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Network Priorities

Gender Power Gap

The leadership provided by women in making social change is under-valued and largely unrecognised. Women underpin the fabric of society as leaders in their comminities, they keep families together and they are usually the force behind social progress in local, national and international politics. Women were not 'given' the vote in 1918, they took it; they campaigned for it, suffered for it and some of them died for it. The Equal Pay Act was not a 'gift' from men, it was fought for by shop floor women and pushed through parliament by a woman. The #metoo campaign shows the influence women have when they act collectively

Despite this, women are concerned that the decisions which affect their lives are largely still being taken by men. In public policy: many local Councils are dominated by men, particularly in the Shire Counties of the South West; the appointment of women to the management boards of public bodies is low, particularly to the paid positions which make such appointments feasible for disadvantaged women; the number of women in Parliament is low and the number in Government is laughably low, with those involved being largely ignored in developing policy. At work: supervisors and managers are largely men, even where the workforce is largely women; there remain prejudicial attitudes amongst many men against being supervised or managed by a woman; boards of directors are largely men. In the home: more men than women are the main earner; more women than men suffer abuse from their partner; more men than women determine where they move to follow job opportunities. In education: advice and guidance is still steering girls and women into stereotypical work; boys still dominate in technical classrooms; girls are still abused by boys and are often pressured into sexual relationships.

At times of great constitutional change, such as Brexit, women's voices are loud but totally ignored in a process which almost entirely excludes them. There is still much to be done to ensure that democracy includes women and FPSW is campaigning for a feminist democracy.

Economic Inequality

The low pay economy of the South West, the expectation that women will be the prime carers, the inaccessibility of affordable, quality childcare, the lack of opportunities for flexible working in quality jobs, continued prejudice and occupational segregation, and inadequate public transport systems, all conspire to give a persistent pay gap between women and men which varies across our region from close to the national average in Cornwall to upwards of 30% in the richer parts of the region. This translates into a massive income gap in retirement, being exacerbated by changes in the tax and benefit system which will cause regression to the 'dependent woman', 'male earner model' and reduced pension contributions for women (private and state).

Those same tax and benefit changes are reducing the incomes of many women, particularly lone parents and BME women. There is now much evidence of the unequal impact on women of the Austerity measures introduced in 2010, including from the UN Rapporteur on UK povery, which is being denied by those in power.

FPSW continues to analyse the causes of the pay gap and campaign for policies which would help reduce it. 

Personal Safety and Security

Many women feel unsafe in the home, at work and in the street, particularly when dark. Mitigation is important, including rape crisis centres and support services for sufferers of domestic violence. However, women tell us they would like more emphasis on prevention. They would like the streets to feel safe, with more police and fewer areas taken over by threatening gangs and drunks. They would like less acceptance of the objectification of women, with non-licencing of sex and lap-dancing venues, for example. They would like better use of the education system to change the culture of violence against women amongst boys and young men. They would like better prosecution and curbing of abusive men.

The austerity cuts to local government have had a devastating affect on the provision of services and many voluntary and social sector organisations are struggling to keep going. Women and their children are being turned away from refuges. FPSW supports and publicises campaigns to improve public policy in all these areas.