The EU referendum – arguably the most important referendum in our lifetime – is fast approaching. However both the In and Out campaigns seem to fail to create a narrative that resonates with women. According to a recent poll for the Fawcett Society more than twice as many women as men remain undecided about whether the campaigns have addressed their issues.
For many of us making up our mind about how to vote presents quite a challenge. Last week, on Woman’s Hour, former acting leader Harriet Harman MP spoke for a Britain Stronger in Europe and she argued that a vote to leave could threaten women’s equality at work. On the other hand Labour MP Gisela Stuart, who chairs the Vote Leave campaign, argued that workers’ rights had been “hard won” in the UK, not Europe. You can access this podcast here.
In order to engage women in this debate and to provide a platform where all arguments could be presented, the Fawcett Society hosted a live debate with Deborah Mattinson from BritainThinks, Catherine Mayer from the Women’s Equality Party, Kate Green MP, Suzanne Evans and Vicky Pryce. The “EU Referendum: Who will win women’s vote?” can be viewed here.
What about the most contentious issues? If we vote to leave, will possible savings made be outweighed by any losses incurred by a potential contraction of the British economy? Will British goods have access to the common market? Does the EU guarantee women’s rights? These and other claims have been investigated by the BBC “Reality Check” team and their findings can be viewed here.
Another excellent source of information are publications by the Trades Unions Congress (TUC). In “Working Parents and Carers” we can learn about the way the EU has improved the rights of pregnant women and new mothers; the ongoing consultations on fathers’ leave and stronger maternity protections; the “Women’s Rights” summary demonstrates the way in which Britain’s membership of the EU has resulted in improved rights of women at work.
It seems that both sides in the EU referendum have a lot of work to do in order to engage the British women. Regardless of where you stand on this issues, please remember that if you want to participate in the EU referendum on 23rd June 2016 you must register to vote by 7th June 2016.