International Women's Day: Hampshire women describe gender hardships and ongoing battle for female representation

GENDER inequality is still a problem across Hampshire – and we all have a part to play in recognising and tackling it.

Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 11:01 am

That’s the sentiment being shared by politicians, entrepreneurs and others for International Women's Day, which is today.

International Women's Day takes place to commemorate the cultural, political and socioeconomic achievements of women across the world.

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Charlotte Carter, founder of carterbags.com, from Hilsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

As part of the event, the News has spoken to women from all walks of life, to find out what it means to them and the sorts of problems women continue to face in society.

Councillor Jan Warwick is Hampshire County Council's executive member for climate change, having been elected in 2017.

She says balancing being a politician and a mum has challenges that some might not understand.

‘Although I’ve always had an interest in politics, and enjoy being a local councillor, it does create a challenge if you have caring responsibilities,' Cllr Warwick said.

Jennifer Sanchez, founder of Liberty and Dimples and Daisies Photography in Portsmouth and Into the Savannah. Picture: Liberty Photography

‘As a mum I know how challenging it can be to find childcare in the evening, or face the guilt of walking out to get to a meeting on time, when help is needed with homework. I’m sure this is also a challenge for the many women who care for older relatives.

‘Some district council meetings can be very lengthy - starting at 7pm and finishing after midnight.’

For entrepreneurs, there is still a gender bias in the business world, with women's achievements being dismissed and even gendered vocabulary.

Jennifer Sanchez, founder of Liberty and Dimples and Daisies Photography in Portsmouth and Into the Savannah, a homeware and antiques shop in Southsea, said: 'The gender bias I've seen being an entrepreneur is in the word 'mumpreneur', being called a ‘female business owner’ or a 'girl boss' and especially being a mum, the expectation that childcare is a bigger priority than my male counterparts who also have children.

'I am a business owner, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a boss. Those aren’t men’s words that we need to add bits onto to make acceptable for us, we can be those things too.

My business is based in a largely male-dominated industry. I've created a company that is very far away from the patriarchy in the energy it brings, the team we have and how we make our clients feel.

'I feel like I've created a space for women with the female energy in an industry that needs it and if us women can continue to create things like this that disrupt the norm in these industries then we're one step closer to where we need to be.'

Charlotte Carter from Hilsea, founder of carterbags.com, added: 'One of my first jobs was working in an electrical wholesaler and I was faced with gender bias on an almost daily basis.

'I’d have comments such as 'you only closed that sale because you’re a girl', 'you go and stand on the counter because you’ll bring the men in who will spend because you’re a girl'. When you’re in an account management role, that’s not how you want to be spoken to or perceived.

‘Working for myself has enabled me to take control over how much I’m earning, it’s given me way more flexibility as a single mum and has given me the confidence to push myself to do more. I can drop my daughter off and pick her up from school while earning more money than in my full-time employed role.

‘International Women's Day is great because it helps to raise awareness about not just the inequality that still exists, but how far we’ve come in getting equality for women, celebrating how we’re making significant strides to make things better for ourselves and for others as well.’

In both business and politics, there is an ongoing push for better representation.

Hampshire County Council currently has 53 male councillors and 25 female councillors.

Cllr Warwick is pushing for better representation in politics, calling it a 'great platform' to raise awareness of the adversity women continue to face.

She said: 'There were a few women councillors when I was first elected in 2017, but I am pleased to say there are even more following the 2021 elections.

‘At Hampshire County Council we have a balanced cabinet, and yes, of course it would be good to reach an even closer balance of representation, and leadership that better reflects the population demographic of Hampshire.

'Politics is a very exciting world and International Woman’s Day reminds us that in the UK we have had two female prime ministers. Politics is also hard work - you have to be confident to knock on doors, listen to residents’ views, be able to convey your message, be kind and debate on important issues.

‘It is a great platform to hear women’s voices loud and clear - and the reward is you can be part of making change and a positive difference to your community.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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