Our Time: The Mayor of London’s drive to beat gender inequality

Labour Party

Some forms of gender inequality are unambiguous, easy to define, easy to spot and, in theory at least, should be easy to rectify. However, not all forms of discrimination are obvious.

Women in the workplace can face discrimination in ways they may even find hard to define. It’s never justified but can happen because the behavior pattern is never challenged, for whatever reason.

A new initiative, Our Time, launched by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan seeks to address the problem of the lack of women leaders in the city. The programe will provide formal, structured coaching and support for future women leaders.

The scheme, which launched on Monday 14 May, will see women paired with workplace champions, senior male and female colleagues who will support them in their ambition to access and build professional networks. The mentors will help them to pursue leadership opportunities and provide them with invaluable contacts as well as ensuring the chosen women are provided with the necessary training they need to move into senior leadership positions.

To support the initiative the Mayor of London’s office produced a powerful and evocative film which really is required viewing if you are someone who wants to get a better understanding of the issue of gender inequality.

It depicts a busy tube station and a male TFL worker standing at the bottom of both a lengthy staircase and escalator. The male commuters are told they are free to use the escalator, but the women are only permitted to use the staircase. The scene cuts to hoards of men stepping on the escalator to complete their journey to the top in relative comfort. The women, meanwhile, trek up the enormous staircase some carrying bags others struggling with buggies.

Its message is clever and powerful. And the additional information throughout is worth noting:

-The gender pay gap in London is the largest for all parts of the country.
-A FTSE CEO is more likely to be called John than to be a woman.
-Maternal employment is 8% lower in London than for the rest of the country.
-Almost three-quarters of London council leaders are male.

The pace of equality in the workplace is too slow. In a city as diverse and in so many ways as progressive as London it’s poor to note that it also has a significant problem with equality.

A formal scheme such as Our Time is a pro active way to challenge this.

And its modelled-on research which shows women with a formal champion in the workplace are significantly more likely to negotiate for a pay rise and report feeling satisfied with their rate of professional advancement.

I am excited about this campaign which is a tangible effort to redress the imbalance on inequality and goes beyond merely paying lip service to the problem.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Protesters this week took to the streets in the Ukraine after the government there reversed plans for greater EU integration. Events were sparked at the start of the week, after the country’s President, Viktor Yanukovich, succumbed to pressure from The Kremlin and backed out, at the eleventh hour, of a free trade and political integration pact with Europe. At the subsequent EU summit on Friday, Yanukovich stood by his decision, prompting further demonstrations, with peaceful protesters dispersed from Kiev’s Independence Square early on Saturday.

Over the weekend 300,000 strong crowds converged on the city, and marchers carrying EU flags clashed with riot police. Tear gas was used on demonstrators, many of whom had travelled from Ukrainian-speaking parts of the country where pro-EU sentiment is strongest. Recent polls show 45% of Ukrainians support EU integration– compared to less than a third who say the country should remain in Moscow’s orbit.

Those involved in the Orange uprising of nine years ago described developments this week as “a revolution”. With opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko still jailed, many feel the demands of the 2004 insurgency – for a more transparent, less corrupt democracy – have not been met. For some it came down to a straight East-West decision. One demonstrator said he was there “to support a European choice for the Ukraine”.

The Ukraine is very difference place to Britain, and drawing overly close parallels would be pointless. But I do find it striking, when so many recognise EU integration as their best hope of a stable and prosperous future, that those on the UK political right want to turn their back on the continent.

Eurosceptics will mock the comparison, arguing that Britain is an affluent world power whereas the Ukraine is a post-USSR satellite state. But they underestimate the extent to which our wealth and global influence come because of – rather than despite – the fact we are in Europe. I will be making this case tomorrow evening at an ‘EU In or Out’ debate at One Birdcage Walk in Westminster.

This week also saw London Mayor Boris Johnson spark outrage by claiming, in a speech commemorating Margaret Thatcher, that fighting inequality was “impossible” because “16% of our species have an IQ below 85”. He added, using language which verged on social Darwinism, that “The harder you shake the pack the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top”.

Although couched in Johnson’s usual crowd-pleasing terms the comments went down badly, both in the room and among politicians. Nick Clegg called The Mayor’s words “unpleasant, careless elitism”.

Johnson is a florid and often frivolous character, who uses eccentricity to beguile voters who would otherwise find his views repellent. As someone from a privileged background, who is set on extending the inequalities from which he has profited, he is the very opposite of what a city like London, with its jarring poverty and wealth, is in need of.

