers are women. In the UK parliament, only 29% of MPs are women, although Labour has the best gender balance with over 40% of our MPs being female.

David Cameron has declared that he wants a world where his daughter earns the same as her male colleagues when she enters the world of work, and I want the same for my daughter and granddaughter.

I suggest that he starts by having a word with his own MEPs – only last year, Tory MEPs voted against a report that called for companies to publish their gender pay gap.

We also know that women are disproportionately affected by Tory austerity. There were 5,038 convictions for violence against women and girls in the East Midlands in 2014, but we have seen alarmingly deep cuts to public services. As a result of local authority cuts, 33 domestic violence shelters were axed under the Tory led coalition. When the stakes are this high, political representation for women is even more important.

I am proud to say that Labour are leading the way in the European Parliament, with a majority of female MEPs, while the parliament as a whole has 37%.  I sincerely hope that equal representation will become the norm in the near future.

The EU and the work of your Labour MEPs is a really important part of our progression to equality – It was EU legislation that stopped employers from sacking pregnant women, gave women the right to equal pay and made restraining orders applicable EU wide to protect victims of domestic violence.

Although progress is being made, the fact that a third of the UK parliament was female still made headline news after the 2015 election. If women being half our population but having a third of our MPs is something to be celebrated then we clearly have a long way to go, but I can assure you that Labour will carry on fighting for equality at UK and EU level.”

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