Ahead of the Senedd 2021 Elections we approached all the different political parties in Wales for how their manifesto will deliver a gender equal Wales. We received responses from the Welsh Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Conservatives and Welsh Labour. Here’s the response from The Welsh Conservatives.
As the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, I am proud to be a member of a party that seeks to ensure that every member of society can fulfil his or her potential, regardless of gender, race or background.
On May 6th, the people of Wales have a chance to choose the next Welsh Government, and next week we will be unveiling an exciting manifesto that puts social justice and equality at its very heart.
The Conservative Party has a proud history of promoting gender equality and legislating to ensure that everyone has equal freedoms and opportunity regardless of gender.
In recent years our colleagues at Westminster have continued that proud tradition, legislating to mandate gender pay-gap reporting, and to introduce the right to request flexible working arrangements.
I am proud that the United Kingdom has had two female Prime Ministers – both leaders of The Conservative Party – showing that there should be no limits to a woman’s ambition in this country.
In addition, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has unveiled measures to tackle crimes which disproportionately affect women – such as domestic violence and modern slavery. However, there is much that we must still do, and there are still too many ways in which women face greater hurdles and encounter significant challenges on the basis of their gender alone.
Recent research, for instance, has shown that the gender pay gap in Wales is now 14.5%, with women (on average) earning £1.90 per hour less than their male colleagues.
And whilst there have been some improvements to the wider picture in recent years – with the rate of female employment rising, and a record number of female MPs in Wales – it is clear that significant barriers remain, and the proportion of women in part-time positions has barely changed at all.
You simply cannot escape the reality that a large proportion of women remain unable to access employment due to childcare responsibilities.
Ironically, one of the very few positives to come out of the pandemic could be the widespread acceptance among employers that working remotely can boost productivity, and this could mean a seismic shift in work patterns in future; and a huge help for working parents.
But the Welsh Government can also play its part to make things easier for hardworking families, and our manifesto contains a number of ambitious pledges to address these issues and bridge that gap.
Raising a family should be the most fulfilling and enriching experience of your life, but for too many parents the cost of childcare is a huge burden – especially on low-income families.
Sadly, too many women in the UK still effectively face a pay penalty when they become mothers, and faced with the high cost of childcare support, it is often women who find themselves locked out of the labour market for long periods, affecting their long-term career progression.
The right to request flexible working or home working arrangements in employment can be a huge help, and a fundamental restructuring of the way we work post-Covid will also be transformational in the longer term, but access to childcare can make a much more profound difference in terms of challenging the gender pay gap in the here and now.
Our plans to invest in childcare would see free childcare provision expanded to include two-year-olds; a helping hand for families facing some of the highest childcare costs in the world.
We will also introduce help for those on the lowest incomes by funding a programme for children in receipt of free school meals to cover all school holidays for the whole of the next Welsh Parliament term.
In addition to these measures, we will be pledging support for parents whose education has been interrupted by childcare, and they will be able to access a new ‘Second Chance Fund’ to enable those who have left formal education to go back and study a level three qualification.
Ultimately, opportunity shouldn’t be a gender specific issue but the reality dictates that there is still much to do to deliver a fairer, more equal society. Here in Wales, the elections on May 6th are an opportunity to continue that work.
I have always sought to be a champion for equality, and I firmly believe that this is a country where talent and hard work should count over identity, gender or background, and it is my duty as the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives to ensure that this philosophy provides the best possible outcomes for everyone.