Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cameron's Cabinet Reshuffle: Not Exactly a Big Leap for Gender Equality

In Cameron's much hyped Cabinet "reshuffle for women" the Prime Minister reportedly told Sky News the selection of appointments "reflects modern Britain" as he listed his four female cabinet ministers - Home Secretary, Education Secretary, Agriculture Secretary, Development Secretary.  However, if you look at the facts beyond the hype you will see that actually just two more women have been promoted to be full members of Cabinet, taking the percentage of women to 23 per cent, and only returning us to 2011 levels.

National gender equality campaign group the Fawcett Society were quick to respond to the media spin highlighting that even developing countries have better proportions than women in cabinet than we do. Quoted by Huffington Post as "concerned" by the ongoing gender divide in parliament, Fawcett Society's head of policy and campaigns Daisy Sands emphasised "With only 23% of full Cabinet members female the country is still being run overwhelmingly by men." With a population where 52% are female how can this be seen to be reflecting modern Britain?

When it was announced that Baroness Stowell, who has been promoted to Leader of the House of Lords, would have less status and pay than her male predecessor, Fawcett Society  quite rightly called on the government to take concrete action. Subsequently, the Conservative Party announced they will make up the difference in pay for Baroness Stowell from party funds.

A further blow to gender equality came via the endlessly sexist coverage of the reshuffle by the Mail and other publications who felt the most important point to comment on during the reshuffle was the fashion sense of the newly named women in cabinet.

The Women's Organisation join Fawcett Society and any other reasonable human being in the UK in the feeling of disgust at the misogynistic media coverage of the reshuffle, particularly by the Mail, and urging David Cameron to look deeper at the gender divide in this country to address the real issues.  We feel that women should have an equal voice in parliament, in leadership and management positions within business, equal pay and equal rights. The Women's Organisation would be interested to see what the governments plans are to tackle these important issues moving forward. 

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