Finally, as I wrote in my round-up last month, we are now into the part of the year where women effectively cease to be paid. It is an outrage that the gender pay gap still exists. As Labour’s spokesperson for women in Europe I am determined that the EU leads from the front in the fight to eliminate it. This week I set out my ideas about how we can make this happen, and from now on I will be producing regular bulletins on what the EU is doing to end workplace inequality for women.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Boris Johnson received something of a battering on the Andrew Marr show this weekend (you can watch the full interview here).

Eddie Mair, standing in for Marr who is recovering from a stroke, quizzed Johnson about the “sandpapering” of quotes as a Times journalist, failing to deny that he lied to the party leader at the time, Michael Howard, about an extramarital affair and conceding that he had humoured an old friend when he asked for a phone number of someone he intended to beat.

Johnson also said the UK economy benefited from the influx of “skilled workers around the world” but this led to a “real indignation” among UK workers.

The interview, which originally was supposed to promote the BBC documentary on Johnson that is on tonight, is rather painful to watch, but does say rather a lot about the man who is currently mayor of London.

I would rather have seen Johnson being taken to task for some of his failures as Mayor though, rather than problems that are already out in the open. He did admit there was a lack of planning ahead of the financing of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford but said the deal to allow West Ham United to play at the venue would help provide £10m a year to the taxpayer.

Johnson has also singularly failed to encourage housing development in London, leading to a growing housing shortage and massively increased rent. The figures, showing the situation towards the end of last year, may indicate that the long-predicted “displacement effect” of capping and cutting local housing allowance – the form of housing benefit paid to tenants housed by private landlords – has been occurring, with households being obliged to relocate from the heart of the capital to its cheaper suburbs.

The overall number of claimants in Greater London as a whole has gone up sharply in the period concerned, reflecting the very a high rate of rent increases in the capital compared with incomes.

I think Johnson may have got a taste of what putting himself forward to be leader of party might be like.  Thus far he has managed to charm and bluff his way through, but some of the sheen definitely came off him yesterday

‘Reading Between the Lines’: Offical Launch of my Report

Labour Party

I’ve commissioned a report that explores the link between sex advertising in local papers and human trafficking. Today it launches.

The report has been sent to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. I hope the Mayor addresses my concerns identified within the report that  vulnerable women are used to advertise services. Also the report found that charities use these adverts to identify vulnerable women and offer outreach work to them once they’ve been identified. The Mayor must ensure that proper resources are available to stakeholders so that they are not reliant on using such advertisements to identify victims.

Please read this important report by clicking the image above following the link here.

London Universities generate more than £1 billion from the European Union

Labour Party

Today I helped launch a study by London Higher which shows that London’s higher education institutions generate more than £1 billion each year as a result of engaging with the European higher education agenda.

It was a breakfast meeting at Senate House the iconic headquarters of the University of London in Malet Street

The detailed research was carried out by Professor Brian Ramsden (the tallest man pictured on the right). The report had been partly funded by the Greater London Authority and Ian Catlow (pictured on left), Head of the Mayor of London’s European office also spoke.

London Higher is the membership association representing London’s universities and higher education colleges. The £1 billion, which is higher than expected, is derived from the large number of EU students and staff drawn to London universities, London HEIs successfully competing for research funding, and the knock-on effect of these activities on the London and UK economy.  The report is called Goods to Declare: The economic impact of London’s universities and colleges engaging with, and it looks at the economic benefits London and its HEIs derive from different EU sources.  London’s HEIs have an outstanding reputation in Europe. They already enrol more than twice as many EU students as other UK regions and applications continue to grow. Research funding has increased by more than 40% in the last four years.  European HE funds are relatively stable compared to those in the UK. The report points out that HEIs can do even more to access funds in the European Union. 

Ian Catlow, Head of London’s European Office, a Brussels-based arm of the Mayor of London’s office, has said:

“Although London HEIs perform well in Europe, they could make better use of existing intermediaries to help navigate the EU grant system. Institutions should consider both enhancing the collective representation of London HEIs in Brussels and establishing London alumni groups in key European countries to act as ambassadors for the exceptional institutions operating in this city.”

I was delighted to meet with a number of London’s leading academics. I’m pictured talking with Professor Brian  Gaskell Principal of Queen Mary’s College and Dr. Michael Reynier, Deputy Chief Executive of London Higher.

You can read the full text of the report on the London Higher website here.