100 years of women’s suffrage but true equality elusive

Campaigning public services union, UNISON is using the commemoration of a hundred years of women’s suffrage (Tuesday), to survey female members’ attitudes to barriers they face in today’s workplaces. This work is being undertaken by UNISON’s proactive Women’s committee.

UNISON Cymru Wales is proud of having women in key leadership positions; 3 out of 4 of its Management Team are women, led by a female Regional Secretary. The union’s democratic structures have several women in leadership roles across public services and UNISON seeks to empower and encourage more female members to participate in its structures to influence the direction of union policy.

The million-strong union, which has 100,000 members in Wales, is predominantly female in membership and is known for campaigning for better rights at work for carers, school support staff, healthcare workers, council staff and more.

Margaret Thomas, UNISON Cymru Wales regional secretary said,

“Ordinary women in the suffragettes fought years of sexism and prejudice to win landmark social change 100 years ago which benefitted the whole nation. Their solidarity and determination continues to inspire and empower a new generation of female campaigners. Today needs the recognition it justly deserves, but the fight for the eradication of inequality will continue.’’

“Whilst women have the vote, true equality remains elusive. It is women who have disproportionately suffered from UK government spending cuts with many trapped in in-work poverty, on zero hours contracts or minimum wage jobs. Many UNISON members have more than one job to make ends meet. New mums might be juggling expensive childcare and older women face discriminatory pensions. Women and girls routinely suffer sexual harassment and online abuse. This is unacceptable and much more campaigning against domestic violence is required.

“We’re asking UNISON female public service workers to tell us the obstacles they face as women in Wales today and we’ll use the evidence to campaign for change with employers and politicians.

UNISON Cymru Wales will publish the results on International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Notes for editors

  • Women make up 80% of UNISON membership
  • UNISON held its biggest ever women’s conference last weekend in Liverpool. Delegates  heard from numerous inspirational women including Dr Helen Pankhurst.
  • Overstretched resources in the care sector are depriving the largely female workforce of any dignity at work.
  • Women born in the 1950s who have been unfairly disadvantaged by the changes to the State Pension arrangements


Alastair Gittins, UNISON Press Officer on 07816 538397


Photo: Natasha Hirst