I’m of the generation that thought that the battle for equality was pretty much won. Women had burned their bras so that I had the opportunity to break through the glass ceiling. Something like that anyway. Margaret Thatcher had been Prime Minister and so it stood to reason that women could do everything and anything they wanted and all was right with the world. In starting and growing my own entrepreneurial businesses I treated everyone who worked for me with the same respect and assumed that other employers did the same. Having seen little in my own career to suggest that discrimination still existed, and being so consumed with my own journey to seek out the experiences of other women, I thought that the world was a fair and reasonable place – at least as far as gender equality was concerned.
Over the past couple of years, through projects such as everyday sexism, it has become clear that the battle hadn’t been won. It was simply that sexism had become normalised. The project has gathered stories of women being routinely harassed, discriminated against and uncovered cases of serious sexual assault.
There are more local campaigns too, for example the Suspension and Victoria bridges in Glasgow have, for the next couple of weeks, been designated Women’s Bridges to highlight and to support women facing abuse in the city and beyond.
While these campaigns are wholly admirable and have my full support, there is a problem. They inevitably highlight the plight of women as victim.
And the mainstream media portrays women in a similar way. Scotland has, at least for a short trial period, a new National newspaper which intends to correct the media bias perceived by pro-independence campaigners in the reporting prior to the recent referendum. A new newspaper but with a depressingly familiar feel. OK, the front page of the launch edition did have 3 women; but one was Nicola Sturgeon and one was a woman crying. Inside there were a few stories about women but what do these stories tell us? Well, pages 2 and 3 had a disgraced female labour politician and a story about a woman being stabbed. Pages 4 and 5 had articles on the grooming of young girls and a woman’s body found in river. There was also a picture of Angelina Jolie on the pretext of her visiting an award ceremony of a male colleague. 6 and 7 had a large spread of a sad looking woman immigrant. 8 and 9 had women pictured in a healthcare story and one suggesting that childcare costs could rise. 10-13 nothing. On page 14 there were some women mentioned as nominees in BBC sports poll but the article was headlined by Rory McIlroy and Lewis Hamilton, neither of whom are Scottish but both of whom are male in male sports. Pages 15 through to 32 had nothing except a small article, no photo, about women curlers.
So, women as victim. Or sometimes as celebrity. Or often on page 3.
This campaign seeks to redress the balance.
Throughout the centuries women have done incredible, amazing, wonderful things but too often the achievements have been understated, undervalued, ignored or confined to the footnotes of history.
How about Hedy Lamarr? Considered by many as the most beautiful woman in the world, starring in countless films but she also co-invented a revolutionary communication system, to help radio-guided torpedoes escape detection by the enemy. Her idea later became the basis for spread spectrum communications technology, which is behind mobile phones and WiFi.
Or Rosalind Franklin. Her images of X-ray diffraction, confirming the helical structure of DNA, were shown to James Watson without her approval or knowledge. This image provided valuable insight into the DNA structure, but Franklin’s scientific contributions to the discovery have been overlooked. While James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins all received the Nobel Prize for their work Rosalind Franklin was not so honored because the Nobel Prize can only be shared by three scientists!
This campaign will highlight the achievements of women. Some, you will have heard of already and will be shown in a new light, while others may be completely new to you. There will be a new woman to discover each day here on the website and view social media.
Since 51% of the population are women we will be calling the campaign “WE ARE THE 51” and using hashtag #the51.
Please spread the word across your networks so that together we can spread a positive message about the contribution women make.
The campaign was launched on 1st December 2014. You can view the women featured so far…here
And you can nominate a woman from history to be featured by clicking here. To begin with we’ll profile women from history rather than contemporary figures but as the campaign grows, with your help, we hope to extend the scope.