Suffolk County Council revealed its Gender Pay gap last week, days before the legally required deadline of 30 March. It showed that although the Council employs nearly three times as many women as men, there’s still a significant Gender Paygap in favour of men.
The County Council’s mean Paygap is 14.8% (2.6% below the national average) , the median, at 18.6%, above the national average. In other words SuffolkCC employs very few men but they are overrepresented in the better paid sectors and underrepresented in the less well paid sectors. (All the statistics refer to the hourly pay rates of full-pay employees so part-time status does not explain the gap).
As LDGI Spokesperson for Women, I asked Suffolk County Council’s Deputy Leader Jane Storey in full council last week whether this gap may be because Suffolk also has a gender data gap? My questions may sound illogical coming from a Spokesperson for Women, because they concerned the rights of men.
“We say we have an occupational maternity scheme. Do we have an occupational paternity scheme? Do we actively promote paternity leave? We say we encourage flexible working – is that for men as well as women? What are the outcomes? We say we run positive recruitment campaigns to encourage women into roles in traditionally male areas. Are there campaigns to encourage men into traditionally female areas? “ I asked.
The bottom line is, “Unless we take a gender-neutral attitude and support everyone at work equally, women tend to be the ones who generally sacrifice fulltime work, career and salary and end up paid less – and the gender paygap will continue. Men will also lose out – but in other ways. They too need support to prevent this happening. “
The Deputy Leader’s response was confused and also suggested a profound misunderstanding of the subject. “I struggle to point out how good an employer we are in terms of women,” she told us – with uncanny prescience – adding “The only way to reduce the gender paygap is to not employ women and to employ men.”
(Can anyone see the fault in this logic?)
According to Cllr Storey, the issue was not – as one might suspect – that SuffolkCC employs too many women on too low a wage, but that “we employ women because that is probably better suited to their characteristics…. Most women are naturally caring,” she claimed. (And therefore don’t want to be paid or promoted to their capacities? Stands to reason! Of course).
Such a response is very concerning. Resorting to talk of “nature” and so-called essential differences between men and women as an explanation for the gender pay gap obscures the real problem and makes it much more difficult to resolve: we need to be confronting these gender stereotypes, not reinforcing them.
Digging herself ever further into a slough of sexist stereotypes, Cllr Storey then gave the chamber the example of Virgin Atlantic Airline where “figures are very much skewed towards men because they tend to employ male pilots, male engineers…”
All this shows (apart from suggesting interesting employment practices on the part of Virgin Atlantic Airlines) is that Suffolk county council’s administration does not understand the Suffolk Gender Paygap problem – they therefore cannot be the best people to put it right.
Suffolk’s School Transport Consultation This finished at the end of February. I hope that Woodbridge Town council put in a response, as I aAsuggested in my report last month, bearing in mind the impact these proposals will have on everybody in the town.
I obviously responded with my own concerns, and held an awareness-raising stall in the Woodbridge Thoroughfare the Saturday before the consultation finished. This resulted in 25-30 new submissions. Additionally, Suffolk County’s LibDem Green & Independent Group put in a group response, which I attach (below).
Concerns raised over accountability and transparency of Suffolk Public Sector Leaders Board The Suffolk Public Sector Leaders Board (SPSLB) is made up of council leaders and chief executives from across Suffolk, as well as the PCC, chief fire officer and representatives from Suffolk’s Clinical Commissioning Groups. Some of these are elected and some, as you can see, are not. The SPSLB controls a large pot of money, made up of £7.447m from the Suffolk business rates pool and £3.23m of central government funding received as part of the Transformation Challenge Award. Continue reading March: what has been happening in Suffolk→
February 6th 1918 saw (some) modern British women get the vote. 100 years on, I’m one of 22 women out of 75 councillors elected to Suffolk County Council. 22 -that’s 29% – significantly below the appalling 33% average women in UK councils – itself a flatline, increasing only 5% since 1997. At the current rate of progress it’ll take 48 years for the UK to reach gender equality – and nearer 80 in Suffolk.
We’re behind so many countries: Italy, Germany, Norway. The Rwandan parliament is 64% female – in Suffolk, there are 2 women out of 7 MPs, a pretty equivalent percentage to the county councillors. And this is Suffolk! – Birthplace of women’s higher education, home of Women’s Suffrage.
