Today’s columnist, Patrick Meleady: Gender equality benefits everyone

Patrick Mileady
Patrick Mileady
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The Press have highlighted that out of 650 MPs only 148 are women and there have only ever been 370 female MPs and it will be 155 years before there will be equal numbers in the Commons.

This gender inequality is unacceptable, along with the preference to focus public debate about gender equality mainly on women’s access to top positions and high-powered career opportunities, despite the fact that this “glass ceiling” is only a small part of the issue.

The broader question is whether women have the same opportunities as men to participate in labour markets in the first place.

In other words, are women empowered to contribute fully to local, regional, national and global economic growth and prosperity?

Are they treated with equality in communities, socially and in the home, or are they being forced to take on secondary roles and to carry out unequal tasks, such as looking after children and older dependent relatives?

Women in the UK account for most unpaid work, and when they are paid, they are over-represented in the informal sector and among the poor.

The limited help towards costs for childcare and out-of-school playcare and open-access play also has a detrimental impact on women being able to take up work in many instances. Meeting childcare needs still falls to women in our gender-divided society.

Women continue to be paid less than men for the same jobs, even in OECD countries, where the average gender wage gap is about 16 per cent.

And in many countries, distortions and discrimination in the labour market restrict women’s chances of equal pay as well as their rising to senior positions, as the International Monetary Fund’s studies show.

This is bad news for everyone too, because it translates into lower economic growth, as raising women’s labour-market participation rate, boosts economic performance in a number of ways. For example, higher incomes for women lead to higher household spending on educating and caring for children which are key prerequisites for faster long-term growth and family well-being.

Gender equality benefits everyone, including MPs.