Women and girls

There are over four million women and girls living, working, learning and caring in London. We want to make sure there are no barriers preventing women and girls from taking part in anything that London has to offer.

Women and girls in London

Women in London face some specific challenges. These are different challenges to men and different challenges to women outside of London. For example:

  • women in London, especially pensioners and those with children, are more likely to be living in poverty
  • women in London are less likely to be employed. This is because of the cost and unavailability of childcare, as well as it being difficult to find part time jobs
  • when women in London are employed, they earn on average less than men
  • safety is still an important issue for women in London. Most reported rapes do not result in a conviction and too many women’s lives are damaged by domestic violence

We are working to address these challenges. Some of the ways we are already doing this are described below.

Ending violence against women and girls

The first duty of the Mayor is to protect Londoners.

In 2013 the Mayor refreshed his strategy to tackle Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG). The five objectives and commitments of this strategy are:

  • London will take a global lead to prevent and eliminate VAWG
  • improving access to support
  • addressing the health, social and economic consequences of violence
  • protecting women and girls at risk
  • getting tougher with perpetrators

The Mayor has also kept his promise to increase rape crisis provision in the capital. London now has four Rape Crisis Centres: one in the north, south, east and west.

Read more about the Mayor’s plans to tackle VAWG in our Policing and Crime section. For more information about the policies and strategies relating to VAWG please email [email protected].

Period poverty

What is period poverty?

Period poverty - not being able to afford appropriate menstrual products every month - is affecting thousands of young women and girls in the capital. The shame and stigma surrounding periods compounds this issue. With girls admitting to not being able to afford the appropriate products they need, many are resorting to using inadequate protection, or reluctantly asking for support from their school teachers and friends.

What's the scale of the problem in London?

Research carried out by City Hall reveals that 17 per cent of women aged 16-24 say they have experienced period poverty. In addition, 30 per cent of young women say they have had to change to using a less suitable sanitary product due to cost.

Not having the money for sanitary items forces young women and girls to use makeshift and inadequate protection. Some 14 per cent of young women and girls say they have had to improvise sanitary wear due to not being able to afford menstrual products - this can have serious repercussions for their health. A further one in ten (12 per cent) say they have had to ask to borrow items from a friend when unable to afford the products they need. This research does not take in to account the girls below the age of 16 who may also be experiencing period poverty.

The shame and stigma that persists around periods means that girls are missing school, and are prevented from fully engaging in their education, sports and with their communities. Research by Plan International shows that 49 per cent of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their period and 64 per cent of girls have missed a PE or sports lesson because of their period.

Working with the Red Box Project

City Hall is joining forces with community organisation The Red Box Project who supply sanitary items to local schools. The Red Box Project supports disadvantaged young women through their period by stocking schools with menstrual products donated through red collection boxes. These boxes are placed within local businesses and organisations willing to help. 

The boxes are kept in schools with an appropriate member of staff, and plain paper bags are used to ensure discretion. A donation point is now set up in City Hall, and The Red Box Project will provide the products with girls at risk of period poverty at local school St Saviour and St Olave's in Southwark.

Women in custody

To tackle the issue of women experiencing period poverty in London, the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) is working to ensure that women in police custody always have access to a female officer and a sanitary hygiene pack when on their period, which is currently not always the case.

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) takes place on 8 March across the world to inspire women and to celebrate their achievements. We celebrate this in London every year. The events below are an example of how we celebrated in 2016.

International Women’s Day 2016

City Hall Celebration

Several of London’s leading women who have found success in traditionally male-dominated industries joined forces at City Hall on 8 March 2016 to inspire the capital’s young girls to pursue their ambition and broaden their career horizons.

The aim of the City Hall event was to encourage more of London’s young women to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and to ensure that they do not discount any career option because of gender stereotypes.

Women are just six per cent of the UK’s engineers and only 15.5 per cent of the whole (STEM) workforce.

150 teenage girls from across the capital attended and were inspired by the speakers:

  • Air Vice-Marshal Elaine West RAF, the highest ever ranked female in the British Armed forces
  • Roma Agrawal, a top structural engineer who worked on the design of the Shard
  • Dame Jil Matheson, one of the UK’s first female National Statisticians
  • Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the London Fire Brigade
  • Helen Grant MP, the first black woman to be elected as a Conservative MP.

For more information about International Women’s Day, visit www.internationalwomensday.com.

As part of his work to encourage young Londoners to take up and succeed in STEM subjects, the Mayor last year introduced new modules that focus on STEM subjects as part of the London Curriculum. Schools signed up to the London Curriculum are given access to this new suite of resources and opportunities for Key Stage 3 that uses London’s bridges, rivers, health care, food industry and transport network to learn about biology, chemistry, physics, design technology, maths and computing. To find out more, visit www.london.gov.uk/london-curriculum.

The Mayor has launched a £5 million Digital Talent programme to inspire and encourage young women to become London’s future digital pioneers. The programme opens up new digital courses and apprenticeships that will lead to exciting job opportunities for young women in all sectors of the economy.

Where to go for help or advice

Rape crisis support: for information about how to get help if you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, please call 0808 802 9999 for free. This helpline is run by Rape Crisis England & Wales, a national charity and the umbrella body for independent Rape Crisis organisations across the country.

Domestic Violence support: for help and advice relating to domestic violence, please call 0808 2000 247, open 24-hours a day. This helpline is run by Women’s Aid (the national charity for women and girls working to end domestic abuse) and Refuge.

Legal and Financial Advice for women: call 020 7251 6577 (telephone) or 020 7490 2562 (textphone). These helplines are available Mondays 11:00am-1:00pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 2:00pm-4:00pm and 7:00pm-9:00pm, Thursdays 7:00pm-9:00pm and Fridays 12noon-2:00pm. This legal advice helpline is run by Rights of Women.

Community Legal Advice: call 0845 345 4345 for free confidential and independent legal advice.

Checking how our policies are helping

To test how well the Mayor’s Equal Life Chances for All framework is working for different communities in London, we carried out some assessments.

These assessments looked at the priorities and concerns for each community, and reviewed what differences our policies have had or will have.

Our 2013 assessment of the GLA's impact on gender equality highlights what the Mayor is doing to increase opportunity for women and girls in London. This includes:

  • tackling poverty and raising incomes
  • improving education and skills opportunities
  • making it easier, safer and affordable for women to travel around the capital

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