Having observed the recent anniversary of the Representation of the People 1918 act which saw British Women gain the right to vote, it seems appropriate we should also be swiftly celebrating International Women’s Day (8th March).
Although the 1918 act represented a major step change in women’s inclusion, not only in Politics but also in terms of representation in British society, it is worth noting that change was not immediate. The act stated that females over the age of 30 and “enfranchised” i.e. either married to a member or individually represented on the local government register would be granted a vote. It was not until 10 years later that the Representation of the People Act 1928 was enacted, enabling women to vote on the same terms as men, the voting age being lowered to 21. Arguably the 1928 act deserves the same level of recognition as the 1918 act as it represents, at least in my humble opinion, the continuing issue of the speed at which gender equity is addressed and levelled.
What is International Women’s Day?
The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911, instigated by the Suffragette movement and seven years prior to the Representation of the People Act. The purpose of the day in 2018 is to bring together sections of our society including government, private sector, educational establishments and various other community networks to both acknowledge progress to date and what actions we can take to play a positive part in the continuing work toward gender equity across the globe. Every year the International Women’s Day campaign launches an ongoing theme for the forthcoming 12 months. This year’s campaign is adopting #pressforprogress in addition to the #IWD2018 hashtag, encouraging individuals and organisations to support gender equality across social media.
The Gender Gap
The World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap Report published for 2017, surveyed 144 countries focussing on the four key themes of: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. This data indicates that overall the gender gap is increasing. To demonstrate the rate of this downturn in progress, at the current rate we are looking at 175 years to achieve worldwide gender equality. With the new data from the 2017 report this timeframe increases to 217 years.
Working Towards Gender Equity
Despite these sobering global results and on a more positive note, at least in the UK progress is being made to highlight and work toward increasing female contribution to sectors in which women are less represented, such as science, business, IT, civil and mechanical engineering. There are numerous national and regional networks working to promote educational and career opportunities in these sectors, including (but not limited to) The Women in Engineering Society who also run the National Women in Engineering Day (look out for a fancy KEEP+ logo for that too), the Women in Business Network, and various female led networks supported and facilitated by regional arms of the Chambers of Commerce.
The higher education sector is overtly focussed on equality, working hard to increase female uptake of STEM subjects. Our friends and KEEP+ partners University of Suffolk have recently established their Centre for Female Entrepreneurship based at the IWIC Innovation Centre, with the aim to promote diversity within businesses, increasing and supporting female entrepreneurs and promoting collaboration between businesses and universities.
What on earth has this got to do with KEEP+ and our ERDF grants for knowledge exchange? Well, quite a lot actually.
The KEEP+ team and partners speak to businesses covering a broad range of sectors, but our records at KEEP+ HQ also tend to reflect the national under-representation of female entrepreneurs, especially in the science, tech and engineering sectors. The female element of the UK workforce is spilling over with great ideas, talent and expertise, so encouraging personal, professional and business growth is an obvious win/win for everyone.
Here at KEEP+ we’d love to help as many eligible businesses as we possibly can with a grant for knowledge exchange, and in doing so we’ll also be doing our bit to observe and encourage equality in all respects. Diversity of people equals diversity of culture, talent, expertise and it’s from this great innovation happens.
Talk to us!
If your business is developing a new product or service you may be able to benefit from an ERDF grant for knowledge exchange, so talk to either the KEEP+ Team or your local delivery partner. Get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!