Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.
Today marks International Women’s Day; a day to celebrate the success of women around the world but also a day to reflect on how far we still have to go.
This year’s theme is #PressForProgress, which aims to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
It is no doubt that days like today still need to exist, even in 2018.
Despite making up 51% of the population, women are still outnumbered in almost all professions.
In the House of Commons, there are twice the number of men than women elected in Parliament, and at the current rate of progress it will take 50 years to achieve gender equality in Parliament. In a 100 years since some women got the right to vote, I am the only Sharon elected since 1918, compared to 403 men named John in the same period.
Similarly, a FTSE 100 CEO is more likely to be named David than be a woman, and will earn on average 77% more than their female counterparts.
If these high profile positions cannot practice and promote gender equality in the workplace, then it is difficult to expect others to follow.
That is why the Government must therefore take decisive action to ensure that companies deliver on gender equality in the workplace, and take steps to encourage gender equality in Parliament.
This is something Labour have been championing for many decades now, and I am proud to be one of the 119 female Labour Party MPs sitting in the House of Commons today, making up 45% of Labour MPs.
To #PressForProgress, I will be building on the past achievements of Labour women who have come before me and pushing for full equality and protection of women: financially, in the workplace, in families and homes and in public spaces.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo's website.
Last Sunday, mothers across the country would have woken up to breakfast in bed, cards, gifts and flowers from their families, thanking them for caring for loved ones and nurturing their children all year round.
We all know mothers care can go unrecognised – but we do it nonetheless.
Then on Tuesday we celebrated International Women’s Day. I was delighted to welcome Katie from St Robert's Sixth Form to shadow me and take part in International Women’s Day celebrations here in Parliament.
Katie was one of nine selected out of 75 young women from across the UK, who were also shadowing their MP, to swap places with MPs on the Women & Equalities Select Committee and question them on what more we can do to address inequality.
Some argue that celebrating a woman’s place in society can be counter-productive to our struggle for equality.
Yet, with the gender pay gap still persistent in many areas of the workforce and women still greatly under-represented in top positions in business and public life, it is clear we still need to continue our fight for gender equality.
Unfortunately, this Tory Government is exacerbating women’s inequality.
Women face the brunt of public sector cuts; one in nine pregnant women are forced out of their jobs each year, and by 2020 women will have paid for 81% of the Government’s tax and benefit changes implemented since 2010.
Pair all of this with the 763 fewer Sure Start Centres, which provided vital support to families, then it is obvious this Government’s strategy for women is not working.
Labour understands if our country is to succeed, then women must be a part of that success, too.
That is why we pushed further than any other Party on women’s representation with All-Women Short Lists. We also introduced rafts of equality legislation, reduced the gender pay gap by a third over our time in office and we were the first administration since the Second World War to develop a childcare policy and flagship programmes, such as tax credits, to help women into work.
Instead of this Government rolling back women’s hard-fought rights and support, what we need is a strategy to support women, as both equal members of society and as drivers for the economic growth we need.
Labour recognises this and will do all we can to achieve this when holding the Government to account in Parliament.
At the final Women and Equality questions before the summer recess Sharon Hodgson, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, pressed the Government on what it is doing to change the current damning statistics on the lack of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) represented in UK universities, both in academia and in positions of senior management.
Image copyright: Parliamentary Recording Unit, 2015.