The Women of Steel statue in Sheffield City Centre.
The Women of Steel statue in Sheffield City Centre.

It’s 100 years today since the right to vote was won by women for the first time (although sadly it took a further 11 years until full universal suffrage). The strides women have made in the century since have been huge, and remind us of the power that collective action can have.

In Sheffield we have the inspirational story of the Women of Steel, steelworkers who fuelled the industries that helped Britain win both world wars, who are now rightly celebrated with their statue outside the City Hall.

Last week in Parliament we debated the need for proper baby leave for women and men in Parliament, the same as we now have for the rest of society. That this debate happened is a reflection that we now have over 200 women in the House of Commons and climbing – something that wouldn’t have been imaginable a century ago.

Recently we saw the anniversary of the first Labour Government in 1924, which contained just one woman as a junior Minister. Now, our Shadow Cabinet is 50/50 gender balanced – a sign of how our movement and our country have changed.

We still have a long way to go before we have true gender equality – the pay gap is still a very real problem for too many (the average woman earns 84p for every pound earned by a man), violence against women and girls is endemic, and stereotypical gender roles are not yet broken down. But by taking forward the spirit of solidarity and equality that drove the fight for women’s suffrage, we can succeed in the major battles of our generation just as those women did in theirs.

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