Celebrating Cardiff’s women

Last Saturday at a craftivism workshop in Cardiff I met Sara Huws and something she mentioned got me thinking: Where are all the statues of women in Cardiff?

If you know Cardiff your thoughts will automatically snap to statues like Mother and Son on Queen Street, or maybe Nereid on Kingsway. Statues like these were pointed out by fellow workshop attendees but none of us could name them as people; they are all nameless women representing an aspect of womanhood or some kind of character or concept.

Nereid

Nereid by Nathan David

Sara wrote a blog post on this in 2011:

“I’d rather be proven wrong about this, but it really does look like every female body represented in public sculpture around Cardiff is symbolic (every! single! one!). They fall into the following general categories: angel, goddess, virtue, caryatid, figurehead, mother and wife. Possibly mermaid.”

In her post titled A Modest Proposal: A Statue of an Actual Woman for Cardiff, she explains her quest for, “a public sculpture in Cardiff of an actual female person, living or dead, whose name I could Google.” She wrote:

“In a frankly super-retro twist on an ole’ Victorian classic; women’s bodies and what they represent are abundant in Cardiff, but not their stories, identities and voices. The ‘seen and not heard’ female slips unnoticed into the civic background of the city.”

I was pretty surprised that the capital city of Wales, a place full of strong women and a city that often celebrates its diverse past and present would have been able to find many women to dedicate statues to.

It could be argued that nobody deserves a statue, that behind every great politician, scientist artist of sportsperson there is a number of great people contributing just as much, if not more, to their community and the world. But it’s a shame that the public face of Cardiff while finding it within itself to dedicate statues to men like Aeurin Bevan, Jim Driscoll and Ivor Novello, all just as deserving as Cardiff and Wales’s well known women who have not been given the same kind of celebration. After all, if they are not celebrated and given the same public respect as men what hope is there for the rest of us?

The original post was a while ago now, July 2011, but Sara is still interested in Cardiff’s missing woman statues. She has said she’ll be researching women’s stories and posting about them as she goes as well as conducting a poll.

So here’s my suggestions (and yes, I think nominations can be dead or alive, and I admit I don’t have a great knowledge of history):
Shirley Bassey – Sara’s prediction of the poll winner
Tanni Grey-Thompson – Possibly one of Wales’ most well known sportswomen
Gillian Clarke – poet, playwright and many other things, also figures in many G.C.S.E and A Level English anthologies and course work

Who would you like to see a Cardiff statue for?

Read Sara’s full post on her blog Boglyn, here.

Thanks to David Reeves for the photo.

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Are quotas the answer?

This was originally written as a university assignment and aimed at  Press Gazette.

Hundreds of  journalists in Germany have called for gender quotas in top media jobs. Women in the UK media give their opinion on whether we should be calling for the same here…

Rebekah Brooks and Sly Bailey: both high profile, both women, and both out of the job. Whatever your opinion on them, they were part of a very small group of women in the industry who make it to the top of their game.

The lack of women in powerful media positions is not just a UK problem. In February, in a letter sent to around 250 editors, publishers and managers across Germany,  journalists called for quotas to get 30% women in executive jobs in editorial departments within the next five years.

Quotas have been in the news recently in Britain in the context of business but the issue has not been seriously raised here in relation to the media. When suggested in any sector they are controversial but are they the only way to equality?

What limited research there has been into the amounts of women in the UK, and global, media workforce has shown that despite high numbers of women entering the industry they are not working their way up the career ladder.

In 2011 the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) released the Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media. Covering 170,000 people they found that 73% of the top management jobs globally are occupied by men.

Looking at 16 news companies in the UK across newspapers, television and radio the IWMF found that although women represented 45% of the combined workforce, at senior management level the proportion of women was 29.5%. The UK companies studied, “exhibit entrenched institutional practices of marginalising women in their newsrooms and decision-making hierarchies.”

The trend is similar across media platforms. The Fawcett Society carried out research in 2007 which showed two woman editors out of the 17 national newspapers surveyed. If the study were to be done again today this would be just one, Tina Weaver of the Sunday Mirror. Rebekah Wade (now Brooks) was replaced by a man when she left The Sun to become chief executive of News International. The 2007 also showed 6% women among deputy editors at nationals.

In 2011 Skillset released research into the UK broadcasting industry that said that while women working in radio were better qualified than men (73% had degrees compare to 70% of men), they earned, on average £2,200 less each year. They were also just 34% of senior managers and only 17% at Board level. In television the numbers at board level were 29%.

