Women face pressure from all directions these days. Hit hard by the recession, trying to juggle family commitments with work and home life, it’s easy to feel like you’re running just to stand still. The media screams out an endless list of things still to do: get a bikini body in 20 days, plan the perfect children’s party, how to look 10 years younger. Despite great strides forward in equality, women still get paid less than men, and generally still end up taking more responsibility for childcare and looking after elderly relatives. This can be hugely rewarding, but combining this with a job can seem almost impossible.
There’s a lot the Government could do to give a helping hand. Making employers check for pay discrimination would help women get the money they deserve. Providing 20 hours per week free childcare would allow parents to make real choices about returning to work. Enabling everyone to ask for flexible working would help to change the rigid work culture, and make it easier to juggle different commitments. And it would be nice to inject some realism into the media’s portrayal of women, instead of the suggestion that nothing less than perfection will do.
In this paper we set out what the Liberal Democrats would do differently to help real women. Our most distinctive new ideas are in this paper, and I hope you like them.