Unless the Welsh Government acts Covid-19 could erase the progress we’ve made for women

Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

Sian Gwenllian, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Arfon

Two years ago First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, announced that he wanted to see Wales as the first feminist country in Europe and the safest place to be a woman.

Since then, the Women’s Equality Network has been tracking progress having identified the areas Welsh Government can influence and today the second Feminist Scorecard was published in a virtual meeting of 50 delegates hosted by myself and Suzy Davies as co-chairs of the Senedd’s Cross-Party Group on Women.

The danger is that any small steps taken in the right direction over the past two years will disappear as the clock is turned backwards as a result of the present crisis. More and more women will seek help against violent partners and the childcare sector, so vital to women, is being forgotten in the crisis with many providers saying they won’t be around when lock-down is lifted.

Hopefully it is not all doom and gloom. Perhaps, only perhaps, the pandemic will lead to a change in attitudes and key workers will be respected and paid according to their worth in the future and women will undoubtedly benefit should this be the case.

Women make up a large proportion of key workers. Women make up 80% of those employed as health and social care workers. The Women’s Equality Network has identified the gender pay gap as one of the six themes that needs to be addressed urgently in order to advance equality. The gender pay gap stands at 14.5% in Wales. A pay rise for social care workers, real term wage increases for NHS workers and an end to zero-hours contracts could see that pay gap begin to diminish. This may just be that little bit more achievable after the Covid crisis is over.

 

Small strides

Another of the themes identified by WEN is domestic violence against women. This stubbornly persists as a sign of deep inequality which is at the heart of our society. Too many men see women as their property that they can abuse physically and mentally. The small steps that have been taken in the right direction are in danger of disappearing. When we come out of this lock-down, many more women will seek refuge and support.

In a typical week, Wales’ police forces will see 200 cases of domestic violence a week. Worryingly, at the start of the crisis, less cases were being reported: not because there were less incidents but because women found it difficult to report. When we come out of lock-down, that number will surge. Will our services be able to cope?

The Welsh Government needs to be preparing now for that increased demand. Last year 512 women were turned away from refuges compared to 431 the previous year. The system was not coping then and so it’s vital that the right support be in place in anticipation of the big increase in demand post-Covid.

Another sector that must be supported more robustly by the Welsh Government during this time of crisis is our childcare sector. Due to their mixed public, private and charitable status there are many childcare settings that are struggling to obtain government funding, place their staff on furlough, and secure the future of the setting. It’s a sector that is falling through the cracks. Bespoke financial support packages need to be put in place, before its too late.

Otherwise, when people start returning to work, there won’t be enough childcare provision and undoubtedly, it’ll be the women who will stay at home. The small strides made so far will have disappeared with the bat of an eyelid.

The WEN event gave organisations from across Wales an opportunity to highlight these current challenges. We must hold on to the vision of Wales as a feminist country and we must insist that gender inequalities be addressed. We need ambitious policy interventions and a renewed focus on action and implementation.

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Simon Gruffydd
Guest

A lot of people are using this panic-demic to further their political agendas. feminists, unfortunately, are no exception. The fact is that feminism represents a shrinking minority of women in Britain, (just 9% of British women actively describe themselves as a feminist). Perhaps they should cease from belittling women who want to raise healthy families instead of competing in corporate board rooms. Yet what the feminist’s lobby holds in common with other supporters of lockdown is their enthusiasm for authoritarianism – the right of a powerful minority to suppress and control the majority. Alarm bells should be ringing.

Gruff Williams
Guest
Gruff Williams

“The gender pay gap stands at 14.5% in Wales.” Why is that?

John Evans
Guest
John Evans

specifically where is this 14.5% pay gap? I have worked in over seventeen different jobs and never once been payed any different (more) than the women I worked with apart from a couple of times where as an agency worker my female counterparts on full contracts were earning £120 more per week which is an agency issue not a male /female pay issue. Where exactly does this pay gap exist. Examples please or I cannot accept this statistic.

