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Following International Women’s Day earlier in March, GK Adviser Rebecca McMahon looks at what an incoming Labour Government could mean for women’s equality.

Labour’s ambitious women’s equality agenda is one to watch

If the Labour Party wins the upcoming General Election, Rachel Reeves will become the UK’s first female Chancellor of the Exchequer and Angela Rayner is set to become the first female Deputy Prime Minister. The number of women in the current Parliamentary Labour Party is at an all-time high of 52.7% and given the number of prospective parliamentary candidates in seats likely to swing to Labour, the number is likely to remain high.

The party has been accused of hollowing out promises related to more radical policies about climate change and workers’ rights. However, it appears the party remains committed to delivering on its ambitious roster of pledges on women’s equality. At the 2023 Labour Party Conference, Rayner announced her intention to amend the Equalities Act to introduce a legal duty for employers to have sexual harassment prevention measures in place. In Rayner’s rallying speech, she combined a commitment to women’s safety with a promise to make their working lives fairer. Measures included toughening sentences for perpetrators of rape and stalking and halving the levels of violence against women and girls. A crackdown on unfair pay and a promise to “empower women entrepreneurs” was also included.

Translating virtuous ideas on empowerment into robust policy is a difficult process. However, the presence of key female decision-makers in the shadow cabinet demonstrates that Labour is not neglecting the importance of senior women for formulating representative policy. Perhaps this will set a precedent for the party to elect a woman to the top spot for the first time (one area in which the Conservatives currently top the tables, 3-0!).