We can do so much more in Wales to tackle gender inequality

An International Women’s Day 2017 protest march. Picture by Molly Adams (CC BY 2.0)

Siân Gwenllian AM

This year’s International Women’s Day takes on a particular significance, arriving as it does in the wake of the Weinstein scandal and the subsequent #MeToo campaign which has changed gender politics forever – and for the better.

What the last months have demonstrated is that women are no longer willing to tolerate sexual harassment, violence, sexism and inequality.

My generation has tried to challenge attitudes and inequalities but with limited success. On the whole, we have been guilty of passively accepting behaviours and established social norms even in the knowledge that they were generating profound inequalities.

We couldn’t sum up enough confidence and courage to challenge the precise problems that were keeping us back. The irony is clear.

But change is happening and the incredible momentum and sense of power created by the #MeToo campaign are set to bring about lasting change.

Young women and young men are challenging previously accepted behaviours. They are challenging stereotypes. They are challenging inequalities.

The core feminist message that each one of us is different and unique, and that each one of us should be allowed to grow to our full potential, freed from irrelevant stereotypical gender constraints is finally being heard.

Difficult

In Wales, the time is ripe to talk about gender inequality and the behavioural and institutional changes that need to happen.

We need a Welsh Ministry for Women to drive forward a National Women’s Action Plan. To drive forward the change that has to happen – and that has accelerated with #MeToo.

And let’s have a National Conversation about sexual harassment. The tragic death of Carl Sargeant which followed allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women and his subsequent sacking from Government may be making it difficult for Assembly Members to want to broach the topic.

But whatever happened, or didn’t happen in this particular case, should not deter us from having that much needed national discussion.

To inform the debate, I would advocate a National Survey about what constitutes sexual harassment, why it’s unacceptable and how to challenge inappropriate behaviours as individuals and collectively as a society.

To accept sexual harassment as normal behaviour is to perpetuate the gender imbalance that exists throughout Welsh life.

Abuse

Many of us have campaigned for many years to end violence against women and domestic abuse but regrettably, the incidences are on the increase.

Over one in four women in Wales and England (27%) suffer domestic abuse during their lives compared to 13% of men. Tackling the problem must include creating behavioural change – that is why healthy relationships education is crucial.

So today I call on the Welsh Government to stop dithering and to take firm steps to introduce comprehensive sex and healthy relationships education into our schools as soon as possible – before the changes to the Welsh curriculum come into play.

The gender pay gap is another indication of why change is needed. The pay gap stands at around 15% in Wales, rising to 25% in some parts of the country.

The pay gap is not about individual discrimination but it does indicate an imbalance in the workplace – with men still in the majority when it comes to the high earners and women are the lowest paid at the bottom of the pay pyramid.

Again, large behavioural shifts are needed to create workplace equality.

Leading the way

There are immediate, practical steps that can be taken to redress the balance and to create a more gender equal nation, for the benefit of all.

I believe that we need to take positive action, which is within our gift, to create equal representation between women and men as elected representatives.

How can it be right that half the population is so massively under-represented in public life? Only 27% of councillors are women!

The other changes that are needed would flow more effectively if there was equal gender balance in the decision-making roles in our nation.

In the National Assembly, we have an ideal opportunity to lead the way. The Specialist Panel on Assembly Reform advocates making it mandatory for political parties to choose equal numbers of male and female candidates.

We can discuss which precise mechanisms are needed – be it quotas or pairing for example, but positive discrimination is needed if we are to rid ourselves of generations of gender imbalance.

Having equality of representation would naturally lead to equalities in other areas of life – helping us achieve cultural and behavioural change.

Helping us create a Wales where sexual harassment and domestic abuse is outlawed, where workplace and pay inequalities are not tolerated and where women and men can follow their ambitions and dreams,  free of the constraints of the gender straight – jackets imposed on us for far too long.

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Dafydd Thomas
Guest
Dafydd Thomas

Why is Plaid Cymru prioritising side issues like Gender inequality when the substantially greater inequality is that of shipping hundreds of thousands of elderly, sick and poor from the wealthy parts of England to the poorer parts of Wales. Thus making England richer per capita and Wales poorer per capita increasing inequality daily. This sort of mass resettlement to Wales helps England get rid of those unwanted, those who are expensive to fund in healthcare and social care. The English even get us to fund the increasing poverty and child poverty in Wales, the Welsh labour government funds this through… Read more »

Rob Bruce
Guest

I’m not sure that gender inequality can be described as a ‘side issue’ when women make up over half of the population. Imagine the scale of the waste of talent and resource!

