Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone debates involving the Department for Education during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 11th March 2021
5 interactions (721 words)
Tue 10th March 2020
3 interactions (1,134 words)

International Women’s Day

Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone Excerpts
Thursday 11th March 2021

(8 months, 4 weeks ago)

Grand Committee

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Department for Education
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD) [V]
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Colleagues, I would like to use my time to raise how the criminal justice system responds to the needs of women in prison. It is now 14 years since the ground-breaking report by our colleague the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, which called for a distinct, radically different, visibly led, strategic, proportionate, woman-centred, integrated approach to how we treat women offenders. Ten years on from the Corston report, in March 2017, the charity Women in Prison reported only mixed progress. Its report stated:

“What is required is a joined-up approach that takes into account the root causes of women’s offending. This approach must encompass an understanding of the compelling opportunities for change that appropriate housing, mental health support and gender-specific women’s community support services can offer.”

Four years later again, the Prison Reform Trust has recently completed a five-year piece of work entitled Transforming Lives: Reducing Women’s Imprisonment. That report points out that women in prison are highly likely to be victims as well as offenders, with over half of them having experienced domestic violence and many of them having dependent children.

My final quote is from the Ministry of Justice when announcing in January plans to build 500 new cells in women’s prisons. Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League, commented at the time that

“today’s announcement shows that ministers are looking at the issue down the wrong end of a telescope.”

I spent seven years at the MoJ, between 2010 and 2017, and must share my part of the responsibility for the glacial progress made in achieving the changes necessary.

I do not expect the Minister to be fully acquainted with the sayings of Aneurin Bevan, but he once said, “Why look into the crystal ball when you can read the book?”. This is especially true in the case of women in prison. From Corston onwards, there have been reports which point in the right direction of travel but need resources spent in the right way to promote diversionary measures and alternatives to prison, which could create the opportunity to reduce by two-thirds the number of women in our prisons.

Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone Portrait Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone (Con) [V]
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It is always a privilege and a pleasure to take part in this debate and hear the campaigns and concerns of so many enlightened Peers, and even a number of other Peers as well. Tribute has been paid to the magnificent scientists who have really shown the way during the Covid crisis: Sarah Gilbert and Kate Bingham, and Dr June Raine at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which has swiftly, rapidly and effectively approved the new vaccines. Of course, it was the great reputation of the Medicines Control Agency for its work that won us the European Medicines Agency, which we have now had to return. However, Dr Raine’s work suggests that there is hope for the future.

It was not ever thus. I remind noble Lords that James Barry, the first woman doctor, had to pretend that she was a man throughout her career, and had a very good record of clinical work. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson managed to qualify only at a school which later changed its rules to ban women, and found it so difficult to get work. She may have founded a hospital and finally became mayor of Aldeburgh, but her path was difficult. Marie Curie suffered from the Matilda effect—women doing the work, but men taking the glory—and only with great difficulty did she get her work recognised alongside her husband Pierre. More recently, there was the wonderful Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a fellow of the Royal Society and a declared woman who suffered from impostor syndrome. She found the first radio pulsars in 1967, but the 1974 Nobel Prize in physics did not mention her. The men got the credit, and only with a challenge and a fight was she given her recognition.

So I celebrate the changes in my lifetime, and the global female leaders: Janet Yellen—an LSE graduate, I am pleased to say—was the first female chair of the Fed and is now the first female Treasury Secretary, in President Biden’s Government; Christine Lagarde has been spoken of. And then there is the wonderful Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first woman and first African DG of the WTO, and a great expert in public health, as well as in development economics. How well does that speak for the future?

I believe that women are changing and challenging stereotypes, and we are seeing change in society and in the workplace. In the past month alone, we have seen the Tokyo Olympics chief resign over patronising, sexist comments that employees found unacceptable. He has been replaced by a female, and 12 women have joined the team. In the past month alone, the UK boss of KPMG resigned over an internal team call in which he made comments to colleagues which they loudly challenged. He was swiftly replaced by two highly respected women, Mary O’Connor and Bina Mehta. UK Athletics made international headlines for the sexist, pervasive, oppressive culture of coaches. The new female CEO demanded a zero-tolerance approach. This is different. It was not like this in the past.

There have been changes in the boardroom. In 2011, 12% of FTSE 100 roles were held by females. Now, as a result of the challenge of the Hampton-Alexander review, and following Mervyn Davies’s work, we are up to 33% of FTSE 100, 250 and 350 boards. My noble friend Lady Brady gave another encouraging example. In the public sector, there are more female judges, bishops, doctors, solicitors and vice-chancellors. Only one in four vice-chancellors are female, and I am pleased that one is at the University of Hull, but 10 years ago it was only one in 12—to go from one in 12 to one in four is progress indeed. And we have seen more female Lords spiritual in our House.

