Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
I wish to update Assembly Members about the Welsh Government’s continued support and commitment to International Women’s Day and to tackling gender inequality in Wales.
The first International Women’s Day was held in March 1911 when women and men came together to talk about the need for women to have basic rights afforded to them the right to vote, the right to work, the right to speak out in public and the right to equal pay.
International Women’s Day provides the opportunity to highlight the fantastic achievements of many organisations and individuals across Wales. For example, in sport we have many women who have achieved success including the Wales Women’s rugby team. I was pleased to welcome team members to the Senedd on 4th March.
While we have seen progress, many serious gaps and barriers to gender equality remain. International Women’s Day provides us with an opportunity to celebrate achievements and highlights the very real issues and barriers still facing women and girls.
International Women’s Day underlines all things standing in the way of true equality for women, including the lack of women in decision-making roles, unequal division of care, in-work poverty, domestic violence and the media portrayal of women.This is why this day is so important.
Our Programme for Government and Strategic Equality Plan outline our determination to make Wales a more equal society and contain the actions we are taking to address gender inequality.
These include tackling gender stereotyping, addressing occupational segregation and equal pay, as well as providing support to enable women to access the careers of their choice. With many women experiencing poverty due to their position in the workplace and at home, we are also committed to tackling poverty as a gender-specific issue which affects men and women in different ways.
I believe our economy is strongest when everyone has the chance to contribute. We must help parents to balance working life with family life and tackle the barriers which restrict women’s participation in the workplace. Our Strategic Equality Plan contains the actions we are taking to help women and girls to access to achieve and to aspire within education, training and employment. It also sets out what we are doing to tackle gender stereotyping and enable women to access the careers of their choice.
The Welsh Government is supporting the Women’s Equality Network Wales (WENWales) to deliver International Women’s Day events across Wales. We need to ensure we are reaching and empowering ordinary women in Wales. With this network of over 500 members we can be assured we are doing so.
The theme we have chosen for International Women’s Day 2015 in Wales is Supporting Women Into Public Life. Women in Wales outnumber men and women must be better represented in positions of power and influence in Welsh life.
In Cardiff on March 8th at the Wales Millennium Centre, WENWales will be delivering their South Wales International Women’s Day event. From 7th March, they will be supporting the Pembrokeshire Women's Festival as they host a week of celebrations.
In Aberystwyth they will be supporting Merched Y Wawr to organise several events and in North Wales, they will be celebrating International Women’s Day on 14 March in Holyhead.
I would also like to recognise the work of our Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler, on Women in Public Life. She will be holding a number of International Women’s Day events, including an all-male panel focusing on the need for men to be involved in supporting gender equality.
These events will supplement the work already underway to increase the engagement and participation of women in public life. We are working to increase the numbers of women on our Public Sector Boards in Wales. For Welsh Government Advisory Sponsored Bodies, we have seen an increase in female representation from 32% in April 2012 to 50% in January 2015. For Executive Sponsored bodies, female representation has increased from 35% in April 2012 to 38% in January 2015.
On International Women’s Day itself, I will be attending Wrexham Ladies FC football match. It is important we recognise the achievements of Wales’ sportswomen and how they serve as positive role models. This is true at Board level as well as on the pitch.
Following our successful Sport Wales case study published in December 2012, I am pleased to announce we will be shortly be publishing an update which again will show what can be achieved through determination and commitment to Board diversity.
I am looking forward to 23rd March when we will welcome our first group of participants on our pilot development programme which will support people from under-represented groups to shadow Health Boards and Trusts. Programmes such as this can make a difference to the diversity of applicants we will see in public appointments in Wales.
Our proactive, targeted work in increasing the number of women and other under-represented groups in public appointments is a clear example of the Welsh Government taking decisive action to make Wales a more equal society.
International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the progress we have made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
We must also reflect on what more needs to be done and remember the many women whose voices go unheard and who continue to be excluded from realising their full potential.
I want to encourage everyone to support International Women’s Day and to recognise although it is celebrated on 8 March, it matters for much more than just one day.