Dafydd Thomas
Guest
Dafydd Thomas

Hi Rob,
I know what you mean, but justice is not devolved to the Welsh government, thanks to objections from the Welsh MPs. So we can’t address employment inequalities specifically in Wales effectively. I wish it were so. But housing policy needs to be addressed and we can do something about it.

jonesy
Guest
jonesy

I thought I would share this with you an article on Rebecca – Paddy French ‘s blog .. Interesting how some women who have made it to the top of the pile can be just as corrupt as some men. Seems to me there isnt a gender inequality issue in the third sector/ quangos/ Senedd/governing establishment – just a pile of stinking manure . This is what P;aid Cymru and other parties should be doing in Wales to create a healthy future – cleaning out the horsehit from the stable,.. but they don’t. our media does not raise a whisper… Read more »

Emyr
Guest
Emyr

If gender inequality is a ‘side issue’, so is the language, culture, LGBT rights, racial inequality, economic inequality, climate change, war, etc.

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

It is probably for International Womens Day.

Leia
Guest

Treating political matters like a zero sum game doesn’t work. It’s not logical to say that “Because we care about gender equality we don’t care about housing policy”. Prioritising one thing and concentrating on nothing else is not a practical or desirable way to run a country.

Dafydd Thomas
Guest
Dafydd Thomas

Fair enough Leia but I’ve seen quite a lot with Plaid about gender issues, but why avoid major issue about the housing and immigration, with the resultant inequality and poverty.

Leia
Guest

I’m not sure I see “Not mentioning it in every single article even those about a different topic” as ‘avoiding it’ I must be honest.

Dafydd Thomas
Guest
Dafydd Thomas

Hi Leia,
Can you point me to the articles by Plaid Cymru about housing immigration from England causing poverty and child poverty in Wales which you are referring are to.

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

it’s been a taboo subject for Plaid ever since they showed their lack of backbone way back at the time Cymuned’s formation. Plaid kicked out a senior local politician in Ceredigion because the media and Anglocentric supremacists ganged up and branded him a racist for piping up about the issue of inmigration by mostly English folk who had little or no interest in any kind of integration into local communities preferring to impose their values instead. Plaid leadership at the time had no stomach for tackling a problem which has impacted on a range of social issues – like housing,… Read more »

Leia
Guest

I’m not sure what you mean. I’m failing to see a like between gender and housing/immigration.

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

You didn’t ask about gender and housing/immigration, you asked about poverty and housing/immigration. There is an uncontested link between the two. Google ‘poverty and housing Wales’, for instance. As for the impact of immigration on housing in Wales, this is self-evident, the main impact being from English settlers.

Leia
Guest

The article isn’t about those things. I don’t see the link. You seem determined to treat this like a zero sum game where people can only care about one thing at a time.

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

Ah! On closer inspection, I see you didn’t mention housing immigration from England causing poverty and child poverty in Wales after all. You’re asking about a link between gender, housing and immigration. Dyna cwestiwn caled iawn. Plaid Cymru might have something to say on it, but I doubt it. They do have a lot of stuff about gender at the moment, though. Check it out.

Wales’s problems have to be tackled simultaneously. Or one at a time. Or holistically (which is a bit like simultaneously, but quite different in a way).

Sorry, I don’t actually know what a zero sum game is.

Leia (@leiawelsh)
Guest

A zero sum game – well you can google the full theory, but the basic notion is that there must be a winner and a loser. That there’s some finite amount of ‘sucess’ and evreything anyone has must be taken from someone else. Noughts and crosses is a zero sum game. Sharing a cake is a zero sum game. Real life is mostly NOT a sum sum game even when it looks like it is. The economy is not a zero sum game – There is not a fixed amount of jobs, or money, or health or learning in existence… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest

The equality of opportunity for both genders is important to me Dafydd…..but I will agree with you about the underlying structural problems breeding it (vast wealth inequality/land and power inequality)
Wales like many state peripheries has been socially engineered to become a dosile county of greater London ….

Davydh Trethewey (@MawKernewek)
Guest

I don’t think anyone can characterise gender inequality in pay as a “side issue”. Looking at data though: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/datasets/annualsurveyofhoursandearningsashegenderpaygaptables I downloaded it by place of work by parliamentary constituency. Table 9.12 Gender pay gap (%)^ – For all employee jobs^^: United Kingdom, 2017 Description Code median mean Wales W92000004 14.8 11.8 Aberavon W07000049 24.6 17.7 Aberconwy W07000058 -5.8 -3.0 Alyn and Deeside W07000043 32.5 16.4 Arfon W07000057 -8.2 2.8 Blaenau Gwent W07000072 25.4 26.5 Brecon and Radnorshire W07000068 12.7 17.5 Bridgend W07000073 23.1 12.7 Caerphilly W07000076 13.1 13.2 Cardiff Central W07000050 28.6 24.2 Cardiff North W07000051 6.2 6.0 Cardiff South… Read more »