Of course there are areas where there have been difficulties and where women have had the greater burden of Covid. The LSE produced a report the other day. I also hope that people have learned more about flexible working and online working, which will enable women to pursue their career and combine it with their domestic responsibilities.

Internationally, I applaud the work of my noble friend Lady Sugg. Provision for gender equality was confirmed by my noble friend Lord Ahmad only this week as part and parcel of our policy of the combined department—

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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I remind the noble Baroness about the timing.

Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone Portrait Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone (Con) [V]
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We celebrate success and ask for more progress.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Garden of Frognal) (LD)
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I call the next speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine. Lady Falkner?

International Women’s Day

Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone Excerpts
Tuesday 10th March 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Education
Baroness Bull Portrait Baroness Bull (CB)
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My Lords, it is always an honour to speak in this Chamber, but never more so than in this annual debate, among a roster of inspiring noble Baronesses, and indeed some noble Lords. I join others in congratulating the Minister on her new role, and the noble Lord, Lord Ranger, on his maiden speech.

I will speak to one of the six missions associated with this year’s theme, #EachforEqual: the mission to increase the visibility of women creatives. Given the many types of discrimination that women face, Members of your Lordships’ House may well ask why this particular mission matters. They might imagine, as many do, that the creative industries are genuinely meritocratic, with women accessing the same opportunities as men. Unfortunately, research proves this not to be true.

Across the nine sectors of the UK’s creative industries, the workforce is deeply unequal. The usual factors underpinning gender inequality are at play, as they are across society, but there are key structures of the cultural labour market that shape the life decisions of women in the workforce, and they impact particularly on women of colour and women from working-class backgrounds. Women are present, of course, but in areas such as theatre, publishing and museums they are largely absent from high-profile positions. In television and film, the lack of women is striking. According to the British Film Institute, among the 11,000 credits for directors of British films over 100 years, just 5% were women.

It would be easy to focus on motherhood as a reason why women drop out of the creative workforce. It may be a factor, but it is not the whole story. In too many parts of the creative economy, there is a pervasive sexism at work. This is not all on the scale of the high-profile sexual harassment cases that sparked the worldwide #MeToo movement, but rather a series of ongoing micro-discriminations that see women given lower status, while senior roles are assumed to be the work of men. This can leave women uncredited, or excluded from the creative process, and see women labelled as “risky”—not just because they might leave to have children but because of a persistent industry assumption that men, and male-led stories, make for better box office.

Underpinning these biases is a set of structures that disadvantage women: unpaid internships, temporary contracts and jobs offering low, or even no, pay. Working hours are long and unpredictable, with evening events the norm. The importance of networks and connections in accessing job opportunities in a sector that tends to favour informal hiring practices means additional socialising, outside office hours. These are challenges for workers of all genders, but when they interact with sexist assumptions, or when women try to combine caring responsibilities with work, they present greater barriers to women than to men. It is hard to disentangle these biases and structures because each reinforces the other.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that women leave the sector early, or that they are far less likely to climb the ladder to leadership positions. The situation is better in the not-for-profit sector, where 53% of the UK’s museums and galleries are led by women. But this optimistic statistic hides further evidence of inequality: the higher the annual turnover of the organisation, the less likely it is to be female led. In London, in 2018, 75% of organisations receiving over £1 million in funding had male directors at the helm.

These depictions of the cultural workforce go beyond questions of inequality to reflect enduring struggles over value and worth. In this, the creative industries are simply a microcosm of society as a whole, which still values women’s labour at a lower rate than men’s.

Your Lordships will be glad to hear that there is some cause for celebration as we mark International Women’s Day this year. Recent analysis by the policy and evidence centre of media reporting of women in the creative industries found that since 2013, references to females had risen to 40%. This means that the amount of space give to women in the media now exceeds the proportion of women actually working in the creative industries.

However, like all silver linings, there is a cloud attached. The media reports placed much more focus on the sounds made by women, such as laughs, cries, giggles, even coos, or non-verbal reactions, such as smiles, grins and nods. Words that imply creative achievements and leadership roles, such as “directed”, “performed”, “designed”, or “managed”, “founded” and “launched” were more likely to refer to men. When Hansard reports this speech, it may be tempted to add here, in quotation marks, “she sighed”.

I chose to speak about gender inequality in the creative industries today for two reasons: to highlight the structural issues and biases that disadvantage women creatives, and to highlight the consequences of this beyond the demographics of the sector. Films, television, books, theatre, music and art are there to tell us who we are, and if the workforce is skewed, the message is skewed. Women have important perspectives to bring and narratives to share, and if their voices are missing, a whole range of stories and experiences are excluded from cultural representation. That matters, because representation matters.

