Interesting to see in today’s Guardian that Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May has asked firms to publish information on the gender pay gap – the discrepancy in pay between men and women – and male/female promotion rates. The Tories are obviously getting worried, evidenced by Theresa May’s appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and David Cameron’s suggestion in the House of Commons that the coalition government will look at female representation in boardrooms and at Westminster.
We should take the Tory attempt to improve the position of women for the cynical move that it really is. The Conservative Party still has no real commitment towards women. The most damning piece of evidence is the fact that all, yes all, of their candidates selected so far for the Greater London Assembly election next year are men. Not one woman, unbelievable in this day and age.
I find it hard to accept that a political party which cannot field any female candidates for an important regional body is at all serious about women. According to a policy memo, commissioned by the Lib-Dems and leaked to the Guardian, the coalition is very worried about their poor showing with women voters. Yet the government has still not enacted existing laws that would make gender auditing mandatory. May’s response to a question about this on Woman’s Hour was telling, exposing the Tories’ utter lack of commitment to equality for women: “The mandatory power is still available in the Act but I think if you make something mandatory they do it but only to the point at which they have to do it. We’re encouraging companies to look more widely at their equality issues in their workplace.”
So that’s all right then. The Tories will cozy up to their friends and supporters in business and hope that it will somehow all become OK for women because the Home Secretary thinks it should be. Women deserve better. We deserve equality legislation to be implemented and we deserve a government which will actually work for women not merely spout warm words in the hope of electoral advantage.
It looks to me as if the Tories are being pushed by their Lib-Dem coalition “partners”. Maybe the Liberal-Democrats are feeling the need to stretch their wings following the unhappy outcomes of the two constitutional measures they wanted. Both the result of the referendum on the alternative vote and the recently published review to cut the number of seats in the House of Commons to 600 have been disastrous for the coalition’s very junior partner. Maybe the Lib-Dems have moved on to gender equality. If so, let’s hope the curse of Clegg doesn’t hit women’s rights as well as constitutional issues.