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Navigating the rocky road to political power: What now for gender equality? – Fiona Tatton, Womanthology Editor

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Fiona Tatton - Womanthology Founder and Editor
Fiona Tatton

Brexit fatigue?

Hello, and welcome to issue 60 and the theme for this edition is getting on with things. It’s strange times in British politics – the strangest. Today in Britain we appoint the second female Prime Minister in our history. I would be leaping around with joy under different circumstances but the whole referendum vote and accompanying drama is taking its toll on everyone. We’re all feeling Brexit fatigue. And who can blame us?

Caroline Leadsom crashed out of the race at the start of the week after the comments she made were not taken in the way she had intended during an interview. If nothing else, this will become a case study that will be used in media training for decades to come. I remember a colleague once saying that, “You can’t unhear things.” And it’s true. So think carefully before you speak.

Motherhood penalty / fatherhood premium

I’m always a fan of trying to see the positives in any situation.  Who would have thought a month ago that such issues would be subject to discussion by the masses across the UK?

It’s quite clearly ridiculous to suggest that anybody’s ability to do the job of Prime Minister, or most other jobs for that matter, is related to whether or not they are a parent. Male or female, it doesn’t matter. Ironically here though, for women there is a motherhood penalty where all too often career prospects, and therefore salary decline, but for men there is a fatherhood premium for full time workers, and their professional standing receives a financial boost (an average of 21%) after they become parents. For women, it can feel like you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

An almighty shot in the arm for gender equality

So now as Theresa May is about to get hold of the keys to 10 Downing Street, I’m encouraged that gender equality has just been given an almighty, if totally unexpected shot in the arm, but I’m a little perturbed by the circumstances as the country stands divided.

Regardless of your own personal politics, it is some comfort at least that the gender equality agenda is moving along at a rapid space and gaining prominence, and new opportunities are arising daily. In the current political climate it seems to be a case of Darwin’s evolutionary theory – those who can best adapt to change are the ones who will survive. We are in difficult times and there is much uncertainty, so we’re all trying to make the best of the circumstances we find ourselves in.

A new day: Reframing the debate

Houses-of-ParliamentSo we are entering in a new political world. There is still much to be done. Whilst having a new female Prime Minister doesn’t guarantee we will all support her politics, it creates a sense that the rocky road to political power just got a little easier for women to tread as gender equality has found its way on to the agenda and gained new prominence that none of us could have predicted or imagined. There is talk the appointment of a 50/50 gender balanced cabinet for Britain as there has been in Scotland since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister. One of the key European figures Theresa May will be negotiating with is Angela Merkel. The First Minister of Northern Ireland is a woman. But this is just the beginning.

Hopefully one day in the future we won’t even be talking about the gender anymore and discussions will just be about ability, and that day can’t come soon enough. That day has even been mooted by the media over the past week, so who knows, maybe it is closer than we dare to imagine?

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