For International Women's Day, Sarah Beattie-Smith, MSP Candidate for the South of Scotland, shares why she refuses to wait for change.
In my mid twenties, I was working as a policy officer for a national charity and I’d just completed a degree level course on economics. The organisation had been asked to send someone to a working lunch with the Bank of England to discuss interest rates. They sent me.
In the restaurant, as we milled around making small talk, one of the men from the Bank (they were all men) turned to me and said “we’ll have two bottles of the cabernet sauvignon and some sparkling water”. I replied by looking him straight in the eye, introducing myself and calling the waiter over, watching the banker’s face glow red.
Gender balancing mechanisms in our electoral system are vital to gain equal gender representation in parliament.
The embarrassed man had seen a young woman in a meeting about economics and instantly assumed I was there to serve him. He soon realised his mistake, but we must understand that his assumptions came from a deep rooted idea about what men and women are capable of, and about our relative roles in society. Those ideas permeate everything, portraying men as leaders and women as subservient. But this is what we must change.
As a feminist, a socialist and a Green, I fight to throw out those ideas and to rewrite our future. It is estimated that at the current rate of progress, it will take 117 years to achieve gender parity. I refuse to wait.
In the political sphere, there is much to be done. Gender balancing mechanisms in our electoral system are vital to gain equal gender representation in parliament. But we must also challenge the dominance of all male panels and a lack of women’s voices in political debate. It is clear that we need both hard, legislative change and to challenge those pernicious, unseen biases which we all hold. Only then will we truly achieve parity.