Year 12’s Hannah recently spoke at a seminar on International Women’s Day, and she shares her thoughts on the difficulty women still face in being treated equally and fairly.
On the 8th of March, I was invited to be a panelist on the Buckinghamshire BAME network’s International Womens Day zoom seminar. The community, originally founded by local MP Mimi Harker OBE aims to bring together individuals from a BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) backgrounds from across the county. A huge part of this network is highlighting and raising awareness for social issues and providing a platform and voice for the underrepresented to speak. This year’s International Women’s day panel did just that, by introducing and discussing prevalent issues with gender inequality within today’s society. The panel, that I luckily got asked to be a part of, included a range of backgrounds, ages, and experiences between 15 other women. From MPs and the CEO of Buckinghamshire Council (Rachel Shimming) to the younger panelists, who I spoke alongside.
I participated amongst the ‘young women’ section of the seminar, which included women from the age of 16 (the youngest being myself) to age 27, most of these panelists being girls I had either grown up with or know of from the local area.
We all took it in turns to share what it meant to us to be a woman by today’s standards and share the experiences and obstacles we may have had to overcome whilst growing up or going into professional industries in order to be viewed or treated equally to men. These stories varied from one member asking to create a girls hockey team at a school when there wasn’t one, to another panelist talking about trying to be seen and heard as much as her male colleagues whilst working in material science/engineering, a male dominated industry.
One of the questions posed to the young women’s panel was ‘tell us about a time you achieved something and felt proud of yourself as a woman.’ I responded with a story about my Duke of Edinburgh experience in which my group was the only all-girl group on the expedition. Although this didn’t impact our own preconceptions regarding how successful we would be when hiking, the other groups designated the boys to be the ones to carry the heavy things like the tent, cooking pots etc. As a result of not having that option in our group we felt as though we were almost expected to finish last. However, being one of the first groups to finish our expedition, we exceeded all expectations of us. My story alongside many other of the other panelist’s stories showcased that although society has progressed from gender inequality experienced maybe a hundred years ago, sexism, either subconsciously or purposefully, still very much exists in the workplace, in sports and sometimes even in education.
I also spoke about the subtle misogyny and sexism that I feel most girls my age experience day to day, most of which often being subconscious and not often purposeful. For example, a phrase that has been said to me many times is “you’re bossy, aren’t you?’ or ‘you sometimes have too much attitude, you should tone it down’. These phrases are so commonly used against women who speak up for themselves or confidently disapprove or disagree with something said to them. Although these phrases might not seem problematic at first, I posed the question to the panel, and pose the same question to you: would these things be said to a man? The answer is most commonly, a resounding NO.
To conclude our part of the seminar we were asked what we, as young women, do to further improve gender equality in our lives on a day-to-day basis. Our response being that we talk to the male counterparts in our lives, our brothers, dads, friends, other relatives about how to better themselves when it comes to how they treat the women around them. So I urge whoever’s reading this to do the same. Like with any social issue, a change doesn’t always have to be a big one. We can all, regardless of what gender you identify as, take small steps every day to achieve change in society whether that be big or small.