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What can advisers do to make women feel safe?

Alison Steed

Alison Steed

Women are currently front and centre on the news as a result of the sad death of Sarah Everard and the treatment by police of women who attended a vigil on Clapham Common.

The reality is that almost any woman you ask has a story about how they have been abused, followed, or intimidated by a man at some point in their life. A quick search on Twitter reveals some – yet not even the full – extent of the problem.

The outpouring of feeling is a way for women to have their voices heard, to push towards better treatment and be taken seriously when we say that the treatment we get in so many walks of life is woefully short of equality.

Equal pay should have been a feature of our lives since 1975. Yet the gender pay gap is alive and kicking and has got even wider during the pandemic.

This, sadly, has also disproportionately impacted women in a financial sense.

To make matters worse, the enforcement action against companies failing to report on their gender pay gap has been delayed again due to the pandemic, and now will not be back in place until October 5 2021.

These are extreme circumstances, granted. But the message this sends to women is that they are not important.

The Women and Equalities Committee published a report into the pandemic and how it has impacted women. Caroline Nokes, the committee chair, said: “The message from our evidence is clear: government policies have repeatedly skewed towards men – and it keeps happening.

"We need to see more than good intentions and hoping for the best. The government must start actively analysing and assessing the equality impact of every policy, or it risks turning the clock back.”

When you consider that we live in such a patriarchal society, it is little wonder that the maltreatment of women spends such a short time in the headlines when we women ‘make a fuss’ about it. 

There are 220 women sitting as MPs in the House of Parliament, 34 per cent of the total number. You may think this is not too bad, that it beats the minimum set as a target for the FTSE 100 boards to reach.

However, it places the UK a woeful 38th in a league table of countries with women in either the lower house or only parliament equivalent, according to research paper "Women in Politics and Public Life".

Rwanda has 61 per cent as of January this year, Cuba has a female majority in its parliament, and 41 per cent of MEPs sitting in the European Parliament are women.

That figure falls to 28 per cent of peers sitting in the House of Lords. This is despite 33.82m of the UK population being women and 32.98m being men, according to official figures. Clearly there is not proportional representation in either house. And that is before we even take into account ethnicity.