13 September 2018

Where are the women?

Ruth_statue_main

How many statues of women are there in your city?

This is the type of question we probably never bother to ask ourselves. We tend to accept that city and town centres look as they do and not worry too much about their symbolism.

In Result CIC's home base, Manchester, until September 2018 we had a grand total of one female statue: Queen Victoria.

How can this be in a city which has produced pioneers including:
- Emmeline Pankhurst whose work helped to give women the vote
- Elizabeth Gaskell whose novels supported social change in industrialised cities
- Marie Stopes who established birth control facilities for women
- An array of talented artists from playwright Shelagh Delaney to actress Maxine Peake?

September 29 is Elizabeth Gaskell's birthday so an appropriate time to reflect on how we allow influential women to be sidelined.

Researcher, Caroline Criado-Perez, led the campaign which led to creating the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament square. Caroline points out that of only 25 of the 158 statues of public statues of women in the country are of real women who are not royals. There are 925 public statues altogether. So 2.7% of statues celebrate women who did something judged worth remembering. And we make up 51% of the population. Criado-Perez wrote that role-model research demonstrates the palpable impact role models can have on women. In other words, if we want to inspire our younger women to develop and use their potential, they need role models, including in public spaces.

In Manchester there has been discussion of creating more statues of women. But as of September 2018 now have five – albeit four of them being rather smaller.

A new initiative by non zero one decided to start to redress the gender imbalance of public statues. Supported by Heritage Open Days they asked the public to nominate inspirational living women, running events in 10 cities across England. We at Result CIC find it interesting that they received hundreds of nominations. It suggests that just by asking the right question, you can open wide an issue and start to address unquestioned bias.

They chose 25 outstanding women who are making a difference now; four of these were from Manchester. One of these was Result CIC's very own advisor, Ruth Ibegbuna.

There was an unveiling ceremony at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre on 7 September. A large group of diverse people including many young people with whom Ruth had worked, turned out to cheer her on.

In their introduction, Cat Harrison said all the chosen women exemplify Emmeline Pankhurst's ethos 'Deeds, not words.'

Ruth was joined by another of Manchester's women celebrated in a new statue which had previously been unveiled. Dr Robina Shah was the first ever Asian woman to be appointed by the Queen as High Sheriff for Greater Manchester, and is a consultant Psychologist and Director of the University of Manchester's Patient Experience centre who did the first ever research in Europe into South Asian disabled children's support needs.

We asked Ruth for her thoughts on this experience:

'The project is important because it highlighted to many, me included, just how appalling the gender ratio of statues is and how complacent we have been about rectifying this fact. It also helped propel some women out of their comfort zones and into shared public spaces, where young people can see them and hopfully gain some inspiration.

I am super proud to have been nominated and felt incredibly special at the unveiling in front of family and friends.'

Congratulations to Ruth, Robina and all the women celebrated!

 
 
 
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Result CIC works with charities and social enterprises to offer low cost coaching and training to inspire their clients to work on the beliefs which are stopping them going forward in life. Result CIC is dedicated to reaching members of the community who do not normally have the opportunity to receive such training and coaching.  

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