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Comment: Women have a long way to go before they achieve equality
4:10pm Thursday 7th March 2013 in Opinion
International Women’s Day on March 9 is an important opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women around the world and to inspire young women here in Cumbria.
Women have come a long way along the road to equality, in some parts of the world; in others, not far at all. There is still a long way to go if women are to claim absolute equality in in all walks of life.
You might think that in Britain women have had equality since 1976, but this is not necessarily so. Women are still routinely paid less than their male counterparts; still find it difficult to progress in their chosen careers; still find it difficult to access certain careers; and are still primarily responsible for childcare, meaning their careers are the ones put on hold while their children are under school age.
If women routinely accept this then nothing will change for our daughters and granddaughters.
This is why celebrating International Women’s Day is important and why women’s groups from across the world and here in Cumbria will be holding events to mark it.
It is important to celebrate what women have achieved and are still achieving in all walks of life, and to show our young women – the mothers, doctors, scientists, teachers, lawyers, nurses, chief executive officers, judges, and employers of the future - just what is available for them out there and to help empower them to achieve their goals and future potential.
We need our young women to have the courage to challenge stereotypical views which might impact on their own futures; to become involved in creating the environment in which positive change can happen; to be able to identify their own goals and how to achieve them; to have the confidence to know they can do this; and to have positive role models with whom they can interact, empathise, emulate, and draw down inspiration from.
This is extremely relevant to young women in Cumbria, whose main industry is tourism, which is notoriously low paid and seasonal.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show female unemployment in Cumbria rose by 7,300 in 2012 – the eighth monthly rise in a row - while in the same period the number of male claimants fell by 17,500, the 13th consecutive monthly fall. The unemployment rate for young people overall rose by 0.8 per cent to 20.6 per cent, a record high.
Clearly a large number of those young people were likely to be women. However, there were 10,200 Cumbrian vacancies placed online in the quarter to February 2013.
The most common vacancies were for primary school teachers, sales supervisors, HR officers and PAs/secretaries. The most frequently requested skills related to sales, report writing, record keeping and mechanical engineering/design.
This shows there are alternatives for young women out there and we must equip them with the tools to identify those alternatives, both locally and further afield.
We must also help them to envision a successful and fulfilling future for themselves; and the wherewithal to be able to make that future an achievable reality. The message from International Women’s Day is celebratory, looking at all the positives for women – and rightly so.
This year Young Cumbria is holding a celebratory event for International Women’s Day at the Kendal Lads and Girls Club on Saturday, March 9. It will be supported by Ambition and the Brewery Arts Centre, as well as by Claire Hensman, the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria.
A number of activities have been organised, including workshops; a performance by the Brewery Arts Centre; and discussions with inspirational business women, who will be sharing their routes to success.
Young women from across the county will be attending and more are very welcome.
Ruth Hughes, Youth Services Administrator at Young Cumbria