International Women's Day - Simon Hughes

International Women's Day

On a day that celebrates the role of women in society, it is important we remember not only how far we have come as a society, but how far left we have to travel on the road to absolute equality.  

International Women's Day celebrates the economic, social, cultural and political achievements of women and was first held in central Europe in 1911. It is now an official holiday in 27 countries.

The global theme for IWD 2015 is Make it Happen, which intends to encourage effective action for advancing and recognising women. 2015 represents 20 years since 189 governments signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a comprehensive document on advancing women's rights.

While exceptional advances have been made in gender equality issues over the years, there is still far to go. The UK is only 26th on the WEF Gender Gap index, lagging behind countries like Iceland, Finland, Rwanda and the Philippines. Equally concerning, the UN recently reported that the global gender pay gap would only close in 70 years at the current rate. This is unacceptable. 

I am clear that by empowering women, we empower society. There are no functioning democracies that subjugate the rights of the female population. From representation in business to politics, from banking to health services, more needs to be done to create a gender equal society that values women not only through words but by actions, too.

In government, my Liberal Democrat colleague and Secretary of Business, Vince Cable, has taken on the big businesses that have traditionally failed to represent women sufficiently on their boards. He is pushing for every FTSE 100 company to have at least 25 per cent of their board consist of women. Liberal Democrats have also revolutionised childcare and parental leave. I want a system that no longer puts women behind men. 

On Thursday 12th, Members of Parliament will welcome female students from their constituencies to Westminster. The purpose of the day is to provide young girls from less privileged backgrounds the opportunity to see the day-to-day workings of parliament. I am very pleased to be taking part and to meet some inspirational young figures.