MAYOR Sadiq Khan has unveiled a major new campaign for 2018, to mark 100 years since women gained the vote in the UK and to drive forward the progress of gender equality across London.
Titled #BehindEveryGreatCity – a play on the feminist slogan of the Sixties and Seventies, “Behind Every Great Man Stands A Great Woman” (a mantra that the mayor says he isn’t a fan of, because really it should be that they stand alongside one another), to highlight how women have driven their city’s successes – the year-long initiative will also celebrate the role that London played in women’s suffrage. It coincides with the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the right to vote.
While the anniversary will be a time to celebrate and recognise the progress that has been made in the last few decades, Khan is more keen to address how much further there is to go in the fight for gender parity, using 2018 to “turbo-charge” the rate of progression, he told us as he announced the campaign to students at Platanos College in Stockwell on Monday morning.
“A big part of it is changing the stereotypes, changing the prejudices that people have,” he said. “I passionately believe that it can’t just be a fight for girls and women, it’s got to be all of us.”
“We need more boys and men getting it, not just because they are fathers of daughters or because they have a sister they care about, but because we will benefit as a society if we have equality,” he added, before quoting Malala Yousafzai – “We cannot succeed while half of us are held back.”
The gender pay gap will, naturally, be a focus, with the mayor saying that companies over a certain size being required to publish their overall mean and median pay gaps – in line with government legislation that is to be brought in next year – must only be the first step in tackling the issue. Khan reiterated that the reasons for discrepancies in how much men and women earn must be looked at, highlighting some ways in which the Greater London Authority is attempting to address it. The Metropolitan Police, for instance, is now offering graduates a direct route to becoming detectives, having found that some women were discouraged by the traditional constable route.
“We’ve normalised gender pay gaps but that isn’t right, it shouldn’t be a thing,” he said.
As for whether he has a target in the reduction of the gender pay gap, the mayor was steadfast. “It should be zero as soon as possible – there’s no excuse for a gender pay gap either way,” he told us, while acknowledging that changing the workforce would take time. Increasing professional accessibility, including into City Hall, and improving transparency are two of Khan’s key goals.
He also addressed how serious issues regarding the treatment of women in certain industries have come to light in recent months – particularly in the wake of a number of allegations being made against Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo campaign that followed – saying that having safe avenues for people to express grievances and seek support is critical.
“One of the things that is particular to the creative industry sector is that a lot of work you get is by word of mouth and there can be ripples. The most recent example is of Peter Jackson and the Harvey Weinstein case, where two actresses were blackballed. That happens a lot. That’s why it’s important that, when you see it, you highlight it, call it out. It’s a wake-up call.”
“It may just be the tip of the iceberg, there are many other industries where this may be happening,” he continued. “You’ve seen it in Parliament now too. What other walks of life is this going on in? That’s why it’s important that we have a culture where people aren’t worried about being blackballed or labelled.”
Naming his mother (“in our family there was no issue about gender stereotypes – we all did cooking, ironing”) and Doreen Lawrence (“she’s changed the narrative around ethnicity, changed the law, and has been a formidable fighter”) as two of his feminist role models, Khan said that he wants to make sure that London is a “beacon” for gender equality. The capital’s cultural sphere, for a start, will see changes next year. The first statue of a woman, suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett interpreted by Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing, will be unveiled in Parliament Square in spring 2018, while Art on the Underground – Transport for London’s public art programme – will present works only by female artists for the entirety of the year.
“I think London is the greatest city in the world,” Khan said of launching the campaign. “It’s the city I want to raise my daughters, but it’s still the case in 2017 that there are problems. If you’re born a girl you don’t have the same chances as if you’re born a boy.”