Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
This Statement is 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. As an annual celebration, International Women’s Day provides the opportunity to reflect on the previous year and highlight the work which has taken place to advance gender equality.
Our Strategic Equality Plan contains the actions we are taking to help women and girls to access, achieve and 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. Over the past year, the Welsh Government has continued to make good progress on these actions to promote gender equality.
We have continued our focus on increasing the number of women in public appointments and published our Call for Evidence summary report in January 2016. We know the overall number of women on Public Sector Boards has been moving upwards with female representation on Executive Welsh Government Sponsored Bodies at 38% and at 47% on Advisory Bodies in April 2015. We will continue to focus on increasing the diversity of our Public Sector Boards in Wales.
We are also determined to do all we can to encourage and support women into different and often male dominated sectors. Our funding for Chwarae Teg’s Agile Nation 2 programme, announced in April 2015, will support 2,750 women and work with 400 employers to promote female career advancement.
The Welsh Government was a proud supporter of the Women Adding Value to the Economy (WAVE) project from 2012 to 2015, which worked to better understand, and tackle, the ways in which gender pay inequalities are reproduced through factors such as occupational segregation and part-time and contract work. We are encouraging employers across Wales to make use of WAVE’s Gender Employment and Pay Analysis method to identify where gender pay gaps exist and also look at ways in which gendered patterns, and ways of working could be addressed.
Many excellent events have also taken place over the past year including a second Girls Make a Difference conference in North Wales last October, where we brought together role models and sixth form students to learn from each other and to be inspired. In February this year, Chwarae Teg held their Missing Majority conference which brought leaders in the third and public sector together to share ideas on encouraging women into leadership positions
The National Federation of Women’s Institutes celebrated their Centenary year in 2015, with a reception held in the Pierhead on 17 June recognising the work of the WI in Wales over the past 100 years and their role in supporting and empowering women to make a real difference in their communities. Their excellent Centenary report shows just how far we have come but also the serious gaps and barriers which remain.
International Women’s Day provides us with an opportunity to reflect on these gaps and barriers. It underlines all those barriers standing in the way of true equality for women, including the lack of women in decision-making roles, the unequal division of care, in-work poverty, domestic violence and the gender pay gap. This is why this day is so important.
The Welsh Government is proud to support the Women’s Equality Network Wales (WENWales) to deliver International Women’s Day events across Wales. WENWales are working with regional networks to deliver four International Women’s Day events across Wales this month. In Cardiff and Aberystwyth on 5th March, in Swansea on 6th March and in Bangor on 12th March.
We need to ensure we are reaching and empowering ordinary women in Wales and with this network of over 700 members we can be assured we are doing so.
The theme we have chosen for International Women’s Day 2016 in Wales is Women and care: Empowering Women in Wales.
In May 2015, WENWales published their report ‘Women’s Equality Now - The position in Wales today on Unpaid Care’. This report found the unequal division of care still affects women both inside and outside of the workplace and women continue to be seen as carers first and earners second. Showcasing this issue in this way will keep this in the spotlight and provide an opportunity for women and men to debate this very important issue.
We must help parents to balance working life with family life and tackle the barriers which restrict women’s participation in the workplace.
Last October, I announced the Parents, Childcare and Employment project (PaCE), which is jointly funded by Welsh Government and the European Social Funds. It aims to support around 8000 parents to source and fund childcare, which will enable parents to train or get work experience and improve their job prospects. The majority of these parents supported by PaCE are expected to be female lone parents, and over the next 2 years just over 7 million pounds has been allocated to help remove childcare barriers.
I would also like to pay tribute to the work of our Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler, on her Women in Public Life scheme. It is important we take time to recognise the extremely valuable campaign work the Presiding Officer has achieved. She will be holding an International Women’s Day reception on the evening of 8 March which I will be attending.
On the day, I will be speaking at the Women’s Summit at the Pierhead, an event hosted in partnership by Chwarae Teg, Women Making a Difference and Oxfam Cymru and sponsored by the Presiding Officer. This Summit will be an opportunity to debate the many important issues facing women in Wales today, including poverty and their under-representation in public life.
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.