Clearly something’s adrift.
In 1860 3 young women in a house in Aldeburgh planned to change women’s futures: Elizabeth Garrett became first woman to qualify in Britain (both physician and surgeon), co-founder of the first hospital staffed by women, first woman dean of a British medical school, first female doctor of medicine in France, first woman in Britain to be elected to a school board, and (as Mayor of Aldeburgh), first female British mayor and magistrate – a lot of firsts in a lot of fields. Her friend Emily Davies opened university education to women: she founded Girton College, Cambridge. Elizabeth’s 13-year-old sister Millicent became Millicent Fawcett, pioneer of women’s suffrage.
It is fair to say, the rest is – half-remembered – history.
On the way back from Ipswich Hospital Garret Anderson centre the other day, a taxi driver asked “who the chap was” that it was named after? And who in Suffolk links women’s suffrage and Fawcett Society with that 13yo in Aldeburgh?
A crying shame when you consider that half of our county’s population are women – about 370,000 of us all occupying Suffolk’s 3800 square kilometres. If we were spread across the county we might all be within shouting distance of each other – if we shouted very loud. And we’ve a lot of reasons to shout. The gender pay gap in Suffolk is 22.2% – above the national average. We have a higher than average level of violence against women. Last year, I established that Suffolk was not a good place to be a girl.
Women need all the help we can get – in Suffolk, as elsewhere. So why so few women representing us?
First and foremost I’d say a lot of women simply don’t think of themselves as elected representatives. A shame, because so many women’s lives have required them to develop the skills sets, the energy, the drive, the determination, the ability to multitask and the fire in our bellies to be very good representatives indeed. A lot of women just don’t realise they have the skills, or that they have value.
Then, people in general have a very low awareness of government in general. They are often unclear as to which services are delivered by central government, and which by local. In Suffolk, people are often unclear as to which council of three they may mean when talking about ‘the council’. Who’d be elected to something you don’t understand?
What people do know about councils, they know in terms of dissatisfaction – transport, potholes, social care – all gone wrong. They know that some officers are paid large salaries. They often conflate these with councillors who are paid (small) ‘allowances’. Generally this means that ‘the council’ has an undeserved bad reputation: people see it as ‘them’ instead of ‘us’ and profligate with ‘our money.’
Most curious of all, when it comes to ‘our money’ people seem to make very little connection between local politics, voting and outcome. They will see local elections as unimportant and ‘not bother’ to vote – though the effects of the county council budget will affect their roads, their schools their social care, their transport.
They will vote for a party that fails to raise council tax year after year – and then be astonished at the effect this has on their roads, their schools their social care, their transport.
Within this mindset very few women might want to be councillors – seeing it as a male environment and a negative one at that. And yet of course, it a council is a place where we the people can put many things right – and gender equality in councillors can make this happen.
No, this isn’t pie in the sky – its common sense! Councils have budgets and allocate huge amounts of local funding – and they decide where it goes. If most councillors are middle-aged middle-class white men who have never had “the worry of how to put shoes on the children’s feet because you are paid so little as a carer”, or “worry if you can manage to hang on to your job while getting two children to schools in different directions”, they will not understand the issues of paying carers too little, or splitting siblings between schools, or failing to provide rural families with sufficient transport options. They may well have different funding priorities to women when it come to refuges, or rape crisis lines or supporting family carers. Not because they mean harm – but because it has never had to enter their head as personal priorities.
My own background as a councillor is, maybe, unusual – but I would suggest that the background of many women councillors IS unusual. Many experiences played a part, but I’d say, most importantly, was that I was a lone parent and full-time carer fighting for the needs for my disabled child – and very angry indeed about various things in society that I wanted to try and change. In the end my friends told me to put up or shut up so I joined the party that was closest to my beliefs and put my name forward to stand as county councillor.
I stood against a respected, longstanding local politician – he was a past town, district, county councillor and past mayor too. And, against any expectation I won. Was it because I wasn’t a “normal politician”?
