Morning television viewers on Tuesday might have noticed that BBC Breakfast was a bit different; it was presented entirely by female anchors and reporters, as one of several tributes that marked one hundred years since women were first allowed to vote. The show was met with many positive reviews, and The Suffragette’s have also been celebrated online, in newspapers and on other TV outlets.
The Suffragettes were members of women’s organisations in the late-19th and early-20th centuries which fought for women’s rights to vote in public elections. On the 6th February 1918, The Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed to reform the electoral system in Great Britain and Ireland, and include practically all men in the political system and begin the inclusion of women.
However, this was by no means a clear line of inclusion for women, and it has been reminded that it was still another ten years before working class women and women under thirty could vote. There were other issues at play in 1918 too, most notably class. 1918 was the first time men who weren’t property owners got the vote, while women who weren’t property owners or graduates didn’t get the vote until later.
Likewise, just like 1918 didn’t simply solve all the issues of voting for women, 2018 hasn’t just been used as a sign of celebration and praise for those involved; the centenary has also been used as a call to action.
There is still a long way to go in the fight for equality, as recent stories such as the BBC gender pay gap and the #MeToo movement have shown, and women continue to campaign for equal rights on many issues. However, despite some recent actions – the backlash towards the Presidents Club Dinners; the removal of Darts walk on girls – there have also been reminders of just how big a change full equality requires.
Awkward Interviews from the 1970’s, which would make most people today uncomfortable, show how undermined women were as recently as a few generations ago; while in an article in The Guardian which asks Will women be equal to men in 100 years? Polly Toynbee highlights how the change required goes beyond mere generations and centuries. Toynbee says: ‘Never underestimate the size of the task to reverse all history since time began. To recreate society so women are fully equal to men, we are making a revolution more radically profound than any other ever. Forget French or Russian political revolutions, liberation for women means digging up the roots of human culture, nothing less.’
Last year Way out West spoke to Margaret Conway of McAleer and Rushe, who was the first women in forty years to win the coveted UK Construction Manager of the Year Award.
This fight for equality exists in all areas of life, not least in education, training and employment, and at South West College, several innovations in recent years have engaged with these changes or tried to make changes of their own.
In 2016, a group of students from South West College travelled to London as part of the Miss STEM project, an initiative funded by Erasmus+ to involve young females in meetings with decision makers in the field of STEM in the UK.
At the time, STEM Education Officer Dominic McGeown explained: ‘Throughout the time the STEM Centre has been open it has been evident that currently many STEM careers are male dominated, and the hope for this project was to speak to various councils to change this.’
Now, Miss STEM Europe, a new project initiative delivered by South West College and The Leuven Institute (Funded by Erasmus+), aims to build on the research from the initial Miss STEM project, to shape future policies and initiatives to encourage more females into STEM education and careers.
A similar trend is already evident in the world of construction. Last year Way out West spoke to Margaret Conway of McAleer and Rushe, who was the first women in forty years to win the coveted UK Construction Manager of the Year Award.
I definitely think a lot more women will get involved in construction in the years to come.
Speaking about women in construction, Margaret said: ‘When I first started, there were women in the industry but very few and far between, and I can definitely see a lot more women involved now. In McAleer and Rushe we have quite a few women involved in a lot of roles, from quantity surveying to health and safety and the environment.
‘There’s women in all disciplines in the industry and it’s great to see. The industry is working very hard to promote the image, and let people see that it’s not the old fashioned industry of mucky boots etc. There are lots of office roles if that’s what people want. I definitely think a lot more women will get involved.’