There has never been a more pressing need to speak out and to drive equality. Society is more fragmented than it has been for a long time and we have seen an explosion of vitriolic extremes. Austerity has had a serious and debilitating impact on communities both in Greater Manchester and across the country. Whilst the city centre of Manchester has enjoyed growth in jobs and housing to rent for upwardly mobile workers moving into the vibrant city, those furthest away have cripplingly low wage levels, whether they are male or female.
However, it is women and girls who are more severely affected by these disparities. As the statistics in this report clearly demonstrate, they are not able to benefit equally with men and boys from the economic growth seen within city-regions. This report highlights the gender dimension to welfare reforms, and with the majority of lone single parents being women, this group has suffered most from these policies. Quite simply, austerity has hit women much harder than their male counterparts. If you got a group of misogynists in a room and said how can we make this system work for men and not for women, they would not have come up with too many ideas that are not already in place.
A visit to a secondary school in Atherton when I was Chief Executive at Wigan Council really genuinely shocked me to my core. I was an adopted child of two factory workers brought up in Breightmet, Bolton and the first to go to university, etc... I spoke to five A Level students, all girls, all incredibly bright and predicted top grades but with zero self-confidence. I don’t know why but I thought things would have changed over the last forty years since I was in that same position. The school and the council had managed to find them two weeks’ work experience at PWC. They were not going. They had never been to Manchester and it would be too posh. They didn’t have the 'right clothes'. They went to Tesco for their work experience instead.
Increasing the confidence, the skills and the opportunities for all of our population is the only way devolved areas will achieve their full potential.
We have a lot to do to redress the balance and to ensure gender, race, childcare, sexuality and class are no longer barriers to progression and to an equal standing in communities. Today’s political leaders in Greater Manchester appreciate the distance we need to travel to ensure we don’t continue to hold back the full potential of over a half of our population. This publication provides research to support leaders across the country to consider policy through a gendered lens to address imbalance.