Nicola Sturgeon, Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson don’t agree on a lot of issues. But, I’m confident that they all recognise the change in dynamics for women in Scottish politics.
Three powerful and ambitious women at the crux of Edinburgh’s political powerhouse is a momentous achievement for both Scotland and it’s people. In fact, some would go so far to argue, myself included, that Holyrood is leading the way for other political assemblies to follow. However, not so long ago, this didn’t seem achievable.
Indeed, up until 1918 women were forced to live in the shadows, they were safeguarded by their husbands from the outside world, deemed as only child bearers who were too fragile to involve themselves in politics, too unintelligent to form opinions and incapable of understanding the complexities of the economy and political world. This view of women not only existed in the traditional household, but also extended into parliamentary debate. As was said in 1872,“We regard women as something to admire, to love . . . She is the silver lining which lights the cloud of man’s existence.” This perception conveys the vast shift in society but also asserts the importance of remembering the legacy of the pioneers who brought about the suffrage movement and the fight for equal rights.
A girl living in Scotland during this era would have been mocked and completely disregarded for showing interest in pursuing a career in politics, or any other occupation for that matter. Instead, males were the ‘breadwinners’ and the greatest aspiration for a young woman would have been marriage and starting a family.
In 2016, as a seventeen year old, I can wake up with the ambition and drive to seek a job in journalism, politics, mechanics, science – the list is endless. I wouldn’t be given the cold shoulder, on the contrary, I would be encouraged, supported and given the opportunities.
I have the privilege to look at Scottish society and see women playing the most remarkable role in shaping its development. Each female political leader is inspiring in their own right, from their journeys to their destinations. The visibility of women leadership roles is necessary and may conjure up a crack in the glass ceiling. However, it is important to note that simply having women in powerful positions does not mean that gender inequality is banished. Rather, these roles have to be utilised to ensure that the future generations of female leaders have the support they both need and deserve.
There has yet to be signs of complacency. Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment of putting equality at the heart of the government is demonstrated through the 50/50 gender balanced cabinet. The ‘Women 50:50 Campaign,’ launched by Kezia Dugdale and Alison Johnstone (Scottish Green Party MSP) is another example of the pursuit of equal representation, with cross-party support it champions social justice and advocates that at least 50% of candidates on the ballot paper for local and national elections are women.
There is no avoiding the fact that gender inequality is still rife in Scotland, particularly in terms of salary. But I believe that with the hard work of our political leaders, this gap will close. Full equality for women is possible, great distance has already been traveled and so much has been achieved. But there is still work that must be done.
Scotland is changing. Women no longer lurk in the shadows, they are now in broad daylight, with a fight on their hands capable of winning. Although this fight is not yet over, the journey has begun, and in the not so distant horizon lies a brighter Scotland with full equality for women.