International Women's Day 2017 Expert commentary and analysis from Policy@Manchester

This year's International Women's Day theme was 'Be Bold For Change'. To celebrate it, in the week of March 8, we hosted a series of policy blogs which spanned many different aspects of women's issues and gender equality. Here, we collate and summarise the blogs and their author's policy asks in one, easy to digest story.

First, Professor Francesca Gains looked at women's representation in local politics and considered what devolution could do for women in Greater Manchester.

  • Political parties can play a vital role in supporting aspiring candidates and in taking measures to ensure the inclusion of women on shortlists – something that hasn’t happened for the police and crime commissioner and mayoral elections
  • The devolution deal ensures strong geographic representation of the local councils making up the combined authority but leads to a disparity in terms of getting women round the decision making table
  • The new mayor could ensure womens’ inclusion at the cabinet table through appointing a female deputy mayor and ensuring each cabinet role held by a (male) leader has a female deputy
  • Understanding the gendered patterns to policy problems will be crucial for the new Mayor when considering how to use the new devolved powers over crime and policing, housing and transport
  • Policy developments flowing from devolved budgets need to be informed by good quality advice about how to ensure improved gender equality

Dr Sarah Marie Hall then examined the gendered nature of austerity and argued for a new economic system that addresses social inequalities and values caring work.

  • Gaps created by a retreating welfare state are typically attended to by women in communities and families, underpinned by care work necessary for social reproduction
  • Austerity is more than an economic condition; it is social and personal too
  • The Women’s Budget Group have developed ‘Plan F: a feminist economic strategy for a caring and sustainable economy’
  • The Government and the Budget should actively addresses social inequalities that are the symptom, not the cause, of everyday austerity

Professor Colette Fagan, Dr Nina Teasdale and Dr Helen Norman took stock of the UK’s gender-related policy measures post-Brexit.

  • Progress towards gender equality has been uneven and often too slow
  • Since 1957, equality between women and men has been a founding value of the EU and adherence to this principle is a membership condition
  • The gender aspect of the European Employment Strategy introduced targets to promote gender equality in the labour market, which member states were held accountable against
  • The World Economic Forum predicts that the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186
  • It is essential that the existing EU provisions are written into UK law, and built upon
  • Gender budgeting and gender impact analysis should become a routine tool for policy design as the government navigates the economic challenges

Finally, Dr Joanne Tippett shared her experiences of researching planning for environmental change, sustainability and community engagement, reflecting on their implications for including women’s voices in making devolved decisions in Greater Manchester.

  • In my work with villagers in rural Africa, I found that women didn’t tend to speak in mixed gender groups
  • DivaManc has organised a series of event to create opportunities for the voices of women and girls in Greater Manchester to be heard in the devolution debate
  • Greater Manchester Devolution offers big opportunities for rethinking how we deliver public services, making creative links between health, the environment and the economy
  • Hands-on approaches that give everyone a chance to make an input and see their ideas built into a bigger picture help us hear different voices and see different views

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