Inspiring women: Millicent Fawcett and the continued fight for women’s equality
As I write this in 2022, we’re still a long, long way from achieving gender equality. Despite several undeniable steps in the right direction, we’re still fighting against old attitudes, beliefs and systems which seem embedded in society.
In times like these, as we continue to strive for the basic rights we deserve, I’m reminded of the women who have gone before us and the contributions they made that we benefit from today. Fortunately we can look to them for inspiration, support and guidance on our journey to equal rights for women. Even though they lived, campaigned and fought in very different times, their courage and commitment to the cause is still very much as relevant today as it was back then.
One such woman (who many surprisingly still haven’t heard of) is Millicent Fawcett.
Who was Millicent Fawcett?
Millicent Fawcett was president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies from 1907-19. With 50,000 members their campaigning was instrumental in extending the voting rights of women in 1918.
In 2018 Millicent Fawcett become the first woman to be commemorated with her statue being erected in Parliament square. Her memory, values and work continue today with The Fawcett Society (of which I am member) researching and campaigning for gender equality. On The Fawcett Society website there are many resources available to help women who are struggling with the impact of gender inequality. Notably they have recently reported on Menopause in the workplace, and offer a downloadable toolkit to help women navigate this time and the emotional and physical upheaval it can bring due to outdated attitudes and lack of support.
Fawcett’s legacy lives on
Beyond The Fawcett Society, Millicent’s legacy of empowering women and fighting for equality continues to influence her contemporary peers. Other women are speaking out, such as Caroline Criado Perez who campaigned for the statue of Fawcett. She is the 2013 Liberty Human Rights Campaigner of the Year, the 2020 recipient of Finland’s HAN award for promoting equality and in 2021 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Lincoln. She is also the best-selling author of ‘Do It Like A Woman’ published in 2015 – described as a ‘must read’ by the Sunday Independent and ‘Invisible Woman’ published in 2019 and translated into 30 languages and received the Financial Times Business Book of the Year.
What we can do to celebrate and continue Millicent’s work
At a time when women’s rights of self-determination are under threat and it seems the very essence of what it means to be a woman is under question, what lies ahead – and what are we going to do about it? As a mother of two soon-to-be teenage daughters, I strongly feel something must be done and I know I’m not alone.
In some areas we are progressing too slowly – in others we are moving backwards altogether (looking at you, America). I recently discovered that if we continue at our current pace, the gender pay gap will not close until 2086, so not in my lifetime and possibly not even within the lifetimes of my daughters, if there are setbacks along the way.
So, I’m going to start by reading, sharing and educating girls all over the world – building on the foundations set for us by women like Millicent Fawcett. Together we can bring about meaningful change – for ourselves and for generations to come.