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ELLE EXCLUSIVE: Jo Swinson backs our campaign

By Leisa Barnett

Support for our feminism project is the November issue is gaining momentum.

Thousands of you – women and men – have now embraced our campaigns on twitter, making us laugh with your #imawomanand slogans and shocking us with how much less you are earning than your male colleagues in our #makethempay initiative.

We can’t thank you enough – as all your support is having an effect.

Today, we are proud to announce, the government has gotten behind us too. Women and Equalities minister Jo Swinson is urging all women to follow the advice in The Feminist Times and Mother campaign: 'If he does the same job as you, ask him his salary.'

Praising our initiative, that highlights that men are paid a 17.4 per cent more than women on average, Swinson says we all need to break a British taboo and start asking our male colleagues just how much they really earn – as it’s the only way we’ll stamp out inequality (it’s time to lose the fear!).

She also warned that if that approach does not work and businesses fail to take action to ensure pay equality, the government will force them to. In an exclusive interview with ELLE, equalities minister Jo Swinson said society should be encouraging people to open up about pay.

'I think sometimes there’s something very British in our culture where we don’t talk about money, and I think that is one of things that holds women back. If women realised they were earning significantly less than male colleagues at a similar level that might be the catalyst they need to ask for a pay rise. I think ELLE are to be highly commended for this.'

However, she revealed her concern that the gender pay divide is not reducing fast enough and warned that if they didn’t take action she could force businesses to reveal how much more they pay men than women.

'While the pay gap is reducing a bit, it’s not reducing enough.

'I think we need to recognise that the Government does have the power to impose equal pay audits, and it may well be that if we do not see success through [voluntary schemes] that might be the only way to make this happen.'

Swinson, who has been a Member of Parliament since 2005, also backed our campaign to rebrand feminism.

‘I would absolutely call myself a feminist, without hesitating. And it makes me sad when you hear people don’t want to call themselves a feminist, whether they’re a bloke or a teenage girl, because they think the word has negative connotations.

'Feminism is about equality between men and women and is something that will improve our society. We should be encouraging people to be happy to declare themselves as feminists. We need to be very clear about claiming that word as something positive.

'It’s not about hating men, this is about creating a society where men and women working together can achieve more, rather than being pitted against each other in stereotypical archaic roles.'

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves. So, use this opportunity to visit makethempay.co.uk, find out how much less you are earning than your male colleagues and get behind our campaign. Email your boss, confront the men at work, start demanding equality and recognition in the work place. And, above all, be proud to call yourself a feminist – it’s up to us to inspire change.

And the louder our voices, the harder it will be for us to be ignored.

Find out more about ELLE's rebranding feminism campaign here

Make Them Pay: the campaign in detail

Vagenda and W+K's #iamawomanand campaign

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