Nicky Morgan leaves 10 Downing Street after being appointed as Financial Secretary to the Treasury and minister for women. Photograph: Getty Images.
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What should the new minister for women do?

Nicky Morgan won’t have a magic wand, but a fresh minister could make a real difference on equal pay, vulnerable women and gender segregation in the workplace.  

Four years after the 2010 election and the government’s track record on equality is patchy at best. For women’s equality, in particular, years of slow but steady progress has begun to unravel. A staggering 80 per cent of the money saved through changes to the welfare system is coming from women’s pockets, while what money is going back into the system is disproportionately benefitting men. (1)

Our standing in the labour market has also come under threat, with public sector jobs cuts hitting women hardest. Most damningly of all, the pay gap has widened for the first time in five years: more than 40 years after the Equal Pay Act, women now earn an average 16 per cent less than men. (2)

At the same time, some of the most vulnerable women in the UK have nowhere to turn as councils around the country slash funding for vital programmes, such as violence against women support services. (3) Some positives – notably the introduction of equal marriage, increased support for childcare costs and the extending of the right to request flexible working – are being undermined by an economic programme that is forcing women to act as shock absorbers for the cuts.

The appointment of a new minister for women is an opportunity to re-focus, and push women’s equality to the front of the government’s agenda.

While Nicky Morgan won’t have a magic wand, a fresh minister could make a real difference. Her position as Financial Secretary to the Treasury should also prove useful when it comes to mitigating some of the worse effects of austerity.

Fawcett’s to-do list includes:

  • Thinking again about paying down the deficit primarily through public spending cuts. The current 80:20 ratio straightaway hits women hardest as we rely more heavily on the state for financial support due to being poorer and having greater caring responsibilities – benefits typically make up a fifth of women’s incomes as opposed to a tenth of men’s. (4)

 

  • Widening government investment to beyond those industries where men dominate the workforce (such as infrastructure) – and doing more to challenge gender segregation in the workplace.  

 

  • Taking urgent action to protect the most vulnerable women by protecting violence against women services from local authority cuts.

 

  • Ensuring that all spending decisions are consider in light of what they will mean for equality between different groups, including men and women  so conducting thorough "impact assessments".

 

  • Effectively tackling the shame that is a widening pay gap by enacting the Equality Act requirement that big business monitor and publicise their own gaps and by taking action to improve low pay

 

These are just a top five to be going on with, and Nicky Morgan’s in-tray will no doubt be bulging, but capitalising on the energy a new appointment brings could deliver real progress.

  1. House of Commons research quoted in the Independent 8 March 2014 found tax and benefit changes brought in under the coalition government  have raised a net £3.047bn (21 per cent) from men and £11.628bn (79 per cent) from women.
  2. Pay gap: ONS figures published in November 2013 found that:  Men’s mean gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) were £16.91 in April 2013, up 2.3 per cent from £16.52 in 2012. Women’s mean hourly earnings increased by 1.3 per cent to £14.25 compared with £14.07 in 2012. This means that the gender pay difference for full-time employees widened to 15.7 per cent from 14.8 per cent in 2012.
  3. Thirty-one percent of the funding to the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector from local authorities was cut between 2010/11 to 2011/12, ‘Measuring the impact of cuts in public expenditure on the provision of services to prevent violence against women and girls’,  Professor Sylvia Walby,  January 2012
  4.  The Fawcett Society, Who Benefits?: A gender analysis of the UK benefits and tax credits system, April 2006.

Daisy Sands is head of policy and campaigns at the Fawcett Society  

Daisy Sands is head of policy and campaigns at the Fawcett Society 

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Donald Trump vs Barack Obama: How the inauguration speeches compared

We compared the two presidents on trade, foreign affairs and climate change – so you (really, really) don't have to.

After watching Donald Trump's inaugural address, what better way to get rid of the last few dregs of hope than by comparing what he said with Barack Obama's address from 2009? 

Both thanked the previous President, with Trump calling the Obamas "magnificent", and pledged to reform Washington, but the comparison ended there. 

Here is what each of them said: 

On American jobs

Obama:

The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift.  And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.  We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.  We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.  We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.  And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

Trump:

For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

Obama had a plan for growth. Trump just blames the rest of the world...

On global warming

Obama:

With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

Trump:

On the Middle East:

Obama:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. 

Trump:

We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

On “greatness”

Obama:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned.

Trump:

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

 

On trade

Obama:

This is the journey we continue today.  We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth.  Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.  Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.  Our capacity remains undiminished.  

Trump:

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland