Harness the power of women and all will benefit: WE Party Leader and London Mayor Candidate Sophie Walker shares her plans for the city

Leader of the Women’s Equality Party (WE) and candidate for the 2016 London Mayor elections, Sophie Walker, is on a mission to make London the first city in the world where men and women are equal.Sophie Walker

The WE Party Leader took some time out of her campaign trail recently to share her plans for London with WeAreTheCity.

WE was formed in March 2015 in response to the need for a political party who focused on gender equality to the benefit of all.

The party was co-founded by author and journalist Catherine Mayer and broadcaster and author Sandi Toksvig. After establishing the party, it announced that its Leader would be journalist Sophie Walker.

As leader of WE, Walker is also the party’s chosen candidate for the London mayoral election.

Walker noted that there are four million women in London who are living with the UK’s biggest pay gap, the most expensive childcare, the highest sexual violence rates and the highest levels of child poverty.

“If we harness the potential of the four million women in London, we will all lead better lives. I want to bring this message to London and to make this city better for everyone,” she said.

“The housing policy, transport, etc are all already there but I want to do it in a way where we all benefit. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s better for business. There is the opportunity for a Mayor with real imagination.”

Walker said if elected as Mayor of London she plans to “improve the safety of women in London through a diverse police force working closely with communities. The police force also needs to be trained in supporting survivors, which will in turn make them better at dealing with everything else such as lowering knife crime.

“We also need a clear conversation about safety on transport for women. Not just trains and buses, but I had a conversation with a woman recently who said she believes women pay a tax for getting a black cab in London because the safety of services like Uber have not yet been properly addressed.”

WE Party growth

Since registering with the Electoral Commission in July 2015 WE has collected 45,000 members and supporters and has established 70 branches across the country.

Walker said: “During the 2015 elections I felt like no one was talking to me and that anything relevant to women was compiled in the last couple of pages at the back of policy or last on the agenda as a special interest group. We have grown so fast because there were lots of men and women who were feeling the same way – that they had been ignored at the election.”

“We are working with all across the political spectrum, as other parties are not addressing our problems. Other members are joining us because they know that when women are equal everyone does better. Men are joining our party too and we’re working to remove the stigma that men can’t take time away from work as well.”

WE are meeting with technology entrepreneurs and lawyers on how work can be made more flexible, explained Walker.

She added: “This not only helps businesses to adapt and grow but also to be more productive. Flexible working frees up the women trapped at home unable to work. Businesses should also be more creative about childcare options. If you’ve got room for beanbags and a pool table, then you have room for a crèche.”

“We are also focusing on women entrepreneurs and helping more women start their own businesses.”

Walker was a journalist for 20 years covering business and economics. She said this had an impact on the way that she viewed the global markets and her decision to join WE.

“I covered a lot of business stories where companies were on the hunt for resources and profits, covering how businesses have had to change strategies. Watching the current global markets fallout, there is an enormous resource still untapped and that is the economic power of women.”

As a working mum Walker said it was “a big shock” when she became pregnant, in regards to the way that she was viewed in the workplace and that some attitudes and workplace cultures still have a long way to go: “it was a big shock to me when I got pregnant as it was a responsibility for me and not a shared enterprise. It was kind of ‘ok, off you go then and when you’re a serious person again we’ll talk to you again.’”

“My daughter was diagnosed with autism at 14 and it was very hard to get that diagnosis. We are quite bad as a society to embrace difference and this it to the detriment of society.”

Kayleigh Bateman
About the author

Kayleigh Bateman is the head of digital content and business development at WeAreTheCity. As a journalist there she covers stories about women in IT and looks after its women in technology community. She was previously the special projects editor for Computer Weekly and editor of CW Europe. Kayleigh attended the University of Hertfordshire, where she studied for her BA in English literature, journalism and media cultures. You can contact her at [email protected]

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