2022/2023 Annual Report – Women and Girls’ Equality Panel – Manchester Women’s Aid

The Panel aims to establish a clear vision for women and girls by utilising its members’ knowledge, expertise, and networks to understand and address the issues and inequalities affecting their lives.

The role of the Panel is to constructively challenge political and system leaders to tackle prejudice and discrimination against women and girls. The Panel works alongside the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the wider Greater Manchester (GM) system to ensure that equality is actively considered in decision-making to help make the city a better place for women and girls to live, work, study, and do business.

Key research areas of the panel includes

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s
employment in the labour market.

An important focus for the ESE group over the past year was examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s employment in the labour market. The group heard from several speakers on this subject and analysed information on employment statistics after furlough to identify any changes in women’s employment.

Key findings from this work included:
• Despite some positive changes in terms of female employment rates in certain occupations, overall, there is still a significant occupational segregation based on gender. Women remain in part-time work despite
flexible and home working initiatives and women were still over-represented in low-paid and precarious roles.

• There are challenges and opportunities in gendered industries such as early years education and childcare, as well as adult social care and care for older people.
• Women face several challenges accessing digital and STEM roles in Greater Manchester, despite the opportunities on offer.
• Exclusions in gaming and tech start early – supporting girls around the age of 5 or 6 is crucial. While there are different routes into the digital industry, the 10 issue of misogyny online, which engages boys but excludes girls, is a
significant problem.
• Women face barriers to starting and growing their own business and
accessing funding. The current system does not provide fair access to
entrepreneurship for all, especially for underrepresented groups such as
women and people experiencing racial inequalities.

2. Acting when the gender gap leaps: Policy for early teen girls’

The Panel identified that despite girls consistently outperforming boys academically at school, they often struggle with a significant confidence crisis during their teenage years. In Greater Manchester, only 67% of girls in Year 10 are optimistic about their future, compared to 81% of boys. This lack of confidence can have a lasting impact on girls’ opportunities and their ability to make life choices outside of the social norm
or pursue promotion.

The Panel heard from Katie Cosgrave from RECLAIM about work to identify and remove barriers that prevent working-class individuals from engaging with organisations. Through the Full-Time Fierce project, they hope to inspire working class young women and girls to get involved in campaigning and policymaking. In 2022 the Panel also formed a strong relationship with Girls Out Loud, a non-profit enterprise who work with girls in schools to help them find their voice, create emotional resilience, and make better choices. While such community intervention
programmes are attempting to address the issues raised, they operate on a small scale. As such, the Panel suggested there was a need for the development of a specific GM-wide strategy for supporting girls during their early teenage years to support them in developing the confidence and positivity they need to become future

3. Breaking down barriers to leadership: Targeted self employment support.
From our research and discussions with representatives from the Growth Hub and the Enterprising You Programme, we learnt that the gender pay gap remains more significant for self-employed women than for employed women. Female entrepreneurs face numerous difficulties in accessing financing at every growth stage, and the fact that only 1% of venture capital money goes to female-led businesses is alarming. Despite the large and vibrant investment community in
Greater Manchester, it is failing to support women adequately.

We also learnt that GMCA has investment funds to support new and scale up existing businesses, but these are not being specifically targeted at this market failure and they need to be. Research by the National Council of Graduate Enterprise reports that 98% of women choosing to participate in their Women’s Flying Start programme did so because it was women-only. This may help women who may not be able to participate in mixed groups due to cultural reasons. This investment needs to be available to scale up businesses too; women lead 40% of micro businesses but only 26% of medium-sized ones (Deloitte), and by the scale of venture capital funding representation is in single digits.
To advance equality, the Panel explained to Andy Burnham the need for investment funds to be ringfenced for female-only groups for maximum impact (particularly scale-up funding).

Additionally, we suggested that when referencing pay in Greater Manchester, we would like the inequality in self-employed income to be recognised in the same way that the (employed) gender pay gap is. We discussed with Andy Burnham the importance of funding for Enterprising You for self-employment support given the uptake was high amongst women. This funding has now been confirmed which is a great win. Similarly, the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund has now committed to gender targets and Fund Her North are commissioning a survey on why women are not getting funding for businesses. Our Panel Champion for this issue will continue to meet with relevant GMCA officers to see what more can be done to advance the position of women entrepreneurs in Greater Manchester.

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