The Tories must step up to tackle misogyny

Today’s Queen’s Speech is an opportunity for the Tory government to seize the agenda, and address the systematic disparity in gender equality faced by women.

In order to dismantle the structural barriers that women face at a public, private, and legislative level, it is vital that we reflect on what can be done to ensure women’s equality.

As women, we regularly encounter attacks rooted in misogyny both online and face to face.

The Online Safety Bill is the most recent strategy from the UK government to tackle online abuse. Despite women being 27 times more likely to be harassed online, the bill does not once mention women, girls, or gender.

Women’s rights organisations such as Glitch and End Violence Against Women have raised concerns over the disproportionate level of abuse faced by women on the internet.

These organisations like these have repeatedly called on the Tory government to recognise online violence against women in the bill and to implement specific measures within the legislation to tackle the issue.

Sadly, these calls have been ignored. In doing so, the Prime Minister has missed a significant opportunity to comprehensively tackle online violence against women — something organisations have stated will have a devastating and long-lasting impact on victims.

Alongside legislation, employers must play a part in tackling gender barriers.

In their most recent report “Menopause and the Workplace”, the Fawcett Society’s research found that a staggering one in ten women that experienced menopause subsequently left their job due to their symptoms.

At Women and Equalities select committee, our recent enquiry into “Menopause and the Workplace” is examining ways in which the Tory government could implement policy and encourage workplace practices to support women experiencing menopause.

Women play an integral role in the workplace, and it is important they receive the necessary support and accommodations to retain them in their chosen professions.

The number of women in paid employment remains lower than men, with recent ONS labour market data showing that the female employment rate sits at 72.2 per cent, compared with 78.8 per cent for men.

This data, however, fails to consider the unpaid work undertaken by women at home.

Deeply entrenched gender norms have long seen women bear the brunt of childcare and domestic work within the household.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic caused a shift in working patterns with the emergence of flexible and home-working, these benefits are often missed by women with increased pressures in the form of childcare, home-schooling and domestic work.

We must tackle conceptions of childcare responsibilities at a structural and policy level.

As a society, we must continue to normalise men taking on shared responsibility of childcare and move away from engrained gender norms that burden women with this role.

As for policy, the government could consider comprehensive public childcare provisions.

This will help disrupt gender roles by providing women with opportunity to offset their traditional role as primary caregivers, and enter the workforce.

The UK government should follow in Scotland’s footsteps — the SNP government have expanded free childcare to match the number of hours offered to primary school pupils, and plan to expand free early years education to all one and two-year-olds.

Issues of gender inequality impact all areas of women’s lives be it in the workplace, home or online.

Women are continually faced with invisible hurdles not faced by our male counterparts.

As the Tory government begins to set out its agenda for the forthcoming parliamentary year, it must consider the changes needed to take place at the public, private and legislative level to address ongoing disparities within women’s lives.

However, we have a Prime Minister, at the very top of the Tory government, who wrote: “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts.”

Be in no doubt — the Prime Minister is unlikely to prioritise legislation that tackles structural issues facing women.

But enough is enough. Misogyny is a pandemic, and the battle to challenge it does not lie solely with women.

This article was originally published in The Times Red Box.