Lib Dems adopt women-friendly policies.

// 24 September 2009

The Lib Dems have voted in support of MP Jo Swinson’s ‘Real Women’ manifesto, which Melanie Newman guest blogged here, meaning her policies will be officially adopted by the party. They include:

* Providing twenty hours of free, good quality childcare per week, for all children from 18 months to when they start school

* Requiring companies to publish data on the pay scales within their organisations and conduct pay audits

* Introducing a ‘name blanking’ policy so that job applicants apply with National Insurance numbers

* Modules on body image, health and well-being, and media literacy to be taught in schools

* Tackle body image pressure by requiring advertisers to label all adverts, disclosing the extent of digital retouching of images of people

All good stuff; I’m really pleased to see the Lib Dems taking women’s rights seriously, and kudos to Jo Swinson for getting them on the agenda.

Comments From You

Katie Edge // Posted 24 September 2009 at 6:09 am

One word: yay!

Lucy // Posted 24 September 2009 at 10:33 am

I think this is fantastic.

Rosalind // Posted 24 September 2009 at 12:00 pm

The name blanking policy is a great idea and it wouldn’t just reduce sexism but could also reduce racism and classism in recruitment. In the USA hundreds of identical job applications were sent out but some used traditionally or perceived white names and some with traditionally or perceived African-American names. The “white” applicants were twice as likely to be called to interview.

But determinedly sexist recruiters would still look for gender clues in the rest of the application.

Plus part of me wonders if these are the kind of policies only promised by a party that knows it won’t have to follow through on them. It’s still nice though.

Kez // Posted 24 September 2009 at 12:27 pm

Some organisations already use, not name blanking exactly, but application forms which make no reference to the sex of the applicant – i.e. first name is not asked for (just the initial) and there is no male/female or Mr/Ms box to tick. I think this is clearly a good thing, although there can still obviously be clues elsewhere in the application (e.g. periods of maternity leave) but there’s not much recruiters can do about that.

Applying with NI number only would also reduce ethnicity assumptions based on someone’s name, so that’s got to be good.

I can’t imagine how they think they are going to fund “20 hours of free, good quality childcare” for all children from 18 months up, though. The cost would be astronomical. But the other policies seem achievable and I would welcome them being adopted by other parties too.

JenniferRuth // Posted 24 September 2009 at 12:38 pm

I would also recommend reading Lynne Featherstone’s speech on equality.

Troika21 // Posted 24 September 2009 at 1:22 pm

All that will happen is that ‘better’ models will be employed to avoid the rules on image retouching.

Whilst I agree with the first three policies, the media literacy is all I can accept in the last two.

Would the ‘body image’ section contradict the ‘health’ bit?

And the media literacy is all that is needed to counter all adverts, nothing special is needed for adverts advertising body products.

It is simply that people must recognise that they are adverts, and all adverts lie.

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 24 September 2009 at 5:58 pm

If the Lib Dem want to maintain their credibilty they need to tell us from where they shall be getting the money to bankroll the free childcare.

Well done to troika21 for pointing out how the law of unintended consequences means the move to declare any airbrushing will backfire. It is also true that the modules on “body image” and “health” will end up contradicting each other.

As Rosalind pointed out, the problem with minority parties is that they can act “holier than thou” as they will never be called to act upon their pledges.

Finally, the Lib Dem were suggesting that both parents should have the option of taking parental leave. Are they still pushing for that?

Chris Morris // Posted 24 September 2009 at 6:53 pm

Troika21: I’m not sure that they will just employ “better” models. They’re already photoshopping women beyond what it’s theoretically possible for humans to look like (See Shakesville’s “Impossibly Beautiful” series, for example). There are no “better” models to choose from.

Daniela Vincenti: On parental leave, the last time I asked I was told that they’d like to do it in the long term, but considered it “too expensive” to do now.

Anne Onne // Posted 24 September 2009 at 9:00 pm

If half of these became reality it would still be great. I don’t expect the Lib Dems to reach power any time soon, unless the Conservatives muck up really badly. But I do appreciate these ideas being in the political discourse at all.

I’m not quite sure where these ‘better’ models would come from, given that even the ‘sexiest/hottest/etc’ women in the world are extensively retouched. Maybe they would pick less models and stick to what they might see as the ‘best’ ones, but I somehow doubt they’d find anyone who physically looks like half the pictures of airbrushed women!

It might just lead back to old-fashioned artful use of photography skills, though. Or drawn pictures of equally skinny women. So, I agree that it wouldn’t magically eradicate problems with female representation in advertising…

aimee // Posted 25 September 2009 at 11:44 am

This is all great, and i agree that kids need to be taught ‘media literacy’, but I don’t think that’s far enough. To me that seems like saying ‘this is how it is, we can’t change that but here’s how to do deal with it’ which is a step forward, but it’s not good enough. I want ‘This is wrong and we’re going to change it’, not ‘this is how it is.’.

Femina Erecta // Posted 25 September 2009 at 3:47 pm

I like the idea of ‘media literacy’- would this involve the promotion of librarians as teachers in an information literacy context, if so will librarian’s (a female-heavy profession) pay rise to accomodate this? Currently school and college librarians earn approxiamatly £4000 less a year than teachers. And will childcare workers see a rise in their pay too? This is another profession that is characterised by being predominantly female, and appaulingly paid. I would hope that working women who take advantage of 20 hours of free child care would not be doing so at the expansion of an industry that on average pays workers less than half the mean household income.

polly // Posted 25 September 2009 at 11:31 pm

The trouble is that even if people get to a job interview based on an ‘blank’ application their sex/race will become apparent. So discrimination can still take place, and it’s very easy to disguise and very hard to challenge, particularly in recruitment.

Anne Onne // Posted 26 September 2009 at 9:58 pm

@ polly: Yes, exactly. Especially at interviews, where *so* much of the decision making is based on wolly things like ‘first impressions’ and whether someone ‘feels’ right. People can tend to go for someone who reminds them of themselves. I don’t believe it impossible for many people to feel that our of equally employable candidates, that the woman, or the POC or the LGBTQI person just doesn’t *feel* right even if they have perfectly good interpersonal skills.

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