Today, is International Women’s Day, which takes place each year on 8 March.
On Friday, The Fawcett Society, in partnership with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and West Midlands Combined Universities, kicked off celebrations with an event focussed on the Midlands hosted by their Chair, Fiona Mactaggart. The Fawcett Society have a long heritage in campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights at work, at home and in public life. Having been established in 1866 they are well informed on this subject. Their inspiring vision of ‘A society in which women and girls in all their diversity are equal and truly free to fulfil their potential creating a stronger, happier, better future for us all’ was certainly a theme well-trodden during Friday’s event
During the last year, running engaging events has certainly been a challenge given the clumsy nature of virtual gatherings, but this event brought together an interesting mix of a keynote address by author and comedian Shappi Khorsandi, who gave a very honest and frank view of her journey of becoming a successful comedian in what is notoriously a male dominated profession. Conversations also surrounded the difficulties experienced by everyone during the last year with acknowledgment that each and everyone of us has been on our ‘own journey’ having to balance life, work, home schooling and all the other difficult restraints that Covid-19 has put on ‘normal’ life.
Of, interest to myself was the contribution to the event made by Katie Perrior, who appointed as the first and, incidentally only female Director of Communications to the Prime Ministers at No. 10 Downing Street. Katie’s account of learning that she was paid less in her role than the previous man in the position and the two subsequent individuals who have been recruited since her departure.
This insight led the way into one of the first hustings in the region for the forthcoming West Midlands Mayoral elections to be held on 6 May. My first outtake was that out of the six candidates, there was only one female, the Liberal Democrat candidate, Jenny Wilkinson and it seems this is not unique to our region. All the eight new metro Mayors that have been elected since 2017 have been men and in the Mayoral elections of 2019 held in various geographical locations only 18% of candidates were women and not one woman was elected to the six elected positions.
This point isn’t meant to be ‘male bashing’ it just highlights some of the systemic issues that seem to exist in relation to true gender equality. With statistics revealing that in 2019 women made up 50.61%* of the population of the UK yet those making key decisions aren’t representative of those that live within their regions.
As the questioning of the candidates continued with content sent in from event attendees the wider issue became apparent with response revealing that only 8% of girls are taking up engineering apprenticeship and, only 15% of female candidates pursuing apprenticeships in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). It seems there is still a long way to go in the pursuance of true equality.
Here at Midland Heart we take the issue of gender quality very seriously and have made some great achievements. We’ve reviewed our family friendly offer, appointed females to 60% of all senior roles advertised and launched our women’s network, Balance, which is now a year old.
Our recent gender pay report reveals that our mean gender pay gap for 2020 is 18.58%. Whilst our pay gap is higher than the UK average of 14.6% (ONS November 2020), the positive news is that it is coming down. In the year to 5 April 2020, we saw it reduce by 1.79% and also saw our median gender pay gap fall by 6.41% to 17.95%. You can read more about what we’re doing about our pay gap by reading the full report.
My final point from the event was the interesting fact that nearly 74% of inhabitants in the seven voting areas in the Mayoral elections of 2017 didn’t cast their vote. That equates to nearly 1.5 million people note putting pen to paper to have their say on who contributes to the decision of where the reported £900 million of the West Midlands Combined Authority budget is spent.
*2019 World Bank collection of development indicators