Blog: Happy International Women’s Day!

It’s always a huge source of pride to me that UNISON is the largest women’s organisation in the UK.

Regional secretary Joanne Kaye writes on International Women’s Day 2019.

With over a million women members, we have the strongest voice on issues like the gender pay gap, sexual harassment, part time working and domestic abuse. Our union colours of purple and green were inspired by the suffragettes and we have honoured them by working tirelessly to get more women in politics, such as the wonderful Angela Rayner, a former care worker in Stockport and Eleanor Smith, who took the Wolverhampton South West seat, showing how a black theatre nurse could take over a seat once held by Enoch Powell. Here in the South West, Bristol MPs Thangam Debonnaire and Karin Smyth were both UNISON members before election to Parliament.

We’re proud of our achievements, but there is still so much more to do. The gender pay gap nationally stands at 17.9%, meaning that if you paid men and women the same average wage, women wouldn’t start getting paid in the year until March 6th! Sexual harassment remains a serious problem in many workplaces with social media providing new ways for women to be threatened and attacked, with young women being at particular risk. Women still carry an unfair load domestically, in terms of child care, dependent care and housework, holding them back at work and placing them under greater pressure and stress.  The impact of austerity policies has led to women suffering the double whammy of being more likely to lose their jobs in public services and being more at risk due to the loss of services in social care, domestic abuse services and in healthcare.

In our own union too, there is work to be done. We need more women to become the union voice in their workplace, speaking up for colleagues and standing up for our members rights. Too often union reps are seen as men and “of a certain age”. Getting young women involved in their union is going to be a huge priority for us in the Year of Young Workers. If you want to know more about being a rep, click here and join us in making workplaces better and fairer for women – and men too.

If you have time to share International Women’s Day 2019 greetings or celebrations with us on social media, use #IWD2019 and tag @UNISONSW on Twitter or UNISON South West on Facebook. Have a great day – but please think about getting more involved in UNISON.  You never know, it may be more fun than you think!