As a female politician, issues that affect women across the country – pay, equality in the workplace, representation in political life, and many more – are close to my heart. In my new role as Minister for Women and Equalities, I am absolutely committed to addressing gender imbalances and empowering women and girls in the UK to go out and achieve whatever they want to.
This year is a very special one. It marks the centenary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which allowed some women the vote for the first time. This was a hard-won, long-fought battle on the part of brave and tenacious people who were absolutely determined to change the law, and ultimately create a fundamental shift in society. I am humbled when I reflect that before the Suffrage movement achieved this, women were removed from the political process in every way. They were unable to stand for election, and were physically separated from Parliamentary action – having to watch from behind a ventilation shaft above the Commons chamber, and later behind a grille from the Ladies Gallery. The changes that have taken place in 100 years are quite incredible.
I am proud that, to mark the centenary year, the Government will be spending £2.5 million of a total £5 million centenary fund on celebrations and projects specifically designed to encourage more people to get involved in public life. Some of this money will go to projects specifically designed to increase the number of women in political office – including piloting a programme to inspire young women with opportunities to be leaders in their communities.
We need to make real progress on other issues, too. Putting women on an equal footing with men in the workforce is another fundamental shift in society that needs to happen to drive equality. Understanding the barriers faced by women in work will help break them down. We are one of the first countries in the world to require all large employers, those with more than 250 staff, to publish their gender pay gap. This is an important step in tackling inequality and giving women the chance to achieve in the workplace while maintaining a personal life.
The Rt Hon Amber Rudd
Minister for Women and Equalities