ACTION MUST BE TAKEN TO PROTECT WOMEN AND GIRLS FROM ABUSE AND DISCRIMINATION
Gender equality in the classroom, boardroom and government must be underpinned by a society in which women and girls are no longer subject to abuse and harassment, a fringe meeting organised by the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK has heard.
The meeting, held at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, examined what was needed to help secure genuine gender equality in schools and wider society.
And it heard disturbing evidence of the abuse women and girls are facing in schools, in workplaces and online.
Addressing the fringe meeting were: Yvette Cooper MP, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society and Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary. The meeting was chaired by Ivana Bartoletti, chair of the Fabian Women’s network.
Chris Keates said in the last 30 years there had been huge strides forward as a result of a gender sensitive approach in schools.
However, since 2010 there had been a backlash on gender equality for girls and women as a result of policy changes and austerity.
She said: “Over 90% of teachers in primary schools are women, yet only half of headteacher posts are filled by women.
“Almost three quarters of the teaching profession are women yet increasingly if a woman teacher asks for flexible working she is told she has no right to it, if she is pregnant she is shown the door and if she stands up for her right to pay progression she is told it is not her turn. Older women teachers face an even more discrimination.
“The pay gap between men and women in teaching not only persists it is widening. Women teachers lose out to their male counterparts on average up to £2,900.”
Sam Smethers highlighted disturbing research which found almost a third of girls aged 16-18 were being subject to unwanted sexual touching in schools and a significant minority of teenage girls were experiencing sexual violence in relationships.
She said: “We have big issues in education to address and we need mandatory sex and relationships education in our schools
“We also have a massive polarisation in the Labour market. Women are predominantly moving into the caring professions and women are not going into STEM subjects and engineering as much as they could.”
Yvette Cooper warned of the increasing level of misogyny online:
She said: “We have to stand up against the poisoning of the internet and social media by a minority that ends up affecting everyone as well.
“Misogyny can make normal the kind of abuse you might have thought we can get rid of, offline or in the streets or in communities but somehow becomes more acceptable.
“Because the abuse can be online, the kind of bullying you might get in the playground or workplace at least when you go home again you would have a break from it, well not if it is in your phone or in your hand, it’s in your bedroom and it is with you all the time.
“Online abuse is now also increasingly part of domestic violence and coercive control.”