Dr Cynthia Carter, of Cardiff University, is a leading academic in gender and the media and founding co-editor of the Feminist Media Studies journal. She says there needs to be more research done into why women are not progressing. “A lot of the top jobs need 24/7 availability,” she explains. “As women get into their 30s they start having issues with partners and children and start taking positions that don’t lead to the top jobs to allow them to have a life outside work.”

In Skillset’s research only 16% of women in UK radio had dependent children compared to 25% of men. A report on the film industry commissioned by the UK Film Council, published in 2007, echoed this saying 36% of men lived with dependent children whereas only 14% of women did.

Janet Street-Porter raised the issue in the 1997 documentary A Night In With The Girls saying society still expects women to fill a role. She said women needed time to themselves when they get home from work to “stop being a boss woman and become a normal person.” She suggested men are used to being bossy all the time.

Francesca Preece, editorial assistant at The Sun, says that women in journalism have to fight their corner. “It takes a very strong woman to break through the prejudice. If you had two equally qualified young people, one male and one female, the male journo would almost definitely be taken more seriously,” she explains.

The main argument for the introduction of gender quotas in the UK media follows that although change is happening it’s not happening quickly or thoroughly enough. People recruit in their own image, and will continue to do so until someone shakes things up. Dr Carter describes this as informal and unconscious discrimination where men often see themselves in a candidate of the same gender and similar background.

It is argued that quotas are compensating for the barriers a particular group faces and that as audiences do not get to choose who runs the media so they deserve a more representative workforce to better cater to their needs.

Quota Project, a database of gender quotas for women, use Norway as one of the examples they say prove quotas work. A law was passed there in 2003 to allocate 40% of boardroom places in publicly traded companies to women. There are now have 37.9% women on company boards whereas the UK has 12.5%.

But those people against quotas see them as patronising, elevating people to positions they are not skilled or ready for. “Hiring more women at the expense of men for example won’t make male journos respect them any more than before…They would just be seen as filling a quota and not there on merit.” says Preece.

“If Rebekah Brooks managed it without a quota at one of the most male dominated titles, I am sure many others can elsewhere in Fleet Street.”

Do we need gender quotas in the UK? Journalists Alison Clarke and Michelle Perry go head to head.

Yes

Authour and journalist Alison Clarke is the founder and co-editor of Women’s Views On News.

“Quotas are a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut but where they have been introduced, in boardrooms and parliamentary representation, they do make a difference…Quotas serve a purpose and they should be time limited so it’s not that they’re on the statute book forever.

“I’m 57 and I’ve heard that argument [that we should wait for change] for 30 years. Well, I’ll be dead before it does; it’s nonsense. It won’t happen because we all hire in our image.

“The UK media industry is not just dominated by men at the top, but when you drill all the way down then newsrooms are dominated by men as a result of which our news is filtered through that male lens. They’re deciding who should be heard and who shouldn’t be heard.

“One woman is never enough they reckon you need about 30% so you have a critical mass then things start to change, so you get a critical mass with parliament, suddenly parliament starts talking about childcare, maternity rights, lots of issues which are of more direct relevance to woman and I think the same thing would happen in the newspaper industry.”

“I would say that most women who work within that industry know that it’s very male dominated but if you asked an awful lot of men they wouldn’t necessarily be aware of that. Or if they were they wouldn’t be aware of the impact that it has on women in terms of the culture.

“People on the right argue against it because they say it’s tokenistic and that they don’t want to be a token woman and that they want to get there on their own merit. My argument would be that there are plenty of women out there with plenty of talent and there’s a reason they’re not getting on and it’s got nothing to do with their ability.”

No

Michelle Perry is a journalist specialising in business and finance. She is the editor of CFO World a website for chief financial officers.

“I personally wouldn’t back any quotas in any industry, for any reason. What I’ve seen in business the threat of quotas is enough to make people make change. People don’t like change whether they’re a man or woman and they especially don’t like being told to do it from outsiders.

“Even though journalism is predominately populated by men it is changing and in the younger ranks coming through now there’s probably a greater balance of men and women. Personally I’ve always worked with male bosses and with a majority of men on news desks and I’ve never felt it’s a problem and I’ve never felt that I was inhibited from progressing in my role.

“I think it [the workplace] is changing because more and more women are in the workplace and want to go back to work after they’ve had kids. I think more organisations now realize that they have to have flexible structures to incorporate this very talented workforce that is being excluded.

“Someone should do an industry piece of research then we can see who’s in all levels, then if there is a problem you can work from facts and not presumption. Perhaps it won’t change unless it’s raised and we just carry on plugging along and perhaps women don’t rise up and leave the workforce and don’t vocalise why they are. I think there’s also an issue that women tend to be not as bolshie as men and perhaps wouldn’t go for the roles that they don’t feel confident about.

