A lot has changed for women in a year. This time last year we were celebrating International Women’s Day by sharing our thoughts on self-care through hair, beauty and wellbeing. This year feels different. The past twelve months have been a period of great change and disruption for women - and for the most part, it’s the women who’ve been doing the disrupting. From pay gap injustices being made public, to high-profile sexual harassment cases that have led to a wave of huge protest and seismic change, it feels like we are entering a new, fairer future for women’s rights. It seems no coincidence that 2018 marked 100 years since women gained the right to vote in the UK.
On an entrepreneurial and creative level, things are also moving in a more positive direction. According to HSBC, the majority of business owners under 35 are now female and this figure is doubling with each generation. At Glasshouse, we feel equally empowered by the swathes of savvy, intelligent, broad-minded women that surround us, each of whom is doing something interesting and innovative. Which is why this International Women’s Day felt like a good time not to just celebrate a few of these influential figures, but to pick their brains on the female future: how far we’ve come and where we still want things to change.
We asked six women their thoughts on where women’s rights will be in another 100 years time, what their opinions are on the #TimesUp and #MeToo movement, which women have been inspirations to them and what are some of their remaining struggles in their industry. International Women’s Day has never been filled with so much hope and ambition - we think these women prove exactly that.
Nick Wakeman - Founder, Studio Nicholson
“In the next 100 years, I hope we become more accepted for our fragility and that we do not have to match the male role to be taken seriously.
In terms of inspirational figures, the seven women that work for me are a daily inspiration, they work extremely hard and always lift my spirits when things get rough. My mother, my grandmother (who was the Nicholson in the family) and any women who stands up for her beliefs is also an inspiration.
Over the years, I’ve realised the worst thing about being a female business owner is this; when you make tough decisions for your business as a man one is considered strong and someone to be revered, as a woman you’re often just considered a bitch.”
Ione Gamble - Editor-in-Chief, Polyester Zine
“During the next 100 years, I hope all women achieve full equality! I hope that people will stop being oppressed altogether based on their gender expression, class, race, weight, or body image. I hope that we move towards a society in which narrow beauty standards are abolished along with pay gap, the class system, racism, transphobia and ableism. Basically I hope we don’t have to fight as much to be seen as human beings deserving of the same rights as everyone else.
All of the contributors to my zine Polyester inspire me and are essentially the reason I have a zine to make in a first place, without their work there would be nothing to fill the pages with. I also love demonised women or women who have been represented as evil throughout history. People that don’t play by men’s rules keep me driven.
Any movement, like #TimesUp and #MeToo, that brings to light experiences that were otherwise taboo to speak about is a great thing. It gives these experiences a mainstream platform, whereas usually conversations of sexual assault were confined to our friendship circles. As long as conversation leads to tangible and systematic change — and just in general a better quality of life for women and those oppressed — I believe it will have been an extremely positive movement and completely necessary.
The best thing about being a female running your own thing is definitely being your own boss, but it’s also the worst thing too. It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to define your own workplace, live by your own rules and dismiss traditional power structures in favour of working in a way you believe is right. But it’s extremely difficult, especially as I have no formal business training. Doing taxes and spreadsheets and endless emails is definitely very draining!”
Charlie May - Designer and Founder, Charlie May
“It’s still kind of insane to me that we only got the vote 100 years ago! I am hoping that we will see full equality in the next 100 years. Equal rights such as pay is very talked about at the moment and I’m excited by the events happening like men taking pay cuts or giving their salary to charities when they found out how much more they were being paid than their female counterparts. I’m also excited by the rise of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia right now. Long overdue but wonderful!
#TimesUp and #MeToo has been such a hot topic discussed between my friends over the last 6 months and I honestly think everything that can be said, done and spoken about should be. I among many women now feel like we have the power to speak up against abuse and harassment in any part of our lives. I’m very excited by the charged environment we’re creating right now whether it’s marching on the street or creating social campaigns that can only change our future for the better.
The best thing about being a woman in work in 2018 - I work for myself so that’s of course really empowering and brings me a lot of joy being able to do what I want and when. Also empowering young women to create businesses and believe in following their creative path.
Worst thing - The shock of travelling and being treated differently to how I’m used to in London. I.e when I’m with my guy friend I’m always thought to be his wife! When women are thought to be the subservient ones it makes my blood boil being treated that way.”
Lana Elie - Founder, Floom
“I wouldn’t say that I’m someone who looks for inspiration or idols much, but one woman who has always stood out to me is Sheryl Sandberg. She’s had an incredible career and is still the right side of 50, which is quite remarkable given all the positions she’s held - from working for Larry Summers to becoming Vice President of Google Sales and Operations to holding roles on the board of Facebook, The Walt Disney Company and Women for Women International. It’s tiring just thinking about all those roles! But no, she’s really incredible, and to have been one of the key drivers in making Facebook profitable, and then being promoted onto the board there is something that particularly resonates with me as owner of an e-commerce business myself.
