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Women's equality: clock is turning back as cuts bite, says Fawcett Society

(102 Posts)
ttosca Fri 18-Nov-11 11:24:51

Life-raft policies must be drawn up to counter worst threat 'in living memory' to women's hard-won rights, says charity

Women's financial security and human rights are under attack on a scale not seen in "living memory" due to the coalition's austerity measures, according to a report released today.

Backed by more than 20 charities, unions and academics, the report by the Fawcett Society shows how the cuts are pushing women out of the workforce, driving down their income and undermining hard-won access to justice and protection from violence.

The report, A Life Raft for Women's Equality, offers key policy recommendations to reverse the impact the cuts will have on women's jobs, benefits and key services as state services are withdrawn.

The report is published on the same day that the home secretary, Theresa May – who is also minister for women and equalities – outlines the government's approach to women and the economy.

May will announce an ambitious plan to recruit and train 5,000 volunteer business mentors to help women who want to start or grow their own businesses.

"Business people tell us that they want to take advice from other business people. So the business mentors will be experienced individuals who can provide tailored advice and support. They will be a huge help to women entrepreneurs," May is to say.

Anna Bird, acting chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: "Our report identifies a series of targeted and achievable policy measures that could be adopted by, or at, the 2012 budget, which together offer a life raft for women's equality – and never has the need been so great.

"Women have not faced a greater threat to their financial security and rights in living memory. Decades of steady, albeit slow, progress on equality is being dismantled, as cuts to women's jobs and the benefits and services they rely on, turn back time on women's equality."

The number of women out of work is at a 23-year high, with cutbacks in the public sector hitting women particularly hard: two-thirds of the 130,000 jobs lost in local authorities since the first quarter of 2010 were held by women.

"Women up and down the country are experiencing greater hardship. For those families affected, the cuts to women's jobs, services and benefits will represent a personal loss," said Bird. "But we must add to this the cost to wider society as women's opportunities are scaled back.

"Fewer women working, a widening gap in pay between women and men, entrenchment of outdated gender roles at work and at home, and women being forced into a position where they must increasingly rely on a main breadwinner or the state for financial subsidy – this is the picture that emerges when the many policies of economic austerity are stitched together."

The report calls on the government to restore support for childcare costs for low-income families to the level before April 2011. This, says Bird, would "help ensure paid employment makes financial sense for the many low-income women who've found they are better off not working".

Another recommendation is ring-fencing funds for Sure Start centres. "This would further protect women's access to employment and shore up the other vital benefits these centres offer thousands of families," said Bird.

The society calls on the coalition to stop local authorities from treating violence against women services as a soft touch for cuts. "We need to ensure some of the most vulnerable women in the UK have access to the support they need," said Bird.

Signatories to the report include Eaves Housing for Women, the End Violence Against Women coalition, Unison, Child Poverty Action Group, Daycare Trust, White Ribbon Campaign UK, and Rape Crisis.

"We need urgent action to stop women being ground down by the government's devastating cuts," said Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary. "Women's jobs and pensions are under serious attack. They are being hit hard by unemployment, the rising cost of living and cuts to benefits and services to young people."

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, agreed. "Child poverty and the incomes and services women are able to access are intrinsically linked. The vast majority of child benefit is received by women, whether as the main carer in a couple, or as a single parent.

"It is hugely unfair that such a large burden of the government's cuts should be falling on the shoulders of women and children, and it would be profoundly wrong if these unfair cuts to child benefit became permanent."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Fairness is facing up to the reality of the financial situation we are in and not leaving our children to pick up the bill. This government is protecting services for the most vulnerable and focusing resources where they are most needed and most effective.

"We are taking 1.1 million of the lowest-paid workers – most of whom are women – out of income tax altogether, introducing flexible parental leave and extending flexible working, and taking action to reduce the gender pay gap."

• This article was amended on 4 November 2011. It originally stated that extra money was being made available by the government for the business mentoring scheme. This has been corrected.

sakura Thu 08-Dec-11 14:29:39

The black civil rights abolitionists didn't do anything for black people.

It was white men that saved black people. It would have happened anyway.



sakura Thu 08-Dec-11 14:27:52

and lol that the women's revolution would have happened without feminism
P. M. S. L
CHeck out some pics of groups of men holding down women and force feeding them. OR policemen battering the suffragists on the street.
THe British government was an embarrasment. It chose to kill women rather than give them the vote.
That's how much men "cooperated!
Jeez, talk about re-writing history. THe patriarchy are great propagandrists.

sakura Thu 08-Dec-11 14:25:05

women are hit harder because of their caring responsibilites. This fancy idea that men take on an equal share of the childcare is out of touch with reality. Many men don't stick around. Many more men are abusers (just check out the statistics: there's a lot of men out there you don't want anywhere near children, let alone caring for them!)
Governments are happy taking the taxes of the workers that women's bodies produce, and happy to send their sons to war, but not happy to provide a safety net for the women, even though they jeapordize their chances of a good job in order to produce the citizens and soldiers.
Anyone who thinks getting pregnant doesn't affect your career is in cloud cuckoo land. You can't travel, probably can't take a promotion and you probably won't get the job if you turn up to an interview pregnant. Oh yeah they say they don't discriminate but a company can always find a premise not to hire the pregnant woman, and do so all the time.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
People like moondog will be saying abortion is not a women's issue next lol

breadandbutterfly Fri 25-Nov-11 13:16:25


Obviously other factors have influenced women's position in society other than the conscious efforts of a feminist movement that defines itself as such - that does not negate its importance. It's more or less impossible to argue that without the suffragettes women would have got the vote as early as they did, if at all. Re the 'domestic idyll' of the 1950s, you fly in the face of agreed opinion by social historians of the period and feminist historians (yes, I have studied women's history) - that's not to deny that the 2nd WW had a longer-term impact nor to state that no women in the 50s worked - neverthless, your generalisation is simply not backed up by the statistics on women working outside the home in that period.

I suspect the jury is still out on precisely who the sexual revolution benefitted - indeed I'm not expecting the jury to agree on this one any time soon, as it's clearly rather a personal opinion. smile

Always interesting to discuss women's history/feminism - though fear we are taking the thread even further off topic than before. Ooops.

rycooler Fri 25-Nov-11 10:10:34

And apologies for astronomic typos -

rycooler Fri 25-Nov-11 10:08:50

No, whatever you think feminism has achieved would have happened anyway -
social advancement happens for all sorts of reasons, WW2 being one example ( and the 1950's housewife was a media image - we still have that to contend with today ) - the advancement in technology is another example, women can do jobs that just weren't physically possible years ago - labour saving devices meant women had more time, the demise of heavy industry meant more 'female friendly' jobs were available and women were more in demand - there's nothing I can pinpoint that feminists have achieved totally on there own. Maybe the sexual revolution - but who were the winners there? - men.

breadandbutterfly Thu 24-Nov-11 21:16:13

rycooler - revise history of women's equality please.

Too many errors in your post:- eg contrary to your statement, the 1950s were in fact the era of the 'domestic idyll' when women did indeed choose to return en masse to the kitchen; indeed, in those days, in many professions women lost their jobs automatically on marriage (eg teaching). As a woman, I am eternally grateful that I was born in the 1970s and not before - feminism (particularly the equal pay acts of the 70s) made a HUGE difference to the lives of ordinary women, and their ability to support themselves without needing to rely on a man. The introduction of effective birth control in the 60s obviously played a part too.

Feminism goes well back before the 2nd WW, Ry - eg the suffragettes, say, are a good example of earlier feminism. Mary Wollstonecraft, say, with her Vindication of the Rights of Women, was an early (18th C) feminist - no idea why you think that something that happened in the Victorian era could have had no contribution from feminism.

rycooler Thu 24-Nov-11 13:00:37

TT - You said if it wasn't for feminism you wouldn't have a career - I thought it was WW2 that changed the lives of women in this country? - after the war women weren't prepared to go back into the kitchen and be just housewives, they wanted more - that period of history was a turning point for women and had nothing to do with feminism.
Also, you implied if it wasn't for feminism you wouldn't have had an education? I thought the Victorians introduced free schooling for all?

<< confused >>

breadandbutterfly Thu 24-Nov-11 08:26:26

True, but still saintly compared to the properly rich - which I wouldn't class you as - who really don't need the money by any stretch of the imagination, but still claim it.