Anarchist and Welsh Nash
Guest
Anarchist and Welsh Nash

This rant from Sian Gwenllian shows how Plaid Cymru have been taken over by the sisterhood! There’s an implicit suggestion in her piece that everything would be fine if only women had the reins in our political life. I have to say that is completely bonkers. I would refer her to the current situation in Sweden where the predominantly female cabinet have opened the doors to unlimited immigration which has led to a tsunami of violence, rape and social unrest over the last couple of years.. The Cabinet wanted to show that Sweden was a beacon of openness, diversity and… Read more »

JR Humphreys
Guest
JR Humphreys

They’ve done some pretty daft things, like only clearing snow from pavements, resulting in many traffic accidents. Sweden has elections later this year. Might be very interesting. Could also draw Sian’s attention to the grim figures regarding male vs female suicide in Wales. The goals should be Independence – caring for each other – happiness.

Leia
Guest

Leaving aside the tin-foil-hattery of dark sisterhoods…

There are of course at least two possibilities when it comes to REPORTED rape figures.

One is that you have more rapes.

The other is that you have a more robust policing of rapes, a healthier culture of not intimidating women out of reporting them, and higher standards for what counts as consent.

There seems to be reasonably clear arguments for Sweden having the latter set of ‘issues’ (in quotes because they’re mostly actually GOOD things!)

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

You are correct about gender pay gap. That needs to be fixed by law and infringements need to be heavily fined. We do however need to tackle inequality on all fronts. I believe focus on one group over another is exactly what we need to avoid. Campaigning for just women is promoting inequality with other groups struggle for equality. You may not be saying it but its guilt by omission – you make no mention of racial inequality or representation for trans and gays – you should not be comparing domestic abuse victims stats of men versus women but seeking… Read more »

Leia
Guest

Intersectionality is important, yes, but it’s not a case of one-over-the-other. We’re not aiming for some sort of Hunger Games of disadvantaged groups here.

Not saying this is what you’re doing, but certainly on Twitter it never ceases to amaze me how many normally indifferent or actively hostile white middle aged men are suddenly passionate advocates of people of colour and the LGBTQ community every time female equaity is mentioned!

However I do like the idea of an entirely representative second chamber though.

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

But is is one-over-the-other. Sian only fights for the cause which she can relate. So it may not be her intention to put one case over another but that is essentially what she is doing. Politicians… those who represent us need to grow beyond their issues to be representative of the multiple issues of those whom they represent. Gender equality is an individual issue when we are faced with inequality on other fronts as well. It is possible to have some one fighting for equal rights as a woman who is a complete racist (I’m of course not in any… Read more »

Leia
Guest

But if we believe politicians can only fight for issues that affect them personally we may as well lay down and accept that we can’t change anything ever – it’s a perfectly circular argument.

I’m unclear exactly what you want to see change, but am trying to understand. How should this article have been different? Presumably you’re not suggesting we never talk about gender inequality unless we can also fix racism and homophobia at the same time?

How do we separate the whataboutery and deliberate undermining without losing sight of the intersectionality issues?

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

I don’t believe politicians can only fight for causes which affect them personally – on the contrary I believe they should be above the rest of us in this respect. Thats what being an elected representative is all about. You will come across many issues to which you cannot relate and even seen that your issue is part of a wider problem. Sian however is a vocal advocate of gender equality above all else. I feel that as a politician an individual should grow to accommodate more than their cause, but the needs and causes of the people they represent… Read more »

Leia
Guest

So it’s a particular politician’s approach you’re conflating with the issue?

Simon G F
Guest
Simon G F

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

Not the most pressing issue facing Wales right now. Get your priorities right, and you might win a few more seats, or even form the next Welsh Government – assuming you want that, which I’m beginning to doubt.

Leia
Guest

So what is, and do you propose we abandon every other aim until we have that one?

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

Mae rhestr yn hir iawn.

Leia
Guest

So pick one – you’re the one claiming we have to prioritise. Give me your opinion.

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

There are so many ways in which this country’s control by Westminster, with compliance by the Welsh political parties, undermines the Welsh people, that it is difficult to prioritise. E.g. Planning Inspectorate veto in favour of unwanted housing projects, settler colonisation, Third Sector parasitism, the blight of tourism, the demographic consequences of same, and the investment of profits outside Wales from same, lack of local priority in the jobs and housing markets, the squandering of public funds on useless (and often) harmful projects, the failure of Plaid Cymru, backdoor colonisation by such as the Centre for Alternative Technology and One… Read more »

Leia
Guest

So pick a top one – it’s you saying we can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. Which of those should we totally abandon until we’ve solved the One Most Important Thing?

