GMB union Equalities Group womens history month

It’s no longer unusual to see a woman bus driver, firefighter or engineer turn up at your house to repair an electrical fault.

6 April 2021

March is Women’s History Month, celebrated by GMB union Equalities Group

During the month of March we celebrated Women’s History Month with some of our regional activists taking part in various events both locally and nationally. The North West & Iish region held an International Women’s Day event, there was TUC Women’s Conference and various national intersectional womens events have also taken place.

At a time when we celebrate womens achievements both past and present, we also look forward at the kind of world we will be leaving behind for the women who will follow us. I’m sure that if 100 years ago we had been able to show Emmeline Pankhurst a snapshot of how Britain would look today, she would have been delighted and dismayed in equal measure. Delighted at the representation of women in Parliament, the growing number of women heading major businesses, women in sport, entertainment and science.

GMB union membership is 50/50

The membership of the GMB trade union is 50% women, we do have a large percentage of those women working in the lowest paid jobs: care, retail, facilities, hospitality and beauty but we are also seeing increasing numbers of women in what were thought of as traditional male roles: engineering, transport, security and sciences.

It’s no longer unusual to see a woman bus driver, firefighter or engineer turn up at your house to repair an electrical fault. Women’s football, although still a long way behind the men’s game in finance is finally becoming more mainstream, with the BBC announcing a three year deal to broadcast WSL, 100 years since the FA banned women’s football.

Also in March we were reminded of just how little progress has been made in terms of misogynistic attitudes towards women. As we celebrated the many great women who preceded us and our colleagues who inspire us, we learnt of the murder of Sarah Everard and that the suspect was a serving police officer. While most of us were saddened at the senseless death of a young woman and horrified that someone in a position of trust was the suspect, there were many voices questioning why Sarah was out in the dark alone, why she hadn’t called a cab, had she done anything to contribute to her death?

Sadly, these voices are all too familiar to many women and girls who suffer violence and prevents the reporting of countless assaults. In the 12 months to March 2020 there were 58,856 recorded rapes but only 2,102 prosecutions however we will never know the amount of cases that went unreported. When a woman has to defend her lifestyle choices, the clothes she wears and the messages she sends on social media to the defence lawyer for her attacker, then we know that we are far from equal in the eyes of the law.

To achieve true equality requires:

Education- teaching children from a very young age about respect for each other and maintaining that message throughout the school curriculum at all ages

Law changes-someone’s previous lifestyle should not be used as a green light for sexual assault

Changes to attitude-not what could the victim have done differently but why are men attacking and killing us?

Our male allies calling out misogynistic conversations on our behalf-that ‘locker-room’ banter which normalises ‘rape culture’

There is a role for trade unions to play in campaigning and raising awareness, working with employers and community groups to tackle misogyny in all its forms.

If you are a GMB trade union member and would like to join the Regional Equalities Group, please email Lisa Ryan for more information.

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