UK's first feminist party leader in Harrogate

Harrogate stop-off - Leader of the Women's Equality Party, Sophie Walker, middle right, with local party members.
Harrogate stop-off - Leader of the Women's Equality Party, Sophie Walker, middle right, with local party members.
0
Have your say

A flying visit to Harrogate saw the leader of Britain's first feminist party condemn the results of the gender pay gap report as "appalling" but not surprising.

Sophie Walker, who became head of the Women's Equality Party in 2015, told the Harrogate Advertiser it had been an important exercise in transparency and understanding the scale of the problem.

Britain's first feminist party - leader Sophie Walker.

Britain's first feminist party - leader Sophie Walker.

But the figures on the average hourly pay between men and women from many of the companies, voluntary organisations and public sector bodies with more than 250 employees who responded were "absolutely dreadful."

She said: "What worries me is that some people are already building a narrative round the idea that "it's just that men want to do the highly paid work while women just want to do the low-paid, flexible work.

"The real problem is our education system is still segregating boys and girls on occupation according to gender stereotypes."

The Blackpool-born Londoner fought in the London mayoral election in 2016, the year after the WEP was first launched, winning 5.2 percent of the total vote.

She also stood as WEP candidate in Shipley in the General Election last year.

The leader of the UK's newest political party which has more than 65, 000 members, told the Harrogate Advertiser during her brief visit to town on the campaign trail before the May local elections that the figures received by the UK Government Equalities Office for one particular low budget airline summed up the problem.

She said: "The gender pay gap at Ryanair was about 72%, partly because only eight out of its 554 pilots are female.

"The other parties don't understand the structural inequalities built into our society and our work places.

"The pay gap won't go away naturally. We won't just grow out of it.
"The report gives us an opportunity as Britain's first feminist party, not only to unpick the version of society being pedalled but also to offer effective solutions.
"We are the only party really doing that."

The main party leaders in the Harrogate district also responded to last week's groundbreaking gender pay gap report which was prompted by legislation introduced last year requesting all British companies, voluntary organisations and public sector bodies with more than 250 employees to reported the difference in average hourly pay between men and women..

Gender pay gap report - Conservative Party response

Coun Richard Coooper, Tory leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said: "Women and men must be treated fairly in the workplace. Words about equality are easy, actions are more difficult.

"That is why I am pleased that Harrogate Borough Council has only a small gender pay gap of 4.1 per cent. Even though this pay gap is small it is perhaps worth noting that this is in favour of women employees.
"When you see the enormous gender pay gaps in some organisations it is shocking.

"Words about equality are easy, actions are more difficult. That is why I am pleased that Harrogate Borough Council has only a small gender pay gap of 4.1 per cent. Even though this pay gap is small it is worth noting that this is in favour of women employees.

"It is good that the government has taken action compelling larger employers to publish this data so that we can all take a view and alter our shopping and commercial choices if we wish to do so."

Gender pay gap report - Lib Dem Party response

Coun Pat Marsh, leader of Liberal Democrats on Harrogate Borough Council, said: "Dealing with the gender pay gap was an issue that Lib Dems pushed for whilst in the Coalition Government, something resisted by the Conservatives at the time.

"We were the first major political party to commit to enforcing gender pay transparency by law.
"The recent results of this Lib Dem initiative have received a lot of publicity and highlighted just how big the pay gap is in many of our larger companies.

"Hopefully this will start to drive change and ensure that more women are represented in senior positions with organisations.
"It is not acceptable in the 21st Century that women are still receiving on average smaller pay packets than men.

"Equal pay and better gender representation in business is good for the economy as well as helping to create a fairer society.
"Women should have the same opportunities as their male colleagues in the workplace and should be rewarded accordingly - it is as simple as that.”

Gender pay gap report - Labour Party response

Charlotte Barker, women’s officer for Harrogate and Knaresborough Labour Party, said: "There is a lot more to be done to reduce the gender pay gap and particularly for LGBTQ and BAME women who face even further discrimination and inequality within the workplace.

"Labour is the party of equality. A Labour government saw the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, Sex Discrimination Act, the Equality Act and the minimum wage.
"Unfortunately, the Tories austerity agenda has seen 86 per cent of the burden fall on women.

"We are serious about ensuring women are supported and not held back and every woman should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential without facing barriers or discrimination.
"We are committed to tackling structural barriers to create a society that works for the many, not the few. This is also reflected in the local party with positive changes already made to improve participation of women."

Gender pay gap report - Green Party response

Shan Oakes, media officer for Harrogate and District Green Party, said: "The Green Party works to improve all types of fairness and equality and the gender pay gap just shows how much work is still to be done.

"The Greens have been pushing on this issue for decades which is partly why two of our three MEPs and our sole MP are women.
"One current example of the way women are treated by the government with disrespect is the way state pensions have been stolen from women born in the 1950s.

"3.8 million women are affected. The equalisation of pensions with men is not the problem: it is the fact that it has been done at short – or no notice, so that many women have been left struggling when they were expecting to receive their pension (for which they have paid their NI contributions).

"A majority of these women will also have been the victims – for many years - of inequality in the workplace.

A new (non-party-aligned) local Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) group has been set up in Harrogate and its second meeting will be on April 17 at 2pm in Wetherspoons. All welcome."