I think that the #TimesUp movement is done with the right intention, and having the backing of Hollywood women and celebrities is a powerful way to bring it to the wider public’s general attention. Obviously time will tell as to how effective the movement is long term, but trying to support the everyday women seeking justice for sexual harassment in the workplace is an amazing initiative to be promoting - so I really hope it has a positive long term effect. I think it’s easy to get bogged down in the way the press portray any movement or indeed change - a lot gets blown out of proportion and rapidly, exacerbating the (often but not always) minutiae of it, when really the bigger picture is for good and positive change.
Regarding the #MeToo hashtag, it’s incredible that on Facebook there had been something like 5 million people using the hashtag within 24 hours of its inception. We often see, or are told, that social media does more harm than good in many instances, so to see the unity of so many people via social media platforms for something such as sexual harassment is really incredible to see. If the movement raises awareness and prevents even one more act of sexual harassment, it’s a positive step.
I hope that women can continue to bridge the inequality gap, particularly in the workplace. There is still a lack of salary equality in a large number of industries, which hopefully is an issue that will be resolved sooner rather than later. Aside from that, a complete removal of workplace harassment towards women would obviously be fantastic - but I hope we don’t have to wait 100 years for that.
The best thing about being a female entrepreneur is that, as it’s the current year, it’s probably the time that’s facing the least sexist views. The worst is that I’m sure there’s people who judge me for my gender and role, rather than my entrepreneurial ability, even in 2018.”
Frances Shoemack - Founder, Abel
“I would love to see traditionally feminine traits being celebrated at the same level as traditionally male traits. Things like empathy, patience, desire to collaborate hold very little value in our society, especially when being compared to traditionally masculine traits of confidence, independence and courage. Many men have an abundance of feminine traits and vice versa. I believe that in every eco system we need both traits. And not just in the eco-system, but at the top. I don’t believe our world would be in the trouble we are in right now if people displaying empathy, desire and willingness to collaborate and understand, were given more value at the top of their fields. In 100 years, I don’t want to see any person changing their natural personality to display more traditionally masculine traits in order to be successful.
I grew up in a household of intelligent, caring and powerful women - my mother and four sisters, not to mention a father and brother who truly respect women’s place in the world. Their influence at a young age was pivotal and continues to be. These days I have a hugely important slew of supportive, honest, influential women in my life - friends, colleagues and wonderful women who pass through leaving a heavy dose of inspiration.
Best thing - I get to do something meaningful, something I love, every day of my life, and I get to see it spread! I was in Copenhagen this week with our distributor and walked into a beautiful shop at the same time as a women was in the process of buying a bottle of our Golden Neroli. To see people falling in love with something we’ve created, see it enter people’s lives. Those little moments give me the hugest buzz.
Worst thing - The Guilt. Guilty of not giving my family enough. Guilt that when I am putting my family first, I’m not giving my business enough, or being a good enough boss. Guilt that I’m not being a supportive enough wife, friend, sister…. the list goes on and I know I’m not alone in this. But this year I’ve decided to cut the guilt, I believe to do that I need to be more at peace with imperfection… Let’s see!”
“Progress takes time and I don’t think anyone’s under any illusion that we’ve still got a long way to go not just for gender equality, but for social equality across the board. The first national conference of the Women’s Liberation Movement took place in Oxford in 1970. The women present there asked for four things, here’s where we’ve got to with them:
- Equal pay and job opportunities
We still don’t have this. The World Economic Forum reckons it could take 170 years to close the gender pay gap.
- Equal education
Women now outperform boys at school and university but this hasn’t trickled down to reflect in earnings and life chances for those who don’t go to university.
- Free contraception and abortion on demand
The morning after pill is not free nor is it easily available, abortion still requires sign off from two medical professionals and, let’s not even get started on Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
- Free 24-hour childcare
Britain now has some of the most expensive childcare in Europe. Which, when women earn less than men, on the whole, poses a bit of a problem.
As a minimum – I hope that women have achieved these four things by the time the next century is up.
I am so fortunate to meet inspirational women all the time. My mum, my sister and my grandmothers all, in their own way, have overcome some sort of adversity in their lives. Their bravery, compassion and resolve continues to make me proud of them. More than that, as a journalist, the stories that stay with me are the ones about women who, similarly, have kept going when everything seemed to be stacked against them. These are the stories you don’t always read about and the realities that are probably the least Instagram-friendly.
I think it’s very easy to see the flaws of social and political movements. Do I think #TimesUp and #MeToo are perfect? No. Do I think they are both, at times, problematic, yes. Am I glad they exist? Absolutely. I think if any movement that women who perhaps wouldn’t otherwise have realised they could speak out feel supported or keeps the world’s attention on sexual harassment and assault then that can only be good. Does that mean we shouldn’t ask for more? Does that mean we shouldn’t ask for better? Does that mean we shouldn’t criticise them? No.
I am very lucky to have a job I love where I work with brilliant women every day. I’m also fortunate to have fronted a successful campaign in Make Renting Fair. The best thing about both is undoubtedly the people I work with and meet along the way. The worst thing, if you really pushed me to find something, would be some of the messages people send me on Twitter and Facebook whenever I appear on the TV/radio.”
Cover image: Chloe Le Drezen