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

No, I’m not, I’m really not. Is this another zero sum game?

Womens Voice (@1WomensVoice)
Guest

The core feminist message…. I’m not sure what is meant by that. We should define by sex not gender or we’ll end up in the same mess as the labour party where men can self define as women and be a women’s officer or take a place on an all women’s shortlist’s. Plaid as a party needs to have more women at every level. At branch it’s often predominantly men. The women with power in the party have become an elite detached from ordinary members. They must not recruit and plant women they favour as candidates for ‘target’ seats at… Read more »

Leia
Guest

“We need to listen genuinely to ALL women”

Yeah. Including trans women.

Do you seriously believe that anyone would go through all the traumas and abuse our society inflicts on trans women just to score a place in a quota?

jonesy
Guest
jonesy

there are no trans women there are transgender people but they are not women or men they are trans

Leia
Guest

I know several of them who disagree.

Anarchist and Welsh Nash
Guest

Leia- have you actually read the reports about the cases I mentioned in Sweden? They are most definitely NOT the result of more “robust policing”, I’m afraid. They are the result of a largely Muslim influx of immigrants invited into Sweden by the predominantly female Government cabinet- and who have been terrorising women and the wider community in Sweden simply because of their barbaric ideas about women and their place in society. Female politicians creating an increasingly intolerable situation for women in Sweden. You just could not make this up….. This is the elephant that feminists, for all their outrage… Read more »

JR Humphreys
Guest
JR Humphreys

Agree, A&WN. But mental waggons are circled I fear. I was going to tell a little story about the Turku knife attack, which happened just 5 mins. from my door, but i’ll leave it. A bit raw.

Leia
Guest

Give me some links.

Benjiman L. Angwin
Guest
Benjiman L. Angwin

I don’t see any excuse for unequal pay. We should be more of a meritocracy, and gender has nothing to do with abilities in the work place. That should depend solely on value of work and time/loyalty to the company in question. Gender should be an irrelevant consideration in this day and age, and companies who violate this should be dealt with severely. As for quotas. I do not object to political parties having gender quotas if they freely choose, but I do object to an elected chamber having gender quotas. It is the people who decide who should be… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest

Meritocracy sounds good on paper…but be aware it breeds a social stigma and new hierarchy structure…between the lucky few and the hapless rest who tried hard but did not have equal opportunity

“Social mobility” is a term ready for the dustbin …. Tony Blair was wrong……We should all help each other grow,,,,,,not this cancerous individualism which leaves many in the gutter,

We are all capable of great things with the right external influences

Simon G F
Guest
Simon G F

Okay I gotta wade back into this one because it has been bugging me all day. Focusing just on the article, (not comments), I must say I find this whole type of “equalities of outcome” discourse creepy, despite being all too common among vocal “feminist” women. The fact is that, by and large, men and women have different interests, desires, preferred ways of spending their time. Countless studies have shown this to be true. No less so than when it comes to high pressure positions and competitive party politics. People who are attracted to these roles are aberrant by definition.… Read more »

JR Humphreys
Guest
JR Humphreys

Correct. My dentist and opthalmologist are women, one is also in a choir, the other a big opera fan, making visiting them a pleasure. Their assistants are also women. Women are v. good at this stuff as they like doing empathic work. The assistants do not get the same salary as the specialists, yet they show no resentment, are treated with respect, and do a great job.

Leia
Guest

So how would YOU measure equality of opportunity? Do you think we’ve got it now?

jonesy
Guest
jonesy

The Senedd is full of women n power and look at the bloody mess that place is in – Deryn, the latest news about the debt of the national procurment body – run by woman; as a woman I am up to here with all this gender and sex nonsense, – some of the sisterhood are not fit to be in office as much as some of these men in public positions. S4C is run by women and hardly a man in any of the senior positions apart from that nonentity leading it, and look at the mess that is… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest

Meritocracy can breed terrible class divides and stigmas .. we need to watch out for that ….. the vast majority of people are equally capable under the exact complex environments that breed such genius…genetics play little part part childhood – science says at the moment

Edeyrn
Guest

past childhood (typo sorry)

Edeyrn
Guest

Gender inequality is merely a symptom of deeper issues of wealth and power inequality…Class is the ultimate issue……….We are still living with and trying to reverse the impacts and conditioning resulting from historical imperialism on our education systems and our families minds through state and corporate propaganda over many many decades