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"Change is about identifying the mechanism that delivers"
To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, Professor Claire Annesley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equalities and Diversity, suggests we consider being bold by changing the rules.
I am reading Harriet Harman’s autobiography and it’s such a clear reminder of how far we have come since the 1970s in the sense of the opportunities young girls and women are presented with. But we have got to be very aware that not all women are benefiting, and there are still a lot of issues that we need to address.
Sometimes I think that we go over the same ground, so we have incremental solutions to some problems when what we have to do is be more ambitious about what we want to achieve.
Being bold for change means changing the rules - doing something that makes a difference rather than just waiting for cultural change. Change is about identifying a mechanism that is really going to deliver.
In my research in women in politics there’s a frustration in that we never see a real change in the numbers of women getting into parliament or cabinet. Progress is so slow.
We found that where a prime minister or a president makes a pledge – “my cabinet will be 50 per cent women” – they end up delivering because they have made a promise to which they can be held to account. That’s one way to achieve bold change.
While there’s more equality on paper - and I think there are more opportunities for study and work - young women today are much more policed and scrutinised – by the media, by other women, by men. Culturally, the pressure is on them.
There’s still a gender pay gap. Female graduates earn £10,000 less a year than male graduates. Female students are told they have opportunities, but they haven’t experienced what it’s like to juggle work and family responsibilities.
Young women need to look for allies - not just the people who talk the talk, but those who walk the walk. It’s not just the big rhetorical statements, it’s the support on an everyday basis that’s needed.
Letting women speak, and supporting women when they speak, through reinforcement and endorsement; that’s how we create solidarity.