Shattering the glass ceiling

Author Kate Hodges celebrates great women, great trousers and assesses the continuing struggle for gender equality.

From Michelle Obama to Megan Jayne Crabbe, from Emmeline Pankhurst to Emma Watson, a whole host of empowering women inspire others on a daily basis. From those gaining the right to vote one hundred years ago, to Megan Jayne Crabbe dancing around in underwear with her belly rolls showing – but there’s still a long way to go. Hastings-based Kate Hodges is the author of I Know a Woman: Inspiring Connections of the Women Who Have Shaped Our World – a book that looks at the lives of 84 inspiring women who have changed the world for the better with illustrations by Sarah Papworth.

Hodges agrees that there still are some battles to be won: “We need pay parity, equal rights in the workplace and our voices to be heard. I think technology is helping globally. The internet might be full of trolls shouting ‘feminazi’, but it’s also a brilliant place to mobilise. “The Women’s March and #metoo movements wouldn’t have happened without it.” The glass ceiling is a reality of women’s working lives even after generations of campaigning and apparent social progress.

According to the Gender Equality Index 2017, the UK’s gender equality score is just 66.2 out of 100 – with 100 signifying complete equality. Hodges believes that prospects for women need to be improved. She says: “Until there are equal numbers of women at all levels of employment, the glass ceiling is intact. “Until girls feel free to enter any profession they care to, we haven’t achieved equality.”

Hodges thinks other issues affecting women in the workplace are ageism and sexism: “Go to the board members page of the website of most major companies and bear witness to the white dude, oldschool-tie gallery of ham-faced golfers.” Sexism and gender inequality also affect women in the media. The male gaze is something that many films and TV shows use to objectify women.

She adds: “While women’s roles in films are, on the whole, as a support to male characters, the male gaze is alive and staring.” Although there are still some negatives surrounding female empowerment, there are still a lot of positives to focus on. According to the author, feminism means “equality, opportunity, support and sisterhood. And great trousers.” Hodges shares some of her female inspirations, quotes and stories with us.

“I love Patti Smith. She was uncompromising, trailblazing, didn’t conform to what was expected of female artists at the time and was incredibly talented. She’s also outspokenly political.” Her favourite biography from the book is Claude Cahun’s. “She was incredible. She was around in 1930s Paris, a surrealist photographer. She was gender neutral, a Marxist, a lesbian, and in a relationship with her stepsister.

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the International Women of Courage Awards ceremony in 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

“Her work was at the forefront of the avant-garde. She and her stepsister took images of Claude dressed up in different outfits: clowns, a puppet, a vampire. They escaped to Jersey when the Nazis invaded France, and, when the Germans invaded Jersey, she and her stepsister would dress up as old ladies, leave anti-Nazi notes in soldiers’ pockets, or throw little posters through car windows.

“They were caught, imprisoned and sentenced to death, but escaped when the island was liberated. What a story.” Another inspiring woman, according to Hodges, is Emmeline Pankhurst. She says: “I love this quote from Emmeline: ‘We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half.’”

If you are a young woman living in today’s world, who has or has not suffered any of these issues, then Hodges has some advice for you.

“There’s nothing like going to a march and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with women who feel the same way as you do to make you feel better about yourself, as well as the world. Online solidarity is great, but it’s that crackle in the air, the little grins, the shouts of women rallying alongside you that truly make you feel that you’re not alone and that we’re stronger together.”

Have you attended a march? Will you be attending a march? Maybe you should. Maybe you should make a stand, say your piece and represent our amazing, strong and incredibly inspiring species; because after all, as Beyonce sang, who run the world? Kate Hodges’s book I Know a Woman is now available to purchase from Amazon.

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