|Welcome to a very special ‘Scotland’s Feminist Future Five’ edition of our weekly newsletter for members. We hope you enjoy this round-up of all the action from our two-day conference at the Glasgow Women’s Library.
One: Feminists gather for Scotland’s Feminist Future 2020
In 2017, we launched our Gender Matters Roadmap at our Scotland’s Feminist Future conference at Glasgow Women’s Library. This weekend, we were back to start off the new year with Scotland’s Feminist Future 2020, two days of panels, workshops and the launch of our Sex & Power in Scotland 2020 report (more on that below). We were delighted to welcome Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Older People and Equalities to give the keynote speech, highlighting how we all have a responsibility to improve gender equality in Scotland, and kicking us off with a feminist take on Star Wars.
Over the two days, we welcomed women from across the UK to the Glasgow Women’s Library, including representatives from our sister organisations NAWO, NIWEP and WEN Wales – who sit alongside Engender in the United Kingdom Joint Committee on Women. The conference was packed with workshops on the equality act, misogyny, sex and power, feminist governance, and Scotland’s international obligations, as well as exploring the links between gender and planning, peace, and climate change. We were also pleased to host a Menopause Cafe over lunch on Friday, led by Rachel Weiss who organises Flush Fest in Perth, and offer participants a tour of the library.
Two: Sex and Power in Scotland 2020
Sex and Power charts the over-representation of men in positions of power in Scotland – in politics, the justice system, our public sector, business, and the media. We first produced Sex and Power in 2017 (following on from work done by EHRC and the Counting Women Coalition) and since then we have seen just a 4% change in the overall representation of women in top positions, and several sectors such as the judiciary actually move backwards. Of the 3115 positions we looked at, only 32% were held by women, highlighting the overwhelming dominance of men – controlling decisions over legislation, convictions, the media we consume and the healthcare we receive.
But there is cause to be hopeful. In politics, where consistent pressure has been applied from groups like Women 50:50, the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights and the Equality Network, we have seen a change. Scotland has equal representation in our MEPs, in our Cabinet, and in local authority chief executives. This demonstrates that persistence in calling for change, along with feminist leadership, can see improvements in women’s representation.
Much more needs to be done to ensure we see 50% of positions of power in Scotland held by women, and that these women represent the true diversity of Scotland. We want to see our democratic bodies, courtrooms, business boards and art galleries filled with women of colour, disabled women, lesbian and bisexual women, trans women, and all other women who are so often ignored.
You can access the Sex and Power 2020 report here, and for a quick overview of the stats, check out this blog. If you would like any physical copies of the sex and power report, get in touch.
Three: Politics… and beyond
After our keynote speech from Christina McKelive MSP, we kicked things off with panel exploring women’s under-representation in politics featuring Dr Sarah Liu, Assa Samaké-Roman, Jess Cowell and Lynn Williams, who considered how we make change in politics so that we no longer see rooms full of men making decisions when we think of the political sphere.
The panel discussed the importance of prioritising and funding social care to allow carers to participate in politics, including paying women for their engagement and expertise, staying angry, and holding institutions, political representatives and those with more privilege than underrepresented groups accountable. Questions from our attendees explored how to decentralise and share power, as well as how to balance activism and political involvement with other commitments, with a focus on hope not despair and on what is working rather than what is broken.
“If you were First Minister for day, what would you do?” was the final question asked by our Executive Director, Emma Ritch, prompting a range of equally pressing issues from our panellists. Climate policy was a priority for Jess Cowell; Dr Sarah Liu wanted to see family and parental leave for both men and women; accessible family planning services were key for Assa Samaké-Roman, and Lynn Williams championed investing in and valuing social care.
Four: Making Women Safer in Scotland
At the end of November 2019 we published our ‘Making Women Safer in Scotland: The case for a standalone misogyny offence in Scotland’. During Scotland’s Feminist Future, we’ve explored both the report and the current Scottish Government review of the law around hate crime in Scotland in workshops across the two days, featuring Engender’s Executive Director Emma Ritch and Rape Crisis Scotland CEO Sandy Brindley.
The government is currently deciding between introducing a ‘gender hostility’ aggravation – adding gender or sex to the list of characteristics already covered by hate crime legislation – and the creation of a standalone offence. Our report shows that a ‘gender hostility’ aggravation will not solve the problem of misogyny, and may in fact undermine existing policy designed to tackle domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women.
In our workshops, we explored international practice around hate crime and gender, street harassment (including the recent case around pick up artists operating in Glasgow), online abuse, and the treatment of survivors of rape and sexual violence in the justice system. You can read our report on the Engender website here.
Five: Be bold. Be kind. Be feminist.
We were thrilled and inspired to be joined by so many excellent feminists on both days of our Scotland’s Feminist Future 2020 conference. Over the course of the conference, we held 14 workshops and one panel discussion, covering a range of issues for feminists, including: challenging white supremacy in Scotland; understanding the Equality Act 2010; media monitoring; gender and climate change; planning; peace as a feminist issue and more.
One of the (many) highlights of the conference was the graphic recording of both days, for which we are very grateful to the extremely talented Jules Scheele, and which you’ll be able to see some pictures of in the coming days. Some of the key points illustrated included the economic contribution of unpaid women, intersectionality, the impact of Brexit on women’s rights and the rise of far right rhetoric, and General Leia Organa. If you couldn’t be with us in person, we hope you kept up with all the discussion on the #ScotFemFuture hashtag on social media.
We’d like to thank the Glasgow Women’s Library for the fabulous space and all their assistance, Bridgeton Library for the use of their community room, our sisters from across the UKJCW for joining us, all our speakers, panellists, and workshop hosts, and all our attendees for sharing their support and sisterhood across both days.
Friday Feminist Five is an Engender publication. If you’re reading this because someone has forwarded this message to you, then you can receive your own copy to your inbox every Friday by joining Engender today.