Women in the creative industries are empowering and inspiring not only the next generation of female creatives but the next generation of women. I hope that everyone will join me today in committing to celebrate them and their achievements, not just on International Women’s Day, but every day throughout the year.

Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone Portrait Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone (Con)
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My Lords, as always it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, whom I knew when she was just dancing, all those years ago when I was Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. What a wonderful person she has now become in areas other than the ballet.

This is a splendid debate in which many of us enjoy participating as year follows year. Like the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, I will begin with the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action. At the time I was in the Cabinet: I think I was the ninth woman in a British Cabinet. My noble friend Lady Chalker went to Beijing as our representative. I worked closely with her; she had been the Secretary of State for International Development. We talked hugely about health, education and literacy, and their importance not only in the UK but around the world. It was of course the first UN event at which intergovernmental organisations and activists agreed a comprehensive plan to strive towards global gender equality. The Beijing Declaration was widely recognised as a substantive, pioneering, progressive plan for advancing women’s rights, covering 12 key areas, including women in power and decision-making, women and the economy and violence against women.

How far we have come in 25 years. In 1995, women held fewer than 10% of the seats in the House of Commons. Now—after a record 220 were elected in the last general election—women hold 34% of the seats. Let me pay a wholesome tribute to my noble friend Lady Jenkin, who has been a force in this area. I told her that she should become a Member of Parliament in her own right. She would not take my advice, but she has been a force-multiplier by encouraging so many others to come forward.

Internationally, the proportion of female parliamentarians has risen from 11% to 24% or 25%. In 1995, seven UN member states still denied women equal voting rights. Since Saudi Arabia changed its electoral rules in 2015, gendered voting has ended in all countries. In his magnificent maiden speech, my noble friend Lord Ranger reminded us of parts of the world where there is still a great deal of disparity and all is not fine. If one message came forth from the Beijing conference, it was that human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.

Now we have moved forward not only to rights but to a sense of empowerment and fulfilment for women. In 1995, there had never been a female chair or chief executive of a FTSE 100 company. Now women hold 32.4% of FTSE 100 board roles, as the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, was saying, according to the latest Hampton-Alexander Review. This is extraordinary. In 2000, I became a board member of AkzoNobel and every board meeting started with, “Gentlemen and Lady”, because women were an endangered species. There has been a transformation in opportunities for women.

With many challenges remaining, it is essential that we work to close the many other aspects of the gender gap. The noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Gale, talked about some of the disadvantaged women—carers and volunteers and those on very low incomes. It is so easy in this debate to move between talking about elite FTSE 100 chief executive board members and then remember the work that so many women in society do with few rights, little remuneration and often far too little credit. I want to get that balance right.

While female parliamentary representation has more than doubled since 1995, three countries still have no women in their unicameral or lower chamber and 26 have fewer than 10%, including Japan, Qatar and our fellow Commonwealth realm of Belize. There are also regional discrepancies, with the Americas and Europe above 30% and MENA and the Pacific below 20%. There are other areas of the gender gap, many of which have been mentioned, including education, the pay gap, reproductive and health rights, sexual harassment, maternal health, gender-based violence, child marriage and the danger of populist movements actually undermining the progress that has been developed in promoting female rights. The Institute of Development Studies has recently written about that.

I want to reinforce the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, about the huge success of the 2011 review of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, followed by the Hampton-Alexander Review. I pay great credit to Denise Wilson, who I am pleased to tell noble Lords is a graduate of the University of Hull—about which more in a moment. She is the chief executive of this great programme, working closely with Cranfield University which, each year, identifies the number of boards with one woman or no women so that a massive programme of naming and shaming can develop. A vast amount of research has been done. McKinsey and all the professional services firms, including Lloyds Bank and a great number of companies, have given serious evidence. Unlike other countries that we sometimes compare ourselves with, the programme now consists of 350 companies, with about 23,000 people are under consideration. As we know, there has been massive progress on the non-executive side, but we are still slower on the executive development of women. This is all about role models, unconscious prejudice, childcare and expectations. We have the toolbox, but we now have to develop the people.

McKinsey described the effect of people leaving during their early corporate careers as the “broken rung” of the corporate ladder. Women are the majority of graduates and account for 48% of entry-level hires, but only 38% of first-level managers. I am sure that they should all become data scientists and tech experts, as we have been rightly reminded.

