Equal Marriage becomes law!

Lynne Featherstone MP celebrating the third reading of the Bill on Monday (credit: http://www.complicity.co.uk/LordsEqualMarriage/)Lynne Featherstone MP has expressed her delight today, as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was granted Royal Assent and consequently has become an Act of law.

The first marriage ceremonies are expected to take place by summer next year.

The Liberal Democrat MP has been at the forefront of the process to secure equal marriage since it was first confirmed as Liberal Democrat policy in 2010, having brought the policy to the Home Office and initiated the Government consultation process in March 2012 in her former role as Equalities Minister.

The MP for Hornsey and Wood Green has been awarded ‘Politician of the Year’ for her efforts by Attitude Magazine in October 2012.

On her blog, Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“I am so happy – that’s it – just so happy. You go into politics wanting to change the world for the better – and here is my little bit of it.

“Tributes to all who have helped over the ages in the step by step journey to equal marriage – but especially to those who have had to suffer the discrimination and bigotry that made its path so painful.

“And very best wishes to all those who will now get married. As Ben & Jerry put it on the special ice-cream tub they sent me to thank me for my work instigating equal marriage: ‘Everyone deserves to live Apple-y Ever After’

“…and so they do!”

Lynne Featherstone MP launches new measures to help close gender pay gap

Employers will be asked to help tackle the gender pay gap by publishing data about their workforce on a voluntary basis under new plans announced yesterday.

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said that the proposal, which is part of a new Equality strategy, will increase transparency and help employers identify problems.

It is aimed at organisations that employee 150 or more people and follows a similar commitment for the public sector announced earlier this year.

Lynne made the announcement at the publication of the annual Female FTSE100 report which shows that the number of women on the boards of Britain’s biggest companies has barely increased in the past three years.

She told the audience of business leaders: ‘We want to move away from the arrogant notion that government knows best, to one where government empowers individuals, businesses and communities to make change happen.

‘Different organisations face different challenges in promoting equality so if we are to get this right for everybody a much more flexible approach is needed.

‘Today’s equality strategy is our blueprint for change, including plans for voluntary pay reporting and positive action in recruitment and promotion.

‘These plans are absolutely not about political correctness, or red tape, or quotas. They are about giving individual employers the tools they need to help make the workplace fairer.’

Ms Featherstone also announced that the government will enact the Equality Act measures on positive action in relation to recruitment and promotion.
This will help employers make their organisations more representative by giving them the option, when faced with two or more candidates of equal merit, to choose a candidate from a group that is under-represented in the workforce.

For example, a primary school that has no male teachers could choose to appoint a male candidate who is of equal merit to a female candidate. This does not mean allowing ‘quotas’ or giving someone a job just because they are a woman, disabled or from an ethnic minority — positive discrimination remains illegal.

Published today, the cross-government equality strategy explains the government’s new approach which is based on treating people as individuals with individual needs.

As part of the new approach the Government Equalities Office will become a unit of the Home Office, bringing equality into the heart of government.

Graduation celebration for BAME women councillor scheme

We have four new black and minority ethnic women councillors since the last election – thanks to a ground breaking and much-needed mentoring scheme.

Less than 1% of women councillors come from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds despite making up 5% of the population!

So Operation Black Vote and the Government Equalities Office launched a task-force to tackle this under-representation. To lack BAME women means we are losing out, on not only representation itself, but talented and able women who may just never have thought someone like them could go into politics.

If you have never seen role models that look like you in politics; if you have never stood up and spoken in front of a group of other people; if you don’t know that much about how politics works – be that council or parliament – then it’s a huge and unlikely step for you to take. There are other barriers too. The cost – if you are a low earner. Cultural barriers – if your culture doesn’t encourage women to participate in politics and so on.

So the task-force sent ambassadors around the country speaking to groups of BAME women. From that around 125 came forward and of those 60 took part in the mentoring scheme and a further 25 in a skills based project SOLACE.

Eight of the women on the mentoring scheme stood to become councillors in the May 6th local elections just passed and four of those have been elected as councillors.

Congratulations to all of them! I look forward to meeting them later today at the graduation ceremony.

It’s that first step that is so vital. I remember myself (not black but female) and not coming from the sort of background where anyone even thought of politics. But I did a shadowing scheme myself shadowing one of our MPs and it was during that period that I first got elected as a councillor to Haringey Council.

It gave me the confidence to go from ‘I couldn’t possibly, not someone like me’ to ‘actually I can’!