PMQs, Budgets and International Women's Day

International Women’s Day, Prime Minister’s Questions and the Spring Budget, all in the same day?

Yesterday was a busy day for Sliips.

You’d have been forgiven for thinking International Women’s Day was merely another opportunity for political point scoring listening to Prime Minister’s Questions. Jeremy Corbyn praised Labour for having a gender balanced Shadow Cabinet, while Theresa May said it was ‘2-0’ Conservatives, given she’s the second Conservative female Prime Minister.

Next up was the UKs first budget since Brexit. In his response to Chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget, Jeremy Corbyn did touch on a number of issues specific to women. Highlighting violence against women, challenges caused by child tax credit cuts and the omnipresent gender pay gap. “We all pay for low pay”, he said. Hear hear to his rhetoric, but two hours into the budget announcement and its scrutiny, not a single woman had spoken in the House of Commons.

The government’s flagship International Women’s Day announcement was a £5 billion fund made available for ‘returnships’. Aimed at helping people back to work after long career breaks, the fund is available to men and women, which is applaudable and gives the flexibility required to give families a choice when it comes to raising children. Yet, the fact it was framed as a women’s policy, is a clear indication of the reality of now, where women are usually the one to take a career break for parenting.

Following the budget, Sliips attended an Intelligence Squared event - Feminism For Everyone - last night. At it, panelist Jess Phillips MP lamented the expectation that women should be the one to take a career break for parenthood. All too often, she pointed out, because their husbands earn more in the first place. The prevailing attitude toward parenthood shows the same unconscious bias that contributes to the gender pay gap and workplace inequality.

These attitudes show how long any meaningful change might take if left to policy makers alone. The returnships policy is a great facilitator for change. Unfortunately, more is needed than just making it available for men. There needs to be further policy and societal change to ensure that leaving work to raise a family does not harm anyone’s career when they return to work. That is the key to making it a real choice that a family can make.

Sliips was created to help inform you to make better career choices. By crowdsourcing payslips, Sliips' analytics can help you identify companies already supporting parents back into work, championing equal pay, and respecting your desire to be treated fairly. And the ones who aren’t.

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