International Women’s Day is an even greater landmark this year, coming as it does 100 years after the first women in Britain won the right to vote.
Since the passing of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, we’ve had further landmark changes, like the equalisation of the voting age for women in 1928, the abolition of extra votes for university graduates in 1948, and the lowering of the voting age to 18 in 1969.
When I was born, there were just 41 women in the House of Commons. Now in Parliament we have over 200 women MPs, more than ever before, and a huge change in living memory. But outside politics we’ve seen some of the biggest changes in society for women, as a generations of women have worn down the rigid gender roles that for generations kept women from reaching their full potential.
In the last year we’ve seen a huge backlash against the casual sexism and culture of harassment that still exists in society, with the #MeToo movement exposing the disgraceful and criminal behaviour that is still present across all sectors of our society.
And there is still a long way to go. Two women each week are murdered by their partners. The average woman still only earns 84p for every pound earned by a man. And the effects of Government cuts to public spending over the last eight years have been borne disproportionately by women.
One of the greatest privileges of my job is working with so many inspiring women to make a difference. As well as getting involved with SheFest events in Sheffield, with VIDA and with Know The Line, I’ve worked closely with the Parliament Project, a non-partisan campaign to inspire and encourage women to get involved in politics. They offer informative talks, skills building events and the opportunity to network with other women working towards the same goals.
We may have more women in Parliament than ever, but there is still room for improvement, and until we finally have a fair representation in Parliament and in Government, there will still be more work, like that of the Parliament Project, that can be done to elevate the voices of women.
The last 100 years have seen women make great strides in our democracy, and change our society for the better beyond all recognition. The steps they took should be an inspiration to all of us in the progress we make in the next century.