Taking Fawcett forward

jacky flemming

It’s the end of my first week as the new Chief Executive and I am already getting to grips with what Fawcett’s future agenda will be and how it could take shape. So I thought I’d share a few early thoughts with you.

For our 150th anniversary next year we’re focussing on the theme of speeding up the pace of change. We’ll be learning from our past, but looking back so that we can move forward.  We cannot wait another 150 years to make gender equality a reality.  But our focus at Fawcett won’t only be on our analysis of the problem but evidence-based solutions that will make a real difference.

No surprises here, but we are going to continue to work on the central themes of money and power covering issues such as the pay gap and women’s representation in parliament and public life.  We also want to do more on challenging gender norms, stereotypes and discrimination. But within these themes we want to pay particular attention to issues affecting younger women, older women and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women.

For young women the issues may be the constrained choice of school subjects or career; living on a low income and moving into paid work; or concern about objectification, relationships, harassment and abuse. In the coming year we want to work with young women to develop Fawcett’s agenda and make it relevant to their lives, hearing what they say.

We know that the pay gap really widens when women become mothers. I’m interested in how we can support dads who want to spend more time caring for their children; and the financial penalty women face over their lifetime, especially if caring for children or another relative and how that becomes a pensions gap. We will also look at the experience women have of social care.

Older women often experience multiple discrimination as do BAME women so Fawcett needs to consider their experiences in particular, both in terms of the economy but also to get more BAME women into positions of power and influence.

One of our key themes as we go forward will be the number of women getting into senior positions and into power, removing barriers to progression and recognising how we can best nurture talent.

So we are going to use the run up to the local elections next year to move the spotlight from Westminster to our town halls. Local government spends nearly a quarter (23%) of the public purse and is often where future MPs and ministers cut their teeth. For this work we want to develop and grow our local groups as they can have a real impact in their own communities.

We want to build our case based on evidence, grow our impact, extend our reach and become a resource for feminists, campaigners and partners, including government, employers and all those who want to achieve a more equal society. I can tell I’m going to enjoy this!


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Sam Smethers
Chief Executive, The Fawcett Society