I'm not feeling at all guilty about claiming my CB though - (a) we do definitely need it! and (b) having found out that we're net tax contributors by over 5K (see my other thread on this) even when the CB is taken into account, I feel fairly entitled (horrible word) to claim my £188/month.

twinklytroll Thu 24-Nov-11 00:00:08

I still don't think it is an amazing act, as I said it is only £20 a week, it is not going to transform our lives. Perhaps if I had 3 and it was a bigger sum I may be entitled to a small halo grin

breadandbutterfly Wed 23-Nov-11 22:11:53

twinklytroll - just to clarify, it was your not claiming your CB despite not having loads of cash to splash I referred to as saintly, not your decision to only have one child, which is your business - but I have 3 and don't regard myself as somehow less 'saintly' as a result of that. grin

Solopower Wed 23-Nov-11 20:05:25

Twinklytroll, I'd be very happy for you to teach my children smile.

Why oh why oh why <rant warning> do women have to attack each other?

We are half the population, so it would be strange if we agreed on everything. But if one person has a hard life, does it help her if other people are struggling too? I think it would make more sense for us to try to make things better for everyone - men and children included. To me that means not working so hard that you never see your family.

I am hugely grateful to the feminists of the past who have made things so much better for most women. But the job isn't done until we can achieve a reasonable work-life balance, imo.

We don't have to accept overwork as the norm. And step one in not accepting that is being happy for women who don't have to. Step two is doing our best to work for change in our own workplaces so that we don't have to either.

twinklytroll Wed 23-Nov-11 18:41:29

Feminism has served me well, without feminism I would have no career or means of independence. Because I had a career and an education when my husband fucked off and left me penniless I was able to support myself and give my daughter the life she deserves.

I have no desire to become a man, I love being a woman. I also love living with a man who is my best friend so no desire to eradicate them .

rycooler Wed 23-Nov-11 11:54:04

<< breathing into a paper bag as we speak >>

JuliaScurr Wed 23-Nov-11 11:26:15

Steady, rycooler - remember what happened last time. Deep breaths and step away from the keyboard.

rycooler Wed 23-Nov-11 08:09:30

I sometimes think feminism is the worst thing that ever happened to women - despite all the advances in equal rights etc it's left so many women very angry and dissatisfied - plus some feminists really won't be happy until they either become a man or men are totally eradicated from society.

twinklytroll Tue 22-Nov-11 23:32:34

Nonsense maypole. I work a full day and come home to a clean house and sorted child. I am not aware that having a penis affects your ability to do the dusting and put tea on.

maypole1 Tue 22-Nov-11 23:28:05

Women don't have equality all we got is the chance to work a full day before cleaning and sorting the kids
They should of left well alone

When we finally come round to the fact we are equal but different we shall all be much more happy

twinklytroll Tue 22-Nov-11 23:21:20

I hardly think it is saintly to plan your family carefully. I suspect that is what most of us do. It is also hardly saintly to not take money that you don't need. When we needed it we took it, when we didn't need it we didn't. It is hardly a large some of money when you earn a decent wage. I suspect that in these times of dire financial straits more people will make a similar decision. If I was turning down a lottery win that would be a different matter, £20 a week is hardly a big deal.

breadandbutterfly Tue 22-Nov-11 18:19:50

twinklytroll - you sound very saintly. smile

JuliaScurr Tue 22-Nov-11 18:06:06

Bonsoir we may be disturbingly close to agreement <mops brow>

Bonsoir Tue 22-Nov-11 16:32:41

I think women have already tried that tactic, moondog. Only they found it pretty difficult to bring up their children and work full time, so the state stepped in where men had failed to live up to expectations.

moondog Tue 22-Nov-11 15:20:03

Well you want top down change to override private concerns.
I think this is a worryingly totalitarian approach.
If women stopped having families and making homes with men who don't pull their weight, that would effect more change than yet another bossy state funded government directive.

JuliaScurr Tue 22-Nov-11 11:32:41

moondog obviously I'm not happy about it, but the question remains - how can it be changed? Seriously, how? It is politically possible to increase state provision, not so easy to enforce domestic labour division.

Bonsoir Tue 22-Nov-11 07:53:38

rabbitstew - Work does not usually fit around family in the developed world where the vast majority of people work in or with large institutions with set working hours. That is not going to change and I think it is very important to realise that this is the case.

Individuals do, however, have some degree of choice as to the volume of institutional constraints they load upon their family. If you want to build more flexibility into your work/life balance, living in very close physical proximity to work and school is one of the easiest ways to do so. The English model, of multiple long family commutes, is immensely onerous and constraining.

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