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'Expect tough questions', says Butler after her promotion

PASSIONATE: Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Dawn Butler MP

BRENT’S MP and the new Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Dawn Butler has revealed her initial reaction to the news that boss and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had promoted her on August 31, the changes she’s determined to make and some of the battles she personally has to fight as a black woman surrounded by the “old boys’ network”.

Even before day one on the job, Butler has made history by becoming the first ever African-Caribbean woman to be appointed to this role.

Butler told The Voice about how she felt once she heard the news:

“It was a nice surprise.

“I was pleased to already be part of the Shadow Cabinet with the important role of Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities, but it was a great honour to be given this promotion by Jeremy Corbyn.”

One of the first orders of business for the MP will be to address the disparity between men’s wages and women’s.

“There is no doubt that the gender pay gap is a huge obstacle for women”, she said.

“We need to fix this as soon as possible by getting to a place where women are given the same recognition for their hard work as men.”

HUGE PROBLEM

In addition to her work on this massive issue, there will be a lot more on Butler’s plate:

“Intersectionality is another huge problem we must tackle. It has become my new favourite word and while it takes a while to get used to, it is to me all about women in all their different forms – black, white, disabled, rich, poor, working class, middle class, overweight and underweight. It is about everything you can think of.

“For some women this may be their greatest obstacle to success and this is about the way in which discrimination interacts with different facets, meaning that women can be discriminated against many times over.

“Equality is equality, you cannot pick and choose. I will fight against all forms of discrimination with all my determination and will seek to deliver real equality in our country.”

Being one of eight black or mixed-race female MPs, Butler is all too aware of the value of using her heritage and culture to add a balanced perspective to Parliamentary conversations that will ultimately affect all women in Britain; many of whom feel that they remain voiceless:

“One thing that is coming up shortly is Labour Party Women’s Conference later this month. Being a black woman in this role I see the problems through a different lens. This means that people should expect some tough, difficult and perhaps awkward questions, particularly about intersectionality.

OLD BOY'S NETWORK

A visible beacon of light for aspiring non-white women who are striving to enter domains where their presence is not the norm, Butler opened-up about how she navigates discrimination herself:

“Unfortunately, there is an old boys' network which women have to navigate their way through and a white women’s network which women of colour have to navigate. Then there’s the ‘Are you middle class?’ network and the university network…

“Another issue I face is that I may be described as ‘forceful’ or even aggressive for saying something, while others are described as ‘passionate’ for saying the same thing.

“Many people may also be aware of the time when I was in a lift in the House of Commons and was told by a Tory MP that the lift wasn’t for cleaners.

“I have fought many battles against racism and sexism at work just like so many others, some public and some which I have kept private and some I will one day put in my book.

“This is why so many people feel that they are living in an unequal society and it must end.”

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