My early life was filled with an eccentric style of nurturing, the sound of Status Quo and Dire Straits, my parents and their eclectic gaggle of socialist friends. Equality was the golden thread weaved through my childhood experiences. However, my understanding of equality never really translated into a fight for gender parity. I was surrounded by strong and capable female role models, International Women’s Day meant nothing to me.
Imagine then, my shock, as a teenager working in a bar, when a business man in his flash suit put his hands on me and told me he could buy me. When I went for an interview and was asked, by the male panel, if this job was a stop gap until I had babies. When, in my 20’s, I was barred from a pub for the unladylike behaviour of telling the bar staff that the condom machine was broken or when I was asked to breastfeed in a supermarket toilet because a male diner in the café was offended. The world was functioning in a very different way than I expected, and it mattered.
Part of my motivation to champion feminism has come through parenting daughters. I have been lucky enough to be involved in raising three girls to be courageous, resilient, kind, intelligent young women. They are confident in a way that leaves me in awe, but also subject to challenges that I could only have imagined at their age. Peer pressure, social media, body shaming, the list goes on.
Every day in my working life I see the impact of inequality on the lives of women and their families. Working mothers who need foodbank vouchers to feed their children, women who have no money to pay for sanitary products, women who are subject to domestic abuse, women who for many reasons lack the confidence to even dream they can achieve. But I also witness and celebrate the collective passion and strength evident when women unite and support each other through shared experiences and a common belief in their community. I have seen the transformation when women, through a process of change are empowered and it is inspiring. This level of support is something I was able to personally receive through my participation in the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme, an experience that truly taught me the meaning of sisterhood, and the value in reaching out to other women.
These experiences and others shaped the woman I am today. It has taken me to my 40’s to be a woman who is unapologetic and proud of her achievements. A woman with a voice and the promise to use it! A woman able to hold this role because of the fight by those who went before. There are still challenges and fights ahead but I look forward to the future when our daughters can take it for granted that they will look at our councils, Parliaments and assemblies and see a true representation of society looking back at them.