The Great Debate UK
- Reverend Dr. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes is Chaplain and Solway Fellow of University College, Durham. As a historian, she has published work on late medieval monastic history and the medieval economic history of the North East of England, notably “Monks and Markets” (Oxford University Press, 2005). Her current research interests are the history of the doctrine of the Trinity, and women’s issues in the contemporary church. She is a member of the General Synod of the Church of England, and a committee member for the group Women and the Church.
International Women’s Day on March 8, is an important opportunity for us to reflect on the fact that women are still taken less seriously than men all around the world. Even in supposedly equal cultures such as my own in the UK women continue, for example, to be paid less than men for the same work, and to suffer pregnancy-related discrimination in employment. Women are disproportionately under-represented in government and on the boards of large corporations. Women’s sport is generally less well funded and less popular than men’s, whilst women’s contribution to art and literature has a tendency to be marginalised – as “chick lit,” for example.
Of course, viewing women as of lesser value than men has a long history. We cannot expect such deeply held cultural stereotypes to be overturned instantly. But it does worry me that some people in our culture seem to believe that we have eradicated sexism from our society, and that further progress is therefore at best unnecessary, at worst signs of a suspicious “feminist agenda” aiming not for equality, but for superiority for women.
Just because we (thankfully) have laws in place for gender equality and against discrimination, does not mean that the fight for equality is over. Underlying attitudes and assumptions about men and women are much harder to change. The sexism that we are barely aware of, or accept as being “just the way things are”, is an extremely powerful disincentive to change.
- During Dany Cotton’s 20 years with the London Fire Brigade she has risen through the ranks to become a Deputy Assistant Commissioner, and is the highest ranking operational woman firefighter in the UK. She was also the first woman firefighter in Britain to be awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal. The opinions expressed are her own. -
International Women’s Day on March 8, is significant for me as it’s a reminder how far women have come in all industries, but particularly my own.
- Shelley Ross is secretary general of the Medical Women’s International Association, a non-governmental organisation representing women doctors from all continents. The opinions expressed are her own. -
The Medical Women’s International Association was created in 1919, not long after the first International Women’s Day in 1911. MWIA’s founder was an American by the name of Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, who served as its first president. She was an obstetrician by training but an activist and humanitarian by action. Not only did she establish MWIA but she also founded the American Women’s Hospital Service during the First World War.
- Glenda Stone is chief executive and founder of Aurora, a recruitment advertising and market intelligence company, and co-chairs the UK Women’s Enterprise Taskforce established by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The opinions expressed are her own. -
Most venture capital and angel investment tend to go to a specific breed of entrepreneur – innovative, well networked, intelligent, confident … male. Is this the result of deep-rooted discrimination or is this simply an issue of supply and demand? Women-owned businesses are largely under-capitalised and this leads to inhibited growth.
- Sandra Dickson is a feminist studying journalism at Whitireia Journalism School. She has worked to prevent violence against women in organizations in the UK and New Zealand, helping establish the counter-trafficking Poppy Project where she wrote “Sex in the City, Mapping Commercial Sex across London,” the first attempt to map the commercial sex industry. Now living in New Zealand, she is active in the Women’s refuge movement. She blogs as Luddite Journo. The opinions expressed are her own -
New Zealand was formally colonised late in world terms, after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed with indigenous Maori in 1840. Colonists came with grand ideas of building a “better Britain.” All could aspire to own property, and the most advanced indigenous people in the world were to be treated the best by the most humanitarian settlers.
- Annette Lawson is chair of National Alliance of Women’s Organisations in Britain. She has an OBE for services to diversity and is founder and Chair of The Judith Trust, which works for better lives for people with both learning disabilities and mental illness needs. Any opinions expressed are her own. -
International Women’s Day on March 8 has a contested history. Perhaps beginning with a protest of women textile and shirt makers in New York in 1857, perhaps arising from the Socialist movement in Russia, it has been marked by women more recently all over the world both to express solidarity and sisterhood and to demand afresh every year that women’s human, political and civil rights be recognised and achieved. Some might wish to argue there is no need for such an event, nor for women’s demands. In this case, ignorance brings no bliss.