Sometimes, whilst happily trundling through what is thankfully a quite a fortunate and happy life for a 21st century woman in the UK, an issue confronts you that presents a rude awakening to something you had a) never considered and b) leaves you feeling disappointed with yourself that you'd been duped into thinking everything was OK. Amongst the most recent cases of this have been poor representation of women on everything from boardrooms to TV panel shows, the rise of labioplasty, the recognition that a man in the western world can believe that a woman's body has ways of 'shutting things down' to prevent pregnancy post rape.
Today's Guardian reported on three separate issues highlighting the lack of prominent women in society, from an inspiring article about Azra Jafari, Afganistan's first female mayor, to Harriet Harman's crusade against ageism and sexism in media organisations, through to Sarah Wollaston's article about the need to recruit more women into politics. Women are fighting for equality on many fronts and I think that because in general, women are not overtly prohibited from many things today, the need to make a bigger difference is often overlooked; there is still a lot of work to be done. The latter article led me to link to the report it was based on: Sex and Power by Counting Women In (CWI), another organisation that works hard on behalf of women that I had never heard of. This reveals just how much women are in the minority in senior positions in nearly all sectors of the working world. One of the most startling observations in relation to politics was that 'at the current rate of progress a child born today will be drawing her pension before she has a chance of being equally represented in the parliament of her country'. Sometimes you forget how slow progress towards equality of the sexes is.
It made me think though who actually reads this report? Hopefully politicians and business leaders but the general female population, probably not. Like the CWI, there is a whole range of organisations working to promote female equality but I wonder if they fly under the radar of too many women in their increasingly busy lives. Linking from the article and googling similar topics, I discovered the websites www.thejobshareproject.com and www.capabilityjane.com. It reminded me to check in on the f word website and then remind myself what the Fawcett Society do for women. What is most worrying is that I only heard about these in my thirties - where do young women get information about how unequal their position really is and what might be done about it? There are snippets here and there in magazines, some newspaper articles, you'd like to think twitter but would they know to follow the vagenda, #twitteryouthfeministarmy or looked at this great blog? http://jellyandlilipop.wordpress.com. We need to work harder to make all this stuff unavoidable reading. Caitlin Moran remarked in her book, on how the onset of the fifth wave feminism should probably be 'an incoming tide'. I hope she's right but we need more young women aware of that wave before it can wash away the obstacles in the path to progress.