We like to mark International Women’s Day by celebrating women’s achievements, asking what can be done to further gender equality… and making lists. Because, you know how much women love lists, right?
Last year we called for 5 positive actions we wanted to see from investing in women led businesses to paying the Living Wage.
This year's theme is 'each for equal'- how our individual actions can challenge stereotypes, broaden perceptions and improve situations. So we're giving you 5 women who are our Big Thinkers, Go Getters and our Rule Breakers. The women we’ve read or listened to this year who’ve inspired us and changed the conversation.
Yeah, we’re listening and not just because her name is remarkably similar to ours. We’re listening because her album Grey Area is so wrought and personal and confident and angry and funny all at once that I don’t even know how to react to it. The London rapper moves me to stoop in a low groove when I’m listening to the distorted hum of ‘ Offence’ and then makes me all jumpy and stompy with the shouty muffled sweary bit of ‘Boss’. I love this album. It’s the one I’ve listened to the most this year. Each song is a jolt from the last- she switches genres and tempos throughout. She’s an over- gifted lyricist often raw but sometimes just outright cocky “I’m JAY-Z on a bad day, Shakespeare on my worst days”. Because she is that. She’s amazing and I can’t wait to hear what she brings next.
A few months ago I popped into Luminary Bakery in Hackney for a cinnamon bun and a coffee. Well, that was a life changing cinnamon bun. No, really, it was. Not just because it was butter soft pastry with a lick of sticky icing but because Luminary Bakery is an inspiring social enterprise with a purpose to empower women who have been victims of violence, have been in the prison system or been homeless- to get back into work. It’s founder, Alice, having volunteered across charitable organisations in London’s- could see a need for a gender-specific programme. “Many homeless services are filled with 80 to 90 per cent men, and men with quite a lot of issues. Women weren’t attending because it was too daunting and they felt unsafe.” The Luminary Bakery programme has a group of women attend classes for one day a week, where they’re taught to bake, are educated in food hygiene and financial literacy- they’re given a community – and the chance of employment once they graduate. All that and fit cake.
I read about this woman a few months ago and had to immediately share this story. This woman is what getting stuff done looks like. Maureen McKenna became Glasgow’s Director of Education 10 years ago. She immediately told all head teachers to stop excluding children and she closed all the Pupil Referral Units in the city. This should be a dreadful idea. It’s bad for results. Teachers threatened to strike. Parents were unhappy that disruptive kids weren’t being thrown out.
But she knew that school is, for many children, the safest place for them to be. Exclusion brings a much higher risk of becoming involved in drug carrying, child sex exploitation, antisocial behaviour and youth violence. As a result, exclusions fell and violent youth crime halved, dropping by 48 per cent among 10 to 16-year-olds. Homicides halved across Glasgow. She’s now advising London schools on how they can adopt a ‘nurturing approach’ and do the same. She bucked the trend. She did something that was right but really bloody hard and, ultimately, we’ll all benefit from that- hurray for Maureen.
I am so HERE for this woman. Lisa Nandy is a candidate for the Labour leadership and please-voters- make this happen. She has integrity, wit, principles, she’s no –nonsense. She’s fiercely intelligent but doesn’t use language to confuse. She’s also a woman. And that matters because 51% of Labour MPs are now women and you can’t affect change if you keep electing the same man in a different suit- yawn. She cares about towns and wants a political party that’s rooted in communities not paternalistic and top down. She also understands the dynamics of northern cities – so hello from our Leeds based business! Whenever I hear her speak she makes me feel genuinely positive and how rare it is to feel positive about anything political at the moment? Ta very much Lisa and Good Luck!
Emma Jane Unsworth
It’s rare that you read a book that’s so visceral it makes your stomach sick. That’s how I felt when I read Emma Jane Unsworth’s book, Animals, last year. I was pretty late to the party as it’s been around for a while but I absolutely devoured it in 2 sittings. Her writing, about Manchester, friendship, reading, writing, drinking and turning 30 is powerfully soul searching. She’s tantalisingly raw and funny and I’m now half way through her next book, Adults. She writes about the women in her books in a way that makes you love them, pity them, be frustrated by them but can’t stop thinking about them. She knows. I love it when you find an author you can’t get enough of- I want to read every sentence she's ever written.