“I find that if you kind of force the situation then you end up getting people into positions who perhaps aren’t ready. Not because they don’t have the skills or they don’t have the ability to get the skills, but because they haven’t had the experience…they may fail and that will be a disservice to all of us.”

CAS @ Bristol’s Start The Bus – International Women’s Day Highlight

First appeared at Ctrl.Alt.Shift on March 23 2011

March 8 2011 was the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Amy Hall reports from Ctrl.Alt.Shift’s celebrations at Bristol’s Start The Bus…

The first International Women’s Day was established in 1911 when more than one million women and men attended rallies calling for women to have the right to vote, work and take an active part in public life.

Fast forward 100 years to 2011 and the day is still relevant; women are more likely to suffer lack of access to education, healthcare and employment. This is not just a problem in so called ‘developed’ countries; women in the UK are still under represented in parliament and more likely to be living in poverty.

Ctrl.Alt.Shift celebrated International Women’s Day in Bristol, collaborating with Bristol University Feminist Society to present a bill of inspiring female performers. The struggles of other women across the world is what inspires Sophie Bennett, the society’s president. “We really need to show solidarity with women all over the world”, she explained. “Its now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in some areas of conflict so we really need to show support for those women as well as celebrating our collective achievements.”

Jonathan Godwin, 20, told us it was time to full recognise the achievements of women: “The heads of most companies, and even the head of the UN, are traditionally men. An obscenely high proportion of work and progress made in the world is made by women and not enough recognition is given to that.”

Start The Bus is slap bang in the middle of Bristol’s city centre, a dark and atmospheric venue with kitsch decorations and on March 8, it was packed with people ready to be inspired. There was a laid back, acoustic vibe to the night as 11 varied artists took to the stage; a healthy mix of originals and covers – songs by strong female artists like Tracy Chapman and Florence ad The Machine were big features, as well as insightful original tracks.

The intense and beautifully soulful voices of Rima Doal and Celestine, whose cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit caught the attention of the audience, were juxtaposed with Charlene, a woman who despite being a lone dancer communicated a whole lot of expression. Folky, sweet stories with ukuleles and guitars also got a look in with Esther Taylor and Jenna Fentiman. DST changed the pace, with two MCs and a DJ rapping over some mixes of hip hop tracks with conscious, original lyrics.

Stand up comic Elf did a short set of funny anecdotes from her life as a former model and writer of (bad) erotic fiction as well as her relationships with family and friends. We caught up with her after her performance and she told us how important she thinks gender equality is. “As a female comedian I want to be known not as a female comedian but as a good comic, especially in a world that is very constrained by whether you happen to be a male or a female.”

Mirelle El Malgrissy and Angela Morgan stripped it back with acoustic guitars and powerful voices, as did Becca Sanders who could sing a dictionary and make it sound full of emotion and insight. Lionheart headed up the evening armed with a banjo and wistful stories including one about a man who she should have realised was bad news by the way he treated his books.

The night was buzzing and full of talent. Natasha Kendrick, 23, is a student at Bristol UWE: “International Women’s Day celebrates all the talents that women have and that’s really been highlighted tonight by all the fantastic performers we’ve heard. It would be fascinating to be here again in 100 years and see how many more achievements we have to celebrate.”

Ctrl.Alt.Podcast

At last, after many months of deliberating the Ctrl.Alt.Shift Podcast is off the ground in conjuntion with the excellent SOAS Radio.

Episode one focuses on gender equality and was done for International Women’s Day which was on March 8.

Check it out at the SOAS Radio website.

Episode 2 should be out at the beginning of April and will centre on Tax Justice. We are hoping it will be bigger and better so watch this space.

Building A Forum For Women In Bangladesh

First appeared on Ctrl.Alt.Shift on 31 January 2011

Discover how women in Bangladesh are learning more about their rights, their purpose and potential power in the home, government and society as a whole. Amy Hall reports…

Traditionally, women in Bangladesh are not encouraged to take part in public life and have less access to education; but increasingly Women’s Forums and savings schemes mean that groups of women have strong voices within their communities.

Christian Aid’s Gen Lomax recently visited Bangladesh and met women involved in groups that work with Christian Aid’s partner organisation CCDB. Perceptions of women’s equality have begun to change since these groups were set up and some Women’s Forums have received training in influencing politics. They have learnt about their rights, and are becoming increasingly demanding towards the local government ensuring that it is more accountable.

