21 Jun 2008

UNISON National Delegate Conference - Women into Public Life

The motion on Women into Public Lfe at UNISON's National Delegate Conference although high up on the last day of business was sadly not reached. The SOGs had asked for this to be the theme of a fringe meeting and were told that ther might be a guest speaker instead. But we did not get a guest speaker on the topic, nor did we get a fringe and in fact all the guest speakers at conference were men.

The LGBT group believed this motion shows that as a society we still have a long way to go to achieving gender equality particularly when it comes to politics and public life.

Therefore we particularly welcomed the launch of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Women Councillors Taskforce this May by Harriet Harman. The cross party taskforce which will take practical action is intended to help more black, Asian and minority ethnic women to become councillors and will be done through a series of activities such as outreach into communities and mentoring. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women account for less than 1% of England’s 20,000 councillors. Only 2 of the 19.5% of the women MPs come from Minority Ethnic communities. There has never been an Asian woman MP.

We also welcome the Government’s announcement that the Equality Bill will include provision for political parties to allow the adoption of all-women shortlists until 2030.

As far as LGBT women, in 2008, there is only one ‘out’ lesbian politician in the House of Commons and none in the House of Lords. There are no out Trans MPs or Lords. And no-one who has said that they are bi-sexual.

Stonewall have just produced a report ‘Serves You Right’ - lesbian and gay people’s expectations of discrimination. A you.gov survey was carried out and found that the majority of lesbians and gay people expect to experience discrimination if they seek election by a political party or run for parliament. And Women are more likely to think this as two thirds of lesbians thought they would be discriminated against. Local politics was not much different.

Stonewall have recommended that political parties actively encourage their LGB members to run for positions and agree to deselect any candidate who engages in homophobic campaigning. Stonewall is a LGB campaigning group and obviously UNISON’s lgbt group would extend this to Trans people as well.

This year UNISON submitted a motion to LGBT Labour on increasing the effective participation of women. LGBT Labour has launched Dorothys List, a campaigning fund to support LGBT candidates particularly women running for election.

It's not just going to be a clicking of the heels for us to get into public life. We have a long journey ahead of us even down the red brick road.

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