This week, the Scottish Parliament will unite for International Women’s Day. This day, which is celebrated all over the world, is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to upholding and protecting the rights of women and girls, which are of course fundamental human rights.
I enjoyed donning my Dragons top and picking out my own inspirational sporting heroines for a wee project they are doing to mark IWD. I chose Jade Konkell and Dee Bradbury. My claim to fame is I played rugby with Jades mum! Dee will become the SRU president this year – a world first – after excelling in both athletics and rugby in her own sporting career.
This year, I’m sure many of us will reflect on that fact that it has been 100 years since some women won the vote. While we have made some bold changes already, let’s not for a moment be complacent, or take progress for granted.
As well as looking back, in this year of young people particularly, we need to look forward and focus our attention on young women and girls’ experience of gender equality, and what changes they would like to see in the future.
We know that women are still not making it to the top, in both the public and private sector. Although women make up 52% of the population, you’d be forgiven for thinking we are a minority group, considering how poorly women are represented in civil and political life.
There is also a well-established gender pay gap. I think there is an insidious barrier to achieving gender equality in this regard; and that is the cultural assumption that women just don’t belong in certain roles.
When I look back at some of my own choices, I have to say that this does resonate.
When I was younger I knew I was geeky and into science. But I became a health professional not an engineer. Looking back at this choice I realise that part of this was down to cultural conditioning, which guides us to make certain choices. I didn’t consciously think about it.Undoubtedly, part of the reason why I didn’t become an engineer – not only because no-one ever suggested I should – was because of a lack of role models. I didn’t see any women like me becoming researchers or scientists.
For our girls growing up today, it is important that we give them good role models – not only in STEM subjects, but in politics too.
A couple of years ago, when I was a girl guides leader, I was helping a group work towards their politics badge, “be the change”. They were asked to think about women in positions of power that would make good role models. This was the first time they went quiet. Then a girl piped up – she must have only been 10 years old. She said “this would be much easier if it was men you asked us to think of”.
Clearly we still have a long way to go!
This is a fortnightly column by Maree Todd MSP. The Orkney News invited Labour, Conservatives and Greens to also have a regular 500 word column.
I went to a Catholic all girls school, where the nun’s dearest wish was to train us all up to be “Good Catholic wives and mothers”.
It didn’t work! Not sure why – maybe some followed that path, but, when I think of myself and my friends – we mostly went on to Uni, and have done all sorts of things since. One friend from school, last heard of as Head of Maths at a different school.
It is true, all too true, that the gap is still there in pay and treatment and general opportunities, but, as with any conditioning, it’s up to each individual to break it. I’m not disagreeing with you , Maree, but I wanted to point out that we needn’t let ourselves be pawns in the game, or be told that we HAVE to be ambitious, either. If someone wants to be a good wife and mother (Catholic or otherwise), no one should have a down on her for doing that either – which does happen.
It’s when some one can’t proceed as they choose to, because of how they are perceived, that it becomes unfair.
Some one who is a good mother, and produces well-balanced, confident children, does the world a great service. As does a good father-figure as a role model, for girls, or boys.
Role models in positions of power? Power usually means politics, or commerce – neither of which provide me with male role models either!
Do you realize that this supposed “day” was instigated by the Bolsheviks and this is a Bolshevik “day” to spread the destruction of the traditional family? I am a woman and I spit on this nonsense…there is no need or excuse to “celebrate” bolshevism not even disguised as some supposed day of the woman