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The way life is changing for women


The last 25 years have brought a massive transformation in women's lives in the UK. To help them manage this change, women want their voices to be heard and their life choices to be valued.

This was the unmistakable message from the Women's National Commission (WNC). For their latest report, Future Female - A 21st Century Gender Perspective, the WNC in partnership with the Future Foundation, quizzed women from all over the country on their hopes and fears for the future. Groups ranging from working women to non-working women, ethnic minority women, older women and younger women, were presented with the findings of an exhaustive review of statistics on the lives of women today, and predictions for tomorrow. They were asked what mattered most to them at the start of a new century.

The report identifies the degree to which women's lives have already changed, and highlights the big issues going forward. Speaking from the Women's National Commission's Cabinet Office base, the WNC's Chair, Baroness Christine Crawley, said, "Women's lives have changed so much. New family structures and economic change have re-shaped women's roles and possibilities. Yet so many old burdens still fall on women's shoulders. This report is a fascinating inventory of facts and figures - as well as opinions - that really matter. We will all spend less of our lives in primary caring roles, as women now have just 1.7 babies on average - a significant decrease on the oft-quoted 2.4 children; lone parents head a quarter of families with children; and in spite of the hugely increasing numbers of women in paid work, 1.2 million women care for an elderly parent. Living in an ageing society is going to be one of the biggest challenges for women going forward - not just as older women themselves but as the main carers for the elderly. We are only just beginning to understand the scale of the burden this will present."

Baroness Crawley commented, "Even with such diversity in women's lives, it's fascinating to see how much agreement there is about what really matters. Women everywhere have been telling us very forcefully that they want the often unpaid contribution that they make to the community to be properly recognized. They want employers to support them as they try to balance their home lives with their work lives. They want policy makers to recognize that families now take very many different forms. And they want to see more women involved in making the decisions and policies that affect all our lives."

"Increasing levels of education, growing income and savings and access to technology, all spell more opportunity for women to take control of their own lives and financial futures" notes Melanie Howard of the Future Foundation, co-author of the report, "but the lack of effective female representation in management and politics and the larger unpaid caring and domestic burden that women bear in comparison with men means that there is a long way to go before equality of opportunity is a reality for all women in the 21st century."

Future Female - A 21st Century Gender Perspective is a comprehensive collation of facts and opinion, representing the views of some of the millions of members of the Women's National Commission. For further information about purchasing the report telephone 0207 276 2551


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