In this week’s annual International Women’s Day debate in Parliament I paid tribute to Newport’s Lady Rhondda and spoke about continuing gender inequality in society, and the experiences of women during the pandemic. The transcript of my speech is copied below in bold.
International Women’s Day and this debate is a chance for us to both celebrate those who came before us, and to commit to fight for a better future for the women to come.
And in celebrating those who came before us can I start by putting on record my appreciation to the fantastic inspiring women of the Lady Rhondda statue group, led by the feisty campaigner Julie Nicholas, who are fundraising for a statue of Lady Rhondda in Newport as one of the next statues in the Welsh Monumental women campaign. Newport East’s Lady Rhondda was a famous suffragette, who campaigned for women to take their seats in the Lords, was described as the greatest woman businesswoman woman of her era, editor of Time and Tide magazine which pushed gender equality, and even survived the sinking of the Lusitania – anyone of these achievements would have secured her place in history but she did it all, and fitting we celebrate her in this way as “you can’t be what you can’t see”.
I’d also like to take a moment to thank all those dedicated women on the frontline as key workers in the pandemic in my constituency – as women are twice as likely as men to be key workers in Wales. I also want to put on record my thanks to Judith Padget and Sarah Aitken at Aneurin Bevan Health Board, Jane Mudd, Newport council leader and Pam Kelly, Gwent’s Chief constable and all those carrying the enormous responsibility in their leadership roles in this unprecedented year.
I want to highlight research by Welsh gender equality charity Chwarae Teg in their third State of the Nation Report report which monitors the impact of women’s experiences and thank them for the focus this brings on ensuring we are not complacent. The effect of sector shutdowns, business closures, and unemployment is falling disproportionately on women. Young women in particular are more likely to lose their jobs in retail and hospitality. Women are also more likely to have been furloughed and 70,000 pregnant women and new mothers have been discriminated against in the SEISS schemes. It also shows how women of colour have been excluded from support schemes and have been hit particularly hard in their employment. And as we know women are more likely to carry out the caring responsibilities and home-schooling. And, as Chwarae Teg points out, now is not the time for this Government to be suspending Gender Pay Reporting. If we don’t know the scale of the problem, we can’t address it and that – in the words of the Women and Equalities Committee – “this should have been a time for more – not less – transparency.” The government should review the impact of its policies on women and this wasn’t addressed in the economic response to the budget last week. Recovery from covid must be an equal recovery.