Throughout 2013, here at the3rdimagazine, members and guest contributors wrote about what it was to be a women, from varied perspectives and on different topics. Some of us pointed out how much better it is to be a women in this day and age and that much progress has been made, albeit this is not universally the case. Others wrote about how women are pilloried in the media when they dare to speak their truth, in a way that men rarely are. We only need to think about Professor Mary Beard, Stella Creasy and Caroline Criado-Perez and the way they were treated for speaking out on issues that they believe in. Caroline’s only crime in the eyes of the twitter trolls was that she had dared to ask for women to be represented on our bank notes.
The important point is that they did speak out and continue to do so and that they provide an example to us all to be vocal and active in making change happen in 2014.
So what is it that we have to work to change in this year of 2014 to continue to make improvements to the position of women in our society and world-wide?
I believe that we need to ensure that we are not insular in our thinking and in our desire for change. I am a white, middle-aged, middle-class, educated women living in Scotland. I can, if I choose to, operate within a very limited sphere of contacts personally and professionally. However, for me that would not suit the ethical base from which I view the world.
We have covered the plight of many women in developing countries where they live horrendous lives, often used as sex slaves, have their children stolen from them as they sleep on the streets at night. Women who have little or no economic or political clout and even when they do, they are assassinated for speaking out against the gross injustices they endure. So, we have to think and act globally.
As a white women, I have little understanding of the discrimination experienced by black and ethnic minority women. They have to endure multiple discrimination because of their sex and their colour. We white women need to have a better understanding of the meaning of discrimination in all its forms and how it affects women from minority groups in complex ways that many of us are only beginning to understand.
Here in Scotland, there is an organisation called ‘Changing the Chemistry’ which is working to support more women onto non-executive board positions. Furthermore it is, as part of this, looking at diversity generally.
I applaud this work and recognise that it is important to get more woman to the top of organisations and especially those women who have been mentored by other women to help them achieve this. We need women at the top who will help to bring other women up too. However we must not lose sight of the fact that at the other end of the spectrum are many more women who are having to work hard physically to support their families. These women are often on the minimum wage, possibly topped up by working tax credits with little or no opportunity for promotion. The opportunities may not be there or it might not be possible for them to consider this as an option if they have other family commitments. This might mean children but increasingly is also including ageing parents. We need therefore to think about the economic position of all women. It is important that we have women in positions of power but we need to see the issue also from an economic perspective. The Fawcett Society stated recently that:
“Women’s incomes are being squeezed on all sides – two thirds of the savings from benefit caps and cuts are coming from women’s pockets. We are working to challenge this, and are fighting hard to shore up women’s financial security. “ The challenge here is to ensure that we consider all women in the workplace and not just from the perspective of not enough women being at the top but also fighting for a better deal economically for those at the bottom of the pyramid.
I recognise that there is much good work going on but there is also a great deal at stake because if we women who can speak out and act, if we do not do this in 2014, there is a chance that we will slide backwards. I do not want that for the young women of our world. Do you?
Anne Casey is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.