I’ve been re-elected three times since. Because of that I have had the chance to raise more issues, fight for more causes, and gain more successes than I had ever thought possible as a private individual. And that is immensely satisfying.
But still as a woman you find you can speak to a silence and five minutes later a male councillor repeats what you say to rapturous applause – clearly you had a cloak of invisibility on.You speak with passion about an injustice and a political journalist tweets something dismissive about your manner of speech. Like Ginger Rogers you do everything Fred Astaire does but backwards and in high heels, and still get second billing. There are endless microaggressions. Why? It’s a numbers game.
But the winds of change are blowing here -as in the film industry, as everywhere. The atmosphere is suddenly getting markedly less aggressive
I love what I do because it has so much variety- and you can have so much direct effect. One day you are fighting to stop someone (it often seems to be a woman, low-hanging fruit) getting deported, the next, putting the spotlight on a controversial transport consultation, the next convincing the council about the injustice of WASPI pensions. There’s never a dull moment and it makes a real difference to real lives.
To my mind, politics isn’t a game of “them” and “us” – its about how ‘we’ want to get ‘our’ country, county, town to work – and where women are concerned it’s a numbers game.
Our numbers and our expertise will ensure that we can make it better for all of us in towns, in counties, in our country if we step up to the plate and have belief in our own capacities.
Orwell Bridge to close at 9pm tonight
Highways England is advising road users that the Orwell Bridge will be closed from 9pm tonight (Tuesday 2 January) for safety reasons, due to high winds (Storm Eleanor)It is likely to remain closed through tomorrow’s (Wednesday 3 January) peak morning travel time. Once the Orwell Bridge is closed, the planned diversion route is via the A1156, A1189 and A1214 through Ipswich.
Drivers planning to travel are encouraged to plan their journey in advance and check the latest weather and traffic conditions along the route. You can get the latest forecast from BBC weather, the Met Office, and local radio. Highways England live traffic information: www.highways.gov.uk/traffic-information
Drivers making journeys across the region should be wary of sudden gusts of wind, and be sure to give high-sided vehicles, caravans, motorbikes and bicycles plenty of space.
Extreme weather can also damage overhead power lines resulting in loss of electricity supply. UK Power networks say they have additional staff in their contact centre to help customers whose electricity supply might be affected by the predicted weather, and called-up additional engineers to carry out repairs to overhead lines and poles as soon as the wind reduces to a speed at which it is safe to work.
Tweet @ukpowernetworks to report a power cuts or to receive updates
Do you, or someone you know, need extra support during a power cut? @UKPowerNetworks provides free services to vulnerable customers. Visit ukpowernetworks.co.uk/priority for more information #stormEleanor
Did you have carol singers at your door in Woodbridge this CHristmas? If so, you may have been ‘lucky’ enough to be serenaded by the friends and supporters of Jetty Lane – the first of its many fund-raising activities.
Do please give generously.
Jetty Lane is Woodbridge’s proposed wonderful new youth , arts and community centre – just before Christmas we got the go-ahead for a 125 year lease from Suffolk County Council to rebuild on the site of the old Woodbridge Youth Club.
This club housed popular youth charity ‘Just42’ (currently camping out in containers on the site) as well as a range of other groups. The old building was pulled down, but the demand remained, and is growing. We all know Woodbridge is a property hotspot. None of the groups that were made homeless have been able to find permanent new homes anywhere in Woodbridge. The site is ideal – because it is very central and allows users to get there by bus, bicycle, on foot, even by skateboard, as well as being close to good car-parking.
The building is beautiful and flexible, with a wonderful design by local architects, and will also house 1st Woodbridge Scouts; small studios for young artists; hireable space for groups and some hotdesking.
So if you hear us a knocking in 2018, open the door and get your piggy bank out. You will be bringing comfort and joy to Woodbridge’s young people – and their children, and grandchildren.
Other ways you can help the work
• Make a donation (Cheques payable to Jetty Lane cic)
• Hold a fundraising event
• Volunteer with us
• Spread the good news!
Jetty Lane is a CiC. Directors: Caroline Page, Cordelia Richman, Caroline Rutherford (Just 42), Adam Thorpe (1st Woodbridge Scouts), Alice-Andrea Ewing (representing local artists).