Written evidence submitted by Pregnant Then Screwed [GSP0025]
Pregnant Then Screwed is a charity that seeks to protect, support and promote the rights of pregnant women and mothers. We carry out extensive research into the effects of systemic cultural and institutional discrimination during pregnancy and motherhood, as it relates specifically to employment. Our support services include a free employment rights helpline, a free legal advice service, and an employment tribunal mentoring service, as well as in-person and online events, among these events was Pregnant Then Elected, a project to encourage more mothers into politics.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women has been well documented; school and childcare closures, a spike in pregnancy and maternity discrimination, high numbers of redundancies among mothers with school-age children, unsafe workplaces for pregnant women, indirect sex discrimination in the SEISS payment calculation and a spike in domestic violence. As an organisation that represents working mothers and pregnant women, we are in no doubt that the experience of the women we serve has been exacerbated by the gender-blind policy-making of the current government throughout the pandemic. Despite calls from across the House and the recommendations of this committee in its report Unequal impact? Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact, the government has repeatedly failed to act or to carry out robust equalities assessments during its Covid response.
While representation in Parliament is at an all-time high with 34% of seats held by women, just 23% of cabinet ministers are women; essentially, only 5 women - less than a quarter of the cabinet - are involved in making critical policy decisions which affect 50% of the population. Additionally, the Prime Minister’s so-called ‘Covid war cabinet’ consisted entirely of men.
We believe that the lack of women in Parliament, particularly in cabinet positions, has created adverse outcomes for working mothers and pregnant women during the pandemic. Representation matters, but so too does inclusivity. Once female MPs are elected, we must make it viable for them to actively participate and engage. Our evidence suggests ways in which Parliament can do just that.
We recommend that this committee urge Her Majesty’s Government to act on the following points:
Aside from moving towards a more representative Parliament, it is vital that policies and conditions exist which encourage women to participate and do not alienate them from politics. Equally, Parliament must recognise the role it plays in setting an example of gender equality in the workplace. Indeed, it is the most famous workplace in the country. Very few people go to work everyday and have millions of people watch them do their job and scrutinise their performance. The country pays attention to what is happening in Westminster, it is now time for Westminster to pay attention to women.