Editorial Feature

Sadiq Khan On Driving Gender Equality Across London

The Mayor of London talks about his #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign

Throughout 2018 the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is celebrating the centenary of the first women in the UK getting the right to vote. His #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign celebrates London's role in the fight for suffrage, and seeks to continue driving gender equality across the capital. We sat down with him to find out more.

What does being a proud feminist in City Hall mean to you in practice?

Being a proud feminist in City Hall means doing all I can to help bring about gender equality in our city and being a good ally to women in London. Over the next year, and beyond, we will be bringing Londoners together to celebrate how women of all ages, ethnicities, faiths and backgrounds make London the great city it is.

More importantly, we will redouble our efforts in the fight for gender equality. I will use the centenary of the Representation of the People Act in 2018 and my campaign, #BehindEveryGreatCity, to work with London’s leading industries – including culture, education and business, to politics and public life – to support the continuing success of women and to push for greater gender equality for women from all backgrounds across the capital.

Sadiq Khan at #BehindEveryGreatCity launch by Caroline Teo (From the collection of Mayor of London)

Why is it so important to celebrate London's role in the history of the women's movement?

London was at the centre of the suffrage movement, with locations including Trafalgar Square playing a key role in many of the rallies and marches that took place in the struggle to secure the right to vote. It is important that we shine a light in particular on the women who have contributed throughout the years to making London such a success, making great strides in the fight for gender equality.

Who's your personal feminist icon?

Doreen Lawrence is one of the most influential people in the country. Her strength and determination teaches us that everyone should call out injustice in every shape or form – whether it’s based on someone’s race, sexuality or gender. She has truly transformed the narrative around race in Britain, changed the law, and been formidable in fighting for justice.

For me, she is a feminist inspiration and someone we should all look up to – she is a mother, a tireless campaigner and one of the greatest Londoners there is.

What's the #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign all about, and can you give us a bit more detail about how you're using the campaign to drive gender equality in the capital?

This year we mark a century since the first women won the right to vote in the UK, and milestones like this are a time to look back and mark the huge strides that have been made towards gender equality, and to celebrate the success of women in our great city. But it is also a time to take stock of the huge inequalities women still face, 100 years on since women first voted and, more importantly, to take action.

This is why I have launched my #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, to proclaim that Behind Every Great City are great women pushing for equality, opportunity and progress. Over the next year, and beyond, we will highlight how women of all ages, ethnicities, faiths and backgrounds make London the great city it is.

During this momentous year and beyond, we must do all we can to remove any barriers to women’s success. Highlights of our work this year include unveiling the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square – Millicent Fawcett – and launching a new initiative to address the lack of women in leadership roles – Our Time: supporting future leaders. I look forward to the continued work throughout the year to celebrate women of all backgrounds in London, and to remove the barriers in the way of equality.

School children at #BehindEveryGreatCity launch (From the collection of Mayor of London)

What are the key changes you'd like to see in the lives of London's women over the next 100 years?

I want London to be a leading light in the fight for gender equality, and it should not take another 100 years for us to get there.

We need to tackle the gender pay gap – in London the gap has only improved 0.5 per cent in 20 years. At City Hall, I have implemented an action plan to reduce the gender pay gap – by increasing the availability of part-time and flexible-working options, aiding career progression for women, offering mentoring and career-support programmes and sponsorship for qualifications, and training senior managers to ensure recruitment processes are as fair as possible as well as piloting ‘no name’ application forms and unconscious bias training for all senior staff.

We also need to see more women leading different sectors in our city. Currently only seven CEOs in FTSE 100 companies are women. We have to ask ourselves what this does to the aspirations and perceptions of young women and girls. The launch of the Our Time initiative will help to break down the cultural and social barriers preventing women from achieving their full potential through supporting them in a formalized way to access the networks, contacts and opportunities often needed to progress into leadership roles. In order to have a truly equal city and society we have to make sure women are equally represented in positions of power right across politics, business and the public sector.

Justine Simmons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries at #BehindEveryGreatCity launch (From the collection of Mayor of London)
Amika George at #BehindEveryGreatCity launch (From the collection of Mayor of London)

How will you continue the momentum of #BehindEveryGreatCity into 2019 and beyond?

It is important to say that equal rights is not just a fight for women – this year and beyond, all of us need to stand in solidarity with our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends to say that discrimination, in all shapes and forms, will not be tolerated.

I want to continue the work we have started this year. We have to tackle the lack of women in senior leadership roles. This is an issue for every industry, in every city – we all need to pledge to do everything we can to see equality representation for women right at the highest levels of power and influence. We have to inspire and empower the next generation of young women and girls to know that there is no limits to their aspirations, and we have to do all we can to remove any barriers in the way of their success.

I was inspired by Malala Yousafzai's address to the United Nations when she said: 'We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back'. That is an incredibly powerful message and one that I will continue to champion every day as Mayor of London.

Sadiq Khan at the #BehindEveryGreaCity launch by Caroline Teo (From the collection of Mayor of London)
Interview by Sarah Graham
Credits: All media
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