I'd rather be a rebel than a slave."
Last December marked 100 years since the first women were allowed to vote in a General Election in the UK and Manchester celebrated with the ceremonious unveiling of the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst. This small symbol has brought greater significance as we celebrate and acknowledge our steps towards gender equality and parity in our society.
At The Federation we have had so many conversations that prove that 100 years is not that long ago.
Joeli Brearley, an accomplished lawyer and mother, held an event to raise awareness of discrimination against working parents, lobbying for legislative change and for business leaders to pledge to end such discrimination in the workplace. Instigated after Joeli faced discrimination and was sacked four months after she announced she was pregnant with her first child, the campaign to raise awareness of discrimination highlights the messages we as a society, as businesses and leaders are sending to our ageing workforce and future generations. The message that women nearing child-bearing age should not be considered for promotion, let alone senior level roles, that skilled jobs are only for women below a certain age and that senior level roles are not suited to mothers or women above child-bearing age.
Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission reveals around 77 per cent of working mums face negative or discriminatory treatment in the workplace and this is just the tip of the gender imbalance. Views of employers thinking it acceptable to ask about a woman's plans to have children during recruitment to questioning a woman's capability and commitment to a role once they have had children unveils bigger issues of gender diversity amongst senior level roles and a greater affect on our economy- £280 billion a year to be exact. And does this reinforce the issue that younger generations do not aspire to be what they cannot see?
In June, the not-for profit organisation, Code Your Future, held their inaugural event celebrating an anniversary of supporting refugees and underprivileged individuals with the dream of becoming developers. Inspiring stories of graduates and passionate volunteers striving to make a difference, it became clear that the organisation serves as a life-line for many who have lost their homes, families and lives and are struggling to gain basic human rights and dignity. Stories of skilled refugees not being put forward for jobs as soon as recruiters hear the 'refugee' label begs a moral question of the society and culture we live in.
Liverpool Girl Geeks set up InnovateHer in a global mission to tackle inequality and decrease the gender imbalance in tech, working with national policy makers, local government, schools and industry leaders to create a UK- network of school based academies and improve young people's chance to realise their potential.
The Federation is filled with individuals and social enterprises striving to make a positive impact in our daily lives and local community; from addressing societal inequalities, fighting food poverty to inspiring and creating opportunities for our younger generations beyond the classroom. These are the Emmeline Pankhurst's of our time; standing up and making a change because they recognise their power to do so... and because, in their eyes, there is no alternative.
We know there is a long way to go and by no means, are we any closer to the end. We know Gender Equality is not just for women or for men alone, it is for everyone. It is about what we want to accept for ourselves, our loved ones, our society and our future generations.
Today Emmeline Pankhurst stands with her arm outstretched towards the building she held her first protest. And she will continue to stand to encourage women to join the battle she started.
We know there is a long way to go and by no means, are we any closer to the end. We know Gender Equality is not just for women or for men alone, it is for everyone. It is about what we want to accept for ourselves, our loved ones, our society and our future generations. There are those that are seeking asylum in our society because they have been persecuted in their country due to their sexual orientation and skilled individuals who have been forced to flee their homes and are not being put forward for job interviews by recruiters when they hear the 'refugee' label. And yet we hear constantly about a digital skills gap and a lack of skilled workers.
These are the Emmeline Pankhurst's of our time; standing up and making a change because they recognise their power to do so... and because, in their eyes, there is no alternative.
We don't know what the future holds but part of the solution is understanding the impact we as individuals and jointly can make in our society, the responsibility of our actions. And the irresponsibility of our inactions. It is heartening to see so many resilient and driven individuals and companies that are making waves to create opportunities for an equitable society and with these qualities and actions, Emmeline Pankhurst's spirit lives on.
Today, International Women's Day (IWD) belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. Never doubt the power a small group of citizens can have. In the spirit of Emmeline, we will be featuring quotes from our #RealLifeRoleModels to inspire and empower our year!