This year’s International Women’s Day marked my first as Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary – and came at a critical time for women.
The economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women – and women now hold the key to our economic recovery. At this time, the Government must do far more to provide women with the security, prosperity and respect that they deserve.
As one of the events we organised to mark International Women’s Day, I hosted a reception, with Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner as the leader and deputy leader of the Labour Party, in Parliament for women entrepreneurs from across the UK. I was delighted to be joined by Sally Dear, founder of the sustainable childrenswear brand Ducky Zebra and Rosie Jacobs, founder and director of Independent Oxford.
It was inspiring to hear about Sally and Rosie’s careers, and those of many other businesswomen from across the UK. Today, 1 in 3 entrepreneurs are women. Backing their businesses makes sound economic sense. The evidence shows that where women are engaged at senior levels in business, those businesses tend to be more profitable and sustainable.
Despite this, it is often simply too difficult for women to get finance when they decide to begin a business. In bank financing, 15% of applications were led by women whilst 56% were led by men, and women tend to receive lower levels of support in business loans than men. For that reason, Labour has committed to supporting the creation of 100,000 new businesses over the first term of a new Government, by massively boosting the provision of start-up loans – so that we can back more trailblazing businesses and strengthen our economy.
Later during the week of International Women’s Day, I spoke in the House of Commons for its annual International Women’s Day Debate. We heard Members of Parliament, from all parties, speak in celebration of women’s achievements and the continuous struggles women face. Considering recent events, we spoke about the devasting effect of the Russian bombings on Ukrainian women; tackling violence against women and girls; women’s health and many other concerns. We also heard from my colleague Jess Phillips, who as she has done every year, highlighted the names of all women who had been killed over the previous year.
You can read my contribution to the debate here: