There have been many strong, ambitious women who have influenced history but if I had to single one out, it would be Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the British Suffragette movement. Her long battle to fight for women’s rights to vote ended in 1928 and just 18 days after her death, parliament passed the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928, which gave women equal votes with men. The act meant that women over the age of 21 years old could vote.
It seems to me that this incredibly motivated and dedicated woman inspired many others in the forthcoming years to fight for what they believed in.
For example, I am sure that she would never have believed that we would one day have a female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. The first female British Prime Minister governed for over 10 years and had a huge impact on the role of women in British society. Without her, we have to ask ourselves would there be as many female directors of British business and would we now be seeing the growth that we are in young female entrepreneurs? When she first became Prime Minister in 1979 there were just 19 female MPs in the UK. By stark contrast in 2010 there were 143, the highest we had ever had. Whatever you think of her politics, through her determination and force of will it is clear that she played her part in inspiring not only female MPs but women in general.
International Women’s Day has existed for 100 years as an opportunity to celebrate and recognise many of the economic, political and social achievements of women. It is important that we remember those who conducted the battles from which we, as young women, are now benefitting.
The speed of change may seem slow when you look at the number of top women CEOs, Cabinet members and scan the rich list but the influence of women is growing in sport, art, music, business and politics and it is up to us – educated, confident and ambitious young women - to continue to push the boundaries just as Emmeline Pankhurst would have done.