Last weekend, I watched Suffragette, a film about Maud Watts, a working class woman who finds her voice after joining a diverse group of women who are fighting for equality and the right to vote.
The film gives us an insight into the hardship, lack of rights, inequality and lack of voice experienced by women. It’s also a sharp reminder how hard fought for votes for women were. And how the campaign went back more than a century to 1792 when writer and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft wrote about the need for women’s political representation in her book, ‘Vindication of the Rights of Woman.’
Coincidentally, that weekend I was working on a presentation for my weekly business group which included a section on some of the stereotypes around women in business. There’s an assumption that women want to run lifestyle businesses, when nothing could be further from the truth. Women are equally as ambitious as men when it comes to growing their business.
And according to Scandinavia’s biggest bank, Naess – which studied almost 11,000 publicly traded companies across the globe – companies with a woman at the helm perform far better than the market!
The fact is women are a rising force in business. Not only are they founding more businesses than ever before, but they’re doing so at twice the rate of men. According to The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2014, 200 million women globally have started businesses. And by 2022, forecasts suggest that one billion women are set to enter the mainstream economy as employers, producers and entrepreneurs.
Yet, the contribution of women to the economy as business owners and leaders goes largely unrecognised by mainstream news and media. A recent report by The Global Media Monitoring Project 2015, found that only 26% of total news coverage in newspapers, radio and television combined featured women. And online, the story isn’t different either with a mere 24% of Internet news stories and news media tweets featuring women.
Watching Suffragette, I couldn’t help noticing 3 lessons we can draw from the film:
1. FIND YOUR VOICE AND USE IT
The suffragette campaigner, Margaret Wynne Nevinson wrote that she felt a “dizzy sickness of terror” the first time she stood up to speak publicly when she was met with shouts of derision as hundreds of men crowded around her. She almost succumbed to stage fright when she heard a voice whisper: “Go it, old gal, you’re doing fine, give it ’em.”
=> Personally, I’ve drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin, a former corporate lawyer turned leadership coach. In January 2017, Elizabeth started a daily Facebook Live, #ResistanceLive, where she educates her rapidly growing audience on the daily twists and turns in the US political landscape and provides straightforward, tangible action items everyone can take to empower themselves and lead the country to a political system that works for everybody. This daily Facebook Live broadcast has opened up all kinds of speaking and business opportunities that Elizabeth could never have originally forecast.
2. PUBLICITY IS POWER
The suffragettes were a creative whirlwind, continually coming up with new ways to catch the attention of politicians and the public. On one occasion, suffragettes boarded a boat, and sailed towards the terrace of parliament, where 800 people had gathered for tea. Once in clear view, they unveiled two banners, the first with details of their upcoming demonstration, the second stating: “Cabinet ministers especially invited.”
3. STRENGTH THROUGH SOLIDARITY
While there were often major splits in the suffrage movement, many suffragettes recognised that women could be oppressed by factors beyond their sex, and went to great lengths to support their sisters. For example, when Lady Constance Lytton was imprisoned in 1909, she was determined to expose the fact that working class suffragettes had faced far more brutal treatment than her. She disguised herself as Jane Warton, a seamstress, travelled to Liverpool and staged a protest. She was imprisoned and force fed eight times, thus proving her point.
=> I’m loving the Allbright Collective set up by former Hearst CEO, Anna Jones, and serial entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow to make it easier for female founders in the UK access an ecosystem designed to deliver financial capital, business skills, connections and confidence.
Question: Have you seen Suffragette? What lessons did you draw from the film? I love reading your feedback so please do take a moment to share let me know in the comments box below.
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