There is a failure of politics to challenge the dominance of white middle-aged man in British politics and further afield. Since women in Great Britain earned equal voting rights to their male counterparts in 1918 (the enactment of the Representation of the People Act 1918, and ten years later - The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928), they have occupied an increasingly larger and more influential space in the political sphere. However, sadly 100 years on from the Suffragette movement, society is still grappling with the great injustice - gender inequality. Both men and women are responsible for not addressing it and for not doing enough to make it a thing of the past. Progress has been very slow and non-universal. The political realm is still dominated by men, more precisely - white men. Not only women, but ethnic minorities and other marginalised citizens of the modern British society feel completely unrepresented in UK politics. According to UN Women statistics as of August 2015, only 22 per cent of all national parliamentarians were female; a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995, one woman served as Head of State and ten served as Head of Government. Wide variations remain across regions and individual states, with the Nordic counties leading the way with the highest average percentages of women parliamentarians (41.1 per cent) in the world.
Business - the way forward
After attending an event organised by the Gender Institute of the LSE on gender inequality in politics, I was struck by how manifested it is even nowadays – just a few of the audience were male. There was a deep realisation of the fact that unfortunately women are still the most vulnerable sector of society, even more so in developing regions, but also in the 'developed West'. What is however even more worrying is the difference in the equality and how it is manifested. In Western countries there is what I would call ' the quiet inequality' which is not so clearly pronounced or clear-cut. Rather it takes many nuanced forms and in some, mainly male-dominated circles, this issue is not raised as it is uncomfortable and inconvenient - the elephant in the room. Many men prefer to close their eyes and to sweep it under the carpet or even deny its existence.
Attending the talk in the LSE and listening to the esteemed panellists, many of the opinions and the narrative I had developed over time and as reflection of my own experiences, reaffirmed not only by the findings of the report, but also by the experiences some of the women shared on that stage. One of the positive upshots of the debate was the common acceptance among the audience was that if any significant change was to come about it could not be achieved solely by the efforts of a few women, who some men like to call 'feminists'. Rather, there needs to be an active engagement of men, mainly white middle-aged men, who continue to dominate the most important institutions in modern British society. There are many serious structural barriers, which can however be overcome with collective action from both genders, and men need to be more engaged in the debate and their will for change needs to be utilised. There are men such as entrepreneurs, who are active in promoting the place of women mainly in the working place. So in business-oriented societies like Great Britain, business is the way forward when it comes to confronting the challenges of gender inequality. Smart, successful women are too often portrayed as one-offs: fierce individualists concerned with their own success. In October 2016 a report came out and according to the finding' statistics there are still only 28% women in the boardroom of FTSE 100 companies, and men still make up the majority. But being in the boardroom does not necessarily mean that women govern or are the Heads. When one looks at the figures of the actual women CEOs the statistics are even more striking. There are only five female CEOs in the FTSE 100 companies.
Representation of Women in the Media
Often inequality in the media is fuelled by representation of women in the media. Both men and women need to work together to see an end to narrow or negative attitudes about women and outdated stereotypes that maintain inequality. Equality between women and men will not be achieved by legal change alone. How society, culture, communities and individuals view women and women’s equality will make a huge difference. In other words, people – including women themselves – have to believe in and support the idea that men and women are of equal value and worth. Some research has shown that 20% of people think it is unacceptable for girls to dress in sexy or revealing clothes in public. Attitudes to women and women’s equality are shaped in multiple ways; they are informed by upbringing, social values and personal experiences. Two of the other most important influencers are what one experiences in popular media and culture, and what one learns in schools and higher education. How boys and girls are treated at schools, the values they are exposed to and how and what they are taught all make a huge difference. Schools have a duty to use formal and informal education to tackle all forms of prejudice and discrimination in generations to come.
In popular culture women continue to be predominantly represented in passive and stereotyped roles in film and television. This extends beyond fictional representations, to news media – women are far more likely to be shown as victims and far more likely to be referred to in terms of their age, physical appearance or family role than men in the news. Women are also less likely to appear in important roles behind the scenes.
From the effect of celebrity culture on young women’s and girls’ body image, to the stereotyped portrayal of rape survivors, to a chronic under-representation of female news subjects, our attitudes are moulded by the media and wider cultural representations of women. Moreover, the leadership of the media and culture industry is still dominated by men.