Leaping on to higher education, when I became Chancellor of the University of Hull in 2006, only 12% of vice-chancellors were women. This is very interesting. It is often because they do not peacock enough. Men talk about their work all the time, but women diligently slave through. All credit to the Athena SWAN programme. I would appreciate the Minister telling us what more is being done to develop and modernise it. We appointed our first female vice-chancellor, Professor Susan Lea, in 2017. By 2019, just under 30% of vice-chancellors are women.

My last small comment is that there is a danger of us regarding the feminist debate in terms of elitism and the success of women with a certain interest and background. We should have regard to intersectional feminism—the overplay of race, religion, orientation and social class—to be sure that we are not developing a form of feminism that is somewhat self-serving. We need to make sure that we are looking after the interests of women and girls everywhere, including those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Baroness Donaghy Portrait Baroness Donaghy (Lab)
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My Lords, I am very pleased that the noble Baronesses, Lady Berridge and Lady Sugg, are topping and tailing this debate. They have the respect of the House, and they always give thoughtful and intelligent replies to our questions. We know that they have important work to do.

I thought I would go back to basics. I drew up a shortlist of the three things that might impact on the largest number of women. I thought about reopening Sure Start centres, because I thought that would help a lot of women, and that we should improve pain management in childbirth, because too many women have a shattering experience, which should not happen in this day and age. However, my final three things are the menopause, women as carers and the importance of having a social care policy. I think they would improve the lives of hundreds of thousands, not just tens of thousands, of women because they would help them not only as carers but as care home workers—if they were better paid, that is—and care home residents.

On the menopause, my thanks are due to Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, who helped to introduce a policy on supporting women through the menopause at work; Diane Danzebrink, the founder of the not-for-profit organisation; Helen Carroll, who wrote the centrepiece spread on the menopause in the Daily Mail last month; and one man, consultant gynaecologist Haitham Hamoda, chair of the British Menopause Society.

Between the ages of 45 and 55, one-quarter of women consider leaving the workforce because of exhaustion, hot flushes—I hate that phrase and wish there was a better one; I suggest “loss of personal central heating control”, but I am sure there is a better phrase—mood swings, aching bones and what some people call brain fog, when someone is unable to recall facts they have known for years. One woman’s symptoms were so severe that she thought she had early-onset dementia. It was only when she left her job as a result of her fear of not being in control and her GP diagnosed her symptoms and prescribed HRT that she realised that she was not suffering from dementia. She had experienced an early menopause, which was not picked up because she was on the contraceptive pill. That can often happen.

Some women consider suicide. Suicide is most common in women in the decade between the ages of 45 and 55. Eight in every 100,000 women take their own life between those ages. HRT can help, but it is estimated that only 1 million women are on HRT, although there are 4.3 million women aged 50 and over in the workforce. HRT was much more readily available until research in 2003 linked its use with an increased risk of breast cancer. Trainee doctors are given minimal training about the menopause and are more likely to consider the risks of HRT than the benefits. If women are to have a better experience during the menopause, it is vital that doctors are trained to understand the full picture, to advise accordingly and to involve women in decision-making.

Employers should ensure that they have adequate polices to recognise that some women need support, not just to stay in work but to get promotion. Women going through the menopause often lose their confidence at the very time in their career when they need it most. My advice to employers, and not just because they want to retain the best talent, is that there could be consequences at employment tribunals. In 2018, a tribunal ruled that a woman had been unfairly dismissed and that her employer discriminated against her due to her protected characteristic of the menopause. Supportive policies at work, better training for doctors and the ability to have a conversation with employers without fear of losing one’s job would all help 18 million women.

My second point concerns recognising the role of carers in society. This has been championed over many years by my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley and I can do no better than refer the noble Lords to her excellent contributions. My noble friend Lady Drake has championed kinship carers and the importance of incorporating pension rights for carers. Only last week, in Committee on the Pensions Schemes Bill, she outlined the history of government failure to support consistently the pension rights of carers. First, they are in, then they are out. It is time this hokey-cokey came to an end. If anyone has not had the chance to read my noble friend Lady Drake’s speech from last week, I urge them to do so. It is from 4 March 2020, cols. 329-33.

Finally, the Government announced that they were going to get social care done. This would help women who care for elderly relatives, women in care homes and women who work in care homes, who earn shocking levels of pay while displaying the humanity, skills and emotional support that should gain them immediate entry under the Government’s proposed immigration system. Now we hear that the Government are going out to consultation in May to get some cross-party support. We have been here before. The ideas are there, the research is there and the reports are there. I can practically feel my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley and the noble Lord, Lord Warner, hovering over the Chamber. Social care is in crisis and too many women are living in quiet desperation. Actually delivering on this promise would be a real act for women’s liberation.