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Andrew Jones Member of Parliament for Harrogate & Knaresborough

Andrew Jones MP

Member of Parliament for Harrogate & Knaresborough

Celebrating pioneers of universal suffrage

Today is the centenary of women winning the right to vote.  2018 is also the centenary of women winning the right to stand for Parliament (21 November).  These are milestones to be celebrated.  We should celebrate too those pioneers who fought and beat injustice against women.   They should inspire us all.

I want women to reach their goals without hindrance or obstacle.  I want them to have the same opportunities as men to get wherever they want to be.  Even 100 years later there is more to do in this respect.

Women are still paid less than men.  It is more difficult for a woman to reach the top boardrooms.  Women are less likely to stand for elected roles than men.

That said, it can be easy to forget the progress made in the last hundred years – even very recently – in achieving greater equality between men and women.

But we are a society going in the right direction.

In 1979 we elected the first female Prime Minister in the western democracies.  In those days her gender was a big news story.  Now, with our second female Prime Minister, noone thinks it unusual that a woman is in Number 10.

A record number of women were elected to Parliament at the 2017 General Election.   I am proud to be part of a generation that has seen great women making their mark on our politics.

There is greater representation of women in business.  The percentage of women on top boards has doubled since 2011.   While this is good news barely a quarter of all those positions are taken by women.

There is a huge amount being done to instil young girls with confidence to pursue occupations traditionally dominated by men especially in science, technology, engineering and business.  Providing young women and girls with role models, alongside removing those barriers which act disproportionately to their detriment, is vital to inspire them to achieve their career choices.

In recent years we’ve seen the best employers make ground breaking strides in tackling gender inequality.  And it is now law for all employers with more than 250 staff to publish their gender pay gap figures.  I believe this is creating the pressure needed for change.  The gender pay gap is at its lowest level since records began.  In fact for full-time workers under 40 the pay gap is almost zero.

Taking some time to reflect and celebrate those pioneers who won rights we now see as normal is appropriate when we reach anniversaries such as this centenary.   In celebrating those pioneers we should acknowledge that despite enormous progress there is still work to do.  Today, as individuals and as a society, we re-commit ourselves to do that work.

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