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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Promoting Gender Equality

Friday, October 7, 2005

Meg gave the following speech at the launch of the ‘Advancing Equality for Men and Women’ consultation document in London. The document gives Government proposals to introduce a public sector duty to promote gender equality.

For further details: http://www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk/legislation/index.htm


Today marks a key milestone in the Government’s equality programme - one that began 30 years ago with the Sex Discrimination Act. Since then, there have been great strides in achieving equality between men and women. However, as we are all too aware, we still have a long way to go. Women still come second in the workplace and in other spheres of life. Men are also facing inequalities too, particularly if they wish to play a full role as fathers and achieve a balance between work and family responsibilities.

This is where the public sector duty on gender equality - commonly known as the ‘gender duty’ - will make a difference. This duty, which is similar to the race and disability duties, will target the public sector as it has a big impact on the lives of men and women. Services such as health, education, pensions are important for everyone. The public sector also employs a large number of people.

The duty will require public authorities to be proactive and take steps to promote equality of opportunity between women and men. We want the public sector to be more responsive to the different needs of men and women. Last week in Brighton the Prime Minister repeated his commitment to reform and improve public services - this is an essential plank of that process.

Today we’re launching a public consultation on our proposals for the gender duty. Our proposals have not been drafted in isolation - they are the fruits of a close government - stakeholder relationship. We have been fortunate in the assistance and dedicated commitment of stakeholders in drafting the proposals, in particular the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Our proposals can be summarised as requiring public authorities to examine their activities to identify what needs to be done to meet the different needs of women and men in a process that also involves employees, service users and other stakeholder organisations.

They will then need to draw up and publish an equality scheme - this should identify goals for gender equality and the steps that authority will take to implement them - and they will have to implement them. They will have to develop and publish a policy on their equal pay arrangements - including measures to ensure fair promotion and development opportunities and those to tackle occupational segregation.

They will be required to assess the impact on women and men of new legislation, policies, employment and service delivery changes. These assessments must be published.

The consultation document sets out the reasons for the proposals and asks for people’s views.

We want a duty which is pragmatic, focuses on outcomes and which will lead to greater equality. It should result in a culture change in the way we address equality issues in the public sector. In complying with the duty, public authorities must consult with employees and stakeholders when drawing up gender equality schemes, equal pay policy statements and impact assessments. They will need to publish and be accountable in what they do; and finally through their actions, demonstrate their commitment to gender equality.

There are of course public authorities who have already made significant progress in tackling gender equality issues - and indeed wider equality issues. But we need to ensure greater consistency in this area throughout the public sector. That is why we have decided on the need for a statutory obligation - to bring about a vigorous and systematic approach to improving equality between men and women in services and in employment in the public sector.

I know that you will want this duty to succeed. We do as well. What matters are the outcomes not the processes. Our goal is greater equality between men and women. After all, this makes good sense for business, the economy and society.  

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