Featherstone rallies conference on equal rights
Minister for Equalities Lynne Featherstone pledged to fight to reduce the gender pay gap and outlined a vision where half of all board directors are women in a speech at the Liberal Democrats party conference yesterday.
Featherstone, who is giving the keynote speech at Workingmums.co.uk's Top Employers Awards on 5 October, said that she planned to ensure that equality lasts for the long term which meant things like flexible working and discrimination should not be sidelined or characterised as just “women’s issues” or “gay issues”.
She spoke of the gender pay gap, which currently stands at 20% and the problems of women losing their jobs or not getting hired at all because they have children. She also stated that there was “a mountain to climb to achieve fair and flexible working”.
The coalition government has spoken of the need to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.
Featherstone outlined her vision of a world where there was more equality: When you walk into a boardroom and half the Directors are women. When a man, other than Nick Clegg, dropping his kids at the school gates is considered the norm, not the exception. And when Jeremy Clarkson ditches the career in telly to take up equalities training in Leeds.”
She also spoke of the need to tackle “narrow ideas of beauty” which, she said, “put endless pressure onto young boys and girls that can lead to low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders”.
She and colleague Jo Swinson have set up the Campaign for Body Confidence to promote more realistic views of beauty and she says the campaign is having some success, citing Debenhams' decision to no longer use airbrushed models in any of its marketing materials and Channel 4's campaign against airbrushing as examples.