Plain citizen
Guest
Plain citizen

Every study on the gender pay gap based on evidence not feelings refutes it in the true sense of refute as in to demonstrate not to be true. Women earn less than men on average because they have less experience and work less hours due to lifestyle choices mostly to do with children and family. Eg if a Health Trust advertises for a heart surgeon with 6 years experience most male candidates will be younger because they have not had time off for family reasons. Until you alter basic biology (the feminist and transgender lobby’s next step) that will not… Read more »

Eifion
Guest
Eifion

Waffla ‘mlaen ddinesydd holl-wybodus

Plain citizen
Guest
Plain citizen

Very witty. Why don’t you challenge my argument and contentions with fact and logic before you crawl back into your safe space. Because you can’t. A bit cowardly sheltering behind the language in this instance. Reply in English and Welsh if you want to show off your multi lingual dexterity.
You should be ashamed.
You are portraying the image of a none too bright bigot but I’m sure you will want to show you’re not

Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

If some ground has been lost during this crisis then it can be identified and remedied. All we are getting so far is emotive unquantified preaching. Too much talk of righting perceived wrongs while the really wronged people are still waiting for decent homes and conditions after a season of shocking bad weather and years of exploitation in employment. But well to do politicians and talking heads prefer to set off on some ishoo laden “journey” each trying to outdo each other with the intensity of their commitment, until the next fashionable ishoo comes along.

Sarah Rees
Guest
Sarah Rees

Having children is not a lifestyle choice. Parents have children, yet it doesn’t impact men’s careers does it?

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

To me it’s all the same. If a person is competent, that’s it. The more highly educated Welsh women, the better.

Neil McEvoy
Guest
Neil McEvoy

I enquired last week about the cleaners on the Assembly estate getting a pay rise to reflect the dangers they have faced and are facing with Covid-19. Most are female and are not white. During my time in Plaid Cymru, I heard plenty of talk about the lack of female directors on company boards, but nothing about low paid female cleaners. Also, when I stood up for the mother & child being evicted in Pentrebane some years ago, not a single Plaid AM assisted. Instead, they supported those doing the evicting. None of them enquired how they could support the… Read more »

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

I wish you well, but you should be color blind if you wish the WNP to blossom. Poor is poor whatever.

Neil McEvoy
Guest
Neil McEvoy

It was a statement of fact, not an attempt to virtue signal like others. My concern was a result of health and pay.

Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

like I said above – …..”But well to do politicians and talking heads prefer to set off on some ishoo laden “journey” each trying to outdo each other with the intensity of their commitment, until the next fashionable ishoo comes along.” That’s the sort of nonsense you have had to confront ad nauseam with those careerists at Y Cynulliad and their shadowy cluster of supporters. As for race, most of us who avoid banging on about it every day are the ones who deal with people of any ethnicities without prejudice. Patronising virtue signallers are the kind of jokers who… Read more »

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

Neil’s right about the women’s equality campaign being weighted in emphasis towards professional jobs, to the neglect of those at the bottom end of the world of work — the ones who most need their support. The same is true in London, a friend there told me. The campaigners have ignored them and are still concentrating on the glass ceiling.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Sounds fair. Thank you for replying.

Jonesy
Guest
Jonesy

Men are also key workers, postmen, lorry drivers, carers, dutbinmen. Plaid getting it wrong again. Bang bang,! Not much of that foot left.

Jonathan Edwards
Guest
Jonathan Edwards

“when people start returning to work, there won’t be enough childcare provision and undoubtedly, it’ll be the women who will stay at home.” Why is this bad? It is what children want. (Though an inconvenient truth, suppressed or evaded). And, having tried it, we will find out that mothers want it (Though they will remain afraid to say so). The feminist model of marrying the state and excluding the father and exalting single motherhood is fine. As an opinion. As an assertion. But it is not necessarily correct. We have a generation of experience of this assertion now. Its not… Read more »

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Hoping E. Warren gets to be vice president. Would be very encouraging for us all.

Siân
Guest
Siân

These comments, many from men makes rather depressing reading. I thought we’d come a little further than this in Wales!. I agree that in the past women’s groups have been too middle class and lower paid women had been ignored but there’s a greater sense of solidarity now and Covid 19 will have highlighted the valuable work that the mainly female health and social care workers undertake, often on appalling contracts with different employers. Let’s work together for a better more equal Wales and stop denying that inequality exists.

CapM
Guest
CapM

It’s likely that the depressing comments come from old men. Imagining their opinions to be radical rather than reactionary.

Jonathan Edwards
Guest
Jonathan Edwards

Personally, I go by the evidence. What do you do?

CapM
Guest
CapM

Go by experience over a number of years in various social and work environments.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Finnish PM has kids and career, so has health minister (4!), Education, Trade and industry, Social Serv, and Law
all women and mostly young. And do you know what? It’s so normal that you don’t notice until prodded.