International Women’s Day

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 8th March 2018.

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Photo of Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

I would like to carry on, thank you.

In addressing why the gender pay gap exists, we must, of course, look at why women are not better represented in the high-level executive jobs that we associate with high pay and big bonuses. Although we may differ on solutions at times, I am sure that we can all agree that it is clear that there are deep-rooted cultural and societal barriers that hold women back from taking top jobs. I strongly believe that, culturally, we are still peddling the same gender stereotypes of what we expect from girls and boys as they grow up. Women are also still faced with the overwhelming societal expectation that they should lead on childcare.

Companies desperately need to incorporate organisational designs that recognise those pressures and bring talented women up through the pipeline. As I have said many times, those companies exist. There is the example of the FDM Group, which is based in Glasgow. As politicians, we must seek out exemplary businesses and champion them in a way that encourages others.

International women’s day is not just about the UK, of course. The World Economic Forum’s publication “The Global Gender Gap Report 2017” told us that gender parity is over 200 years away. The wellbeing and status of women across the world is therefore central to our fight.

To put things into context, globally, one in three women has experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse; it is believed that one in five girls is married before the age of 18; around two thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women; and, in developing countries and rural areas, agriculture remains the most important employment sector for women. That sector largely falls within the informal economy, and it has little or no social protection or labour rights. I am pleased that UK aid-funded programmes are working with organisations across the world to end violence against women and girls and to challenge the discriminatory practices that hold women back in family life, education and their working lives.

We must always strive to do more. Creating a life for millions of women in which they do not feel discriminated against, or in danger or still miss out on their desired opportunities, should be an aim that transcends this chamber and beyond.

It would not be right for me not to wish everyone a happy international women’s day. I wish my mum the same. She is an inspiration to me—and I would have got it in the neck if I had not mentioned her.

As elected representatives, we all have a duty to work together as a Parliament and, indeed, in countries across the world to do more to achieve full equality for women. We sense that the tide is turning, but we should never be complacent. We are 200 years away from achieving gender equality, and that is 200 years too long.

I move amendment S5M-10851.1, to insert after “globally;”:

“notes that more girls are studying STEM subjects and law but more must be done to retain and promote women, as men still dominate these fields at senior levels; welcomes the work of the UK Government to address issues such as the gender pay gap;”.