In 1910, an international conference of socialist women decided that an annual day for women should be held, highlighting gender-based inequalities. The following year saw the first International Women's Day and since 1914 it has taken place globally every 8th March.
While progress has been made over the years, not least around female suffrage, inequalities persist. #MeToo highlighted the scale of hidden sexual violence and the ongoing failure of our systems to provide justice to those affected by discrimination.
Yet, inequalities also remain in the open. Organisations employing more than 250 people are now required to publish gender pay gap figures, which across the UK is currently estimated to be around 18.4%. Unfortunately the picture in Crawley is somewhat worse.
While Crawley Borough Council has a median gender pay gap of 0%, meaning that across the council as a whole the average wages of men and women are the same, figures suggest the town itself has the second largest pay gap in the UK, with the average wages in Crawley for male employees being half again what their female colleagues earn. That impact on take home pay is before we consider the fact that cuts to public services and social security have impacted women harder than men over the last eight years.
Only a Labour Government is committing to closing the gap, requiring companies employing over 250 workers to show what action they are taking to deliver pay equality or else face fines. There will be those who claim this is illiberal or anti-business, yet Governments are required to act when systems fail to fix themselves and the same objections have been made every time an individual has sought to be judged on their merits and not the circumstances of their birth. Ultimately, enough ink has been spilt discussing the problem, a Labour Government will act.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council