The women Gen spoke to found these groups valuable in increasing the voice of women within their community but also in gaining independence as individuals. Mononoma Kunda, 49, is a member of Bashundhara Forum and has been since 1985.

She has received training on rights and advocacy which she put to good use when a powerful neighbour occupied some of her land: “When I joined the forum, I raised my voice and we discussed this problem. We then took this to the local government and they measured the land, and now the man has left!”

Mononoma has not always had this independence though, “My husband did not want me to go to the forum because he wanted me to make meals and stay at home. Sometimes he was very angry. Now he always encourages me. He sees that now I am independent, I earn money and his opinion has changed…We have built faith, love, trust, and now we respect each other. Now I make joint decisions in my family. The forum is our pride.”

Another proud husband is Shakti Kirtoniya. His wife Monika Kirtoniya has received agricultural training via the Sonali Swapna Forum (Golden Dream Forum). “I feel happy that my wife is part of this forum.
Before she just worked at home. But now she has a business and works outside. She earns money which we can spend on our children, on our lives. Now she knows so many things, she has received so much training and is a skilled woman with experience.”

At 16 Nipa Mojumder is already part of the Sonali Swapna Forum. Nipa is not part of the forum, her mother is. Her parents are supportive of her activities and she says that their generation is beginning to change its perceptions. “It is not possible to develop our country if men and women don’t work together… My parent’s generation is very conservative, but now this is changing. They want women to work outside. Previously there were superstitions about everything, now this is changing.”

By organising together women all over the world are raising their voices and becoming active in public life. This empowerment has a positive affect on their families and people around them and seems to be the only way towards sustainable development.

CAS @ Feminism In London

From looking around the room a feminist could look like anyone. The women did not fit the stereotypes all too often associated with the feminist movement, ranging right through the age spectrum, gay and straight and of varied ethnicities.

There was also a significant number of men, not coerced there by women but fully engaged in the issues including those sometimes considered women’s domain – like maternity care and problems with the ‘sex industry’.

There was a workshop for men only on ‘Confronting Privilege’; part of a diverse programme that included feminist parenting, women’s internalised prejudice, reproductive and sexual health and workshops specifically for children.

One of the main attraction of the conference for Ctrl.Alt.Shift was the section titled ‘Reports From The Global Women’s Movement’, a panel of feminist activists, experts who have taken part in struggles around the world.

“If you’re not at the table you’re on the menu”, said Chitra Nagarajan in the day’s opening, and this is especially obvious in many places where war, poverty or corruption have caused dramatic imbalances in power.

Nadje Al-Ali started off talking about the Iraqi movement, where she said in many ways there has been regression in women’s equality. Leila Alikaramis told a similar story from Iran but pointed out, “Now women have showed themselves successfully in public life it is not possible to force them back into the private lives of their home.”

M&S Percy the Sexist Pig protest

Tsitsi Matekaire talked about how despite violence against women and forced marriage by kidnap being prevalent in Ethiopia, women are increasingly organising and fighting for their rights.

Katherine Ronderos also spoke about women’s resistance and told the story of the Feminists In Resistance movement in Honduras – an energetic and compelling campaign against the violence of the recent coup in the country.

Katherine also highlighted how inequality in sexual identity, ethnicity, class and gender is always interlinked and should be tackled in intersections instead of in isolation from each other.

Complex issues were also explored by one of the most exhilarating speakers of the day, Marie-Claire Faray-Kele, recently returned from the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a group who travelled from the UK in solidarity with women who are victims of mass rape, a weapon often used in conflict there.

Marie-Claire painted a damming picture of how the exploitation of natural resources in the DRC by multinational corporations have led to displacement of people and how she thinks the presence of NGOs and the UN is adding to the problems in the country by disempowering women who want to stand up for their own rights.

Every person told an inspiring story of women and men working for gender equality. Cynthia Cockburn, who chaired the section, called on the audience to learn from these struggles of people who are often working in very dangerous and more restrictive situations than our own. As Marie-Claire pointed out “feminism is not just a Western concept.”

Whether in the DRC or on the streets of London many women and men are taking part in the gender equality movement. Lunchtime activism was also squeezed in outside Marks & Spencer in Oxford Circus, as 50 people dressed as ‘Percy the sexist pig’ descended on the store and gave out leaflets calling for a Boycott of the chain after they sub-let one of their buildings (in Bristol) to Hooters.

Feminism in London showed the growth of an inclusive feminist movement in Britain; for around half of the delegates it was their first Feminism in London conference.

The final speaker was Finn Mackay who received a stand ovation for her call to action, but for me movements for equality were summed up by Natasha Walter, who said, “Never stop believing that the future we want will become the present we are living in.”