We need to build a country where opportunity is available to everyone.
Your gender, your sexuality, where you live, shouldn’t determine your opportunities or your life chances.
But the reality is that far too often, it does. And unless we acknowledge inequalities and step up to the challenge, we will never deliver the fairer country or the more equal life chances that everyone deserves.
Whilst we have made great strides in recent decades, there is so much further to go.
Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, with a theme for this year’s campaign of ‘Break the Bias’.
Whether it be our schools, our workplaces or our communities – and whether it is deliberate or unconscious – bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead.
Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field.
The pay gap between women and men remains a reality in the workplace that still needs to be addressed. The Office of National Statistics report that, among full time employees, women are on average earning 7.9% less than men.
In the year ending March 2020, 1.6 million women suffered domestic abuse.
The Office of National Statistics’ 2021 figures show a 6% increase in domestic abuse.
But only one third of all cases result in an arrest – and even fewer result in a prosecution.
Since becoming the first female MP elected for Barnsley East in 2017, I have raised key issues such as these with the Government, including the gender pay gap, pushing for better support in the workplace for women who suffer from endometriosis, and highlighting how our justice system lets down domestic abuse survivors while handing abusers the tools and means of exerting control over partners long after they have left.
And I have supported Barnsley charities, like IDAS and the Barnsley Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre, who do incredible work helping local residents in need of support.
We need action at a national scale to tackle these societal problems. But we need individual action too.
We need to get better at challenging bias where we see it – and learning when we don’t get things right.
So, this international Women’s Day, let us not only celebrate the achievements of women thus far, but mark the day as a call to action to challenge inequalities where we find them and to accelerate our journey to a more equal society.