Party Conference Series: Gloria de Piero MP

As part of a series of guest-blogs during the party conferences, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Gloria de Piero MP, tells us what Labour intends to do to tackle the gender pay gap. Keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks for posts from Conservative Minister for Women Nicky Morgan MP and Liberal Democrat Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson MP as the conferences get under-way. 

A thousand women from across the Labour movement and beyond came together this weekend at the start of Labour Party Conference to discuss how we can make life better for women and their families.

Of course as women we don’t all share the same story; but I believe that as women, we are strongest in tackling these challenges when working together, when recognising the common challenges we face however different our lives are.

Here I want to focus on just one of these, equal pay, which will be at the heart of a Labour Government’s priorities.

The fact is, it’s almost half a century since the Equal Pay Act was passed and women are still earning just 80p for every pound a man earns.

When girls are outperforming boys at school, going to university in greater numbers and forging successful careers in every conceivable industry, it’s a hard truth to grasp, but whichever region of the country, whatever the job or position, women are losing out.

Our analysis of official ONS figures has shown women working as carers face up to £100,000 in lost earnings over the course of their lifetime. A woman teacher will lose £166,000 and if you’re a woman working in law or finance, you’ll lose well over £200,000.​

An average twenty something woman will miss out on almost £14,000 during her twenties – a life-changing amount of money.

This is an issue of simple inequality that leaves women poorer and families poorer and we still haven’t cracked it.

Worse, instead of making progress the last four years have seen us slipping backwards.

Between 1997 and 2010 we closed the gap by almost a third. Since 2010 it’s narrowed by just 0.1 per cent overall, and most worryingly, last year the gap rose for women in all types of work and full-time work. For women in their twenties, for whom under the previous Labour government the gap narrowed to just a couple of percent but has doubled since 2010.

Look at the story of this economic recovery and it’s easy to see why this is happening.

The jobs women are getting aren’t the ones we dream about for our daughters and sisters. Forty two per cent of them since 2010 are women registering as self-employed, which should be cause for celebration, until you find out that their average earnings are less than the full time minimum wage.

A quarter of all working women are earning less than the living wage, thousands of women working zero-hours unsure if their hours will be enough to cover childcare from one week to the next.

Tackling the scandal of low pay, restoring the value of the minimum wage, outlawing exploitative zero-hour contracts, these are all actions that will disproportionately benefit women; actions a Labour Government will take if elected next May.

We’ve made huge progress in the past decades, but 44 years since Labour’s Barbara Castle passed the Equal Pay Act, pay discrimination is a reality women still face, but aren’t empowered to challenge.

Government alone won’t be enough, but a Government willing to take action, to make equal pay a priority, and to empower companies and individuals to act can deliver change.​

By bringing in the power to require large companies to publish the average pay of men and women in their organisation, not only will women know if all the highest-paid jobs are being done by men, they’ll also see if they’re being paid less than men doing the same or equivalent work.

Transparency can highlight where more work needs to be done. Whether that’s making sure pay grading properly values the work that women and men do, or to support women to progress up to those top jobs.

There are so many examples of companies and institutions who are getting this right, making progress and the role of Government is to lead this change. Whether that’s tackling the scandal of low pay by significantly increasing the minimum wage and tax breaks for employers to pay the living wage, or empowering individuals to use the laws already in place to challenge discrimination.

Building a fairer economy that works for women and men, people in North and South, families at the bottom as well as the top. These are the issues we are fighting for as a Party, and it’s one of the strengths of the Labour Party that we have so many talented and passionate women to do this.

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Gloria de Piero MP
Gloria de Piero is Labour's Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities