Yesterday, merely hours before International Women’s Day, Baroness Michelle Mone gave her first speech to the House of Lords in which she said that more needed to be done to unleash the business potential of women in the UK. This came days after giving an interview in which she hit out at her fellow business leaders and members of the Lords for their snide carping in belittling her business achievements and entitlement to her position.
Baroness Mone became known for founding the lingerie company Ultimo which, at the time she sold it, was producing an annual turnover of £40m. Mone left school at the age of 15 to take up a career in modelling which ended after she became pregnant with her first child at the age of 19. She worked her way up to become Head of Marketing for Labbatt in Scotland after somewhat over-marketing her own achievements to date on her CV, and was made redundant has a result. (Why make someone redundant for lying on their CV? Surely that’s a sackable offence or just grounds to frustrate her contract of employment?)
It’s not a particularly rags to riches story from that, but the degree of Baroness Mone’s achievements do not deserve to be belittled by some failures with other companies or the fact that she sold her main business success story. And given how some peers got their places in the House of Lords, at least her position has some merit behind it.
(As an aside, is Ultimo the brand specialising in lingerie for women with big boobs? While I was trying to remember, I was wondering if one could say women can be “endowed” with big boobies in the same way that men can be “endowed” with big willies. Perhaps the linguistics of biological endowment could form another blog post!)
I have a few friends and acquaintances who don’t think much of professional footballers. All they see is (the currently still) convicted rapist Ched Evans and pedophile Adam Johnson. They see only unintelligent thugs (even if they haven’t been convicted of a crime) and despise the fact that such individuals can earn vast sums of my by enjoying themselves kicking a ball round a patch of grass.
What they don’t see is people like Simon Mignolet. The Liverpool goalkeeper can speak English, French, Dutch and German as well as having a degree in Political Science from the Catholic University of Leuven. The fact that he also chose to spend some of his time developing his footballing skills to a level from which he could earn a living is just another string to his bow.
The achievements of some can be belittled by those who don’t rate them as highly as others by way of comparison and contrast, or those who believe that others are not deserving of that achievement. I’m guilty of this myself with my own achievements. I know I did pretty well getting my degree, but I graduated with an awful lot of other people so that piece of paper hanging on my wall does not set me apart from them, it’s simply a reminder that I can achieve my goals.
The slogan for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Pledge for Parity“. I’ve mentioned before that I believe gender equality needs to reach further than just “women’s issues” while recognising that there are still archaic (let’s be kind and just call them that for now) people and practices globally that still see women as inferior human beings and treat them as such. The challenge is