To the point - Stand up for women

equality, families, UK politics

Author(s):  Nick Pearce
Published date:  14 May 2012
Source:  Nursery World

Ever heard of Laura Trott? Probably not. She isn't a household name. But she has a very important job - she's David Cameron's new special adviser on women.

Public spending cuts have hit women particularly hard. Many have lost their jobs in the public sector. The number of unemployed women has risen by 100,000 in the past year, reaching its highest level since 1987. Women are also on the sharp end of tax credit and child benefit cuts. The Fawcett Society calculates that 70 per cent of the money saved in the March Budget will come from women, with single mothers losing a twelfth of their net annual income by 2015.

Historically, those public services used and staffed predominantly by women have had less political clout. Yet women make up the majority of public service users. They have specific health and care needs during pregnancy and maternity, but much of the female dependency on services is due to the unfinished revolutions in gender relations. Despite women's increased participation in the workforce, they are still more likely to be primary carers, lone parents, and are at higher risk of domestic violence.

We need to prioritise discussions about how our shrinking public services can be mobilised to reshape the gender debate. As resources become more scarce, we need to ensure that men and women are able to achieve the equal status and worth that they seek at work and in the public sphere, as well as to share jointly in the endeavour of raising their children.

Family, work and care policies are critical to this. Universal childcare and family-friendly work policies in the Scandinavian countries reflect the influence of feminists on mainstream social democratic parties in the 1970s.

The challenge for Trott is to advocate the necessary support for women without reinforcing self-perpetuating narratives of women as exclusive or primary owners of 'female' issues such as care, child rearing or even childbirth. The deep changes we have seen in gender roles in Britain in the past 30 years are irreversible -the task now is to finish the job.

 
 

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