I feel that International Women’s Day this year probably has more attention than previously. The 100 years since women’s suffrage was achieved in this country, was a step (a very significant step!) on a long road towards gender parity. This noble cause is still ongoing with discrimination and abuse being continuously revealed at the very core of governments, institutions, work places and in everyday domestic life.
The #metoo and #timesup campaigns are particularly poignant and in a very public way show how problems persist, regardless of socio-economic profile, regardless of race and regardless of culture or education.
The theme this year is #pressforprogress and gender parity is the central theme that is still being strived for. The message coming through is, that this is about collective responsibility to change our behaviour as a society. I firmly support this campaign, based on my own upbringing.
Striving for a level playing field and equal opportunity to perform, is fundamental to the principles of my family life and has been something that was taught to me by my grandfather.
Coming from a Hindu family from East Africa, he was outspoken and very critical of families who wouldn’t let the women in their households go to work. I remember him saying that society was only ever functioning at 50% productivity, whilst we don’t let women compete with men in the workplace. As a father of one son and two daughters, he ensured they all had equal opportunity in education and beyond. They saw their mother go to work each day, setting a work ethic in all of us. Those values have been instilled in me from a young age and I firmly stand against any type of abuse or discrimination, based on genetics or lifestyle choices that people make.
Problems still exist. The World Economic Forum report, stating it would take 200 years to achieve true gender equality, makes difficult reading. Their suggestions are that responsibility lies on everyone (women, men and children) to achieve success:
Close to home, in Bishopsgate, our own Alderman is The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, the Commonwealth Secretary-General. One of our current Deputies is Wendy Hyde, who had a respected career in the Bank of England.
More work is to be done and I will strive to ensure that discrimination or abuse against anyone is not tolerated, but where it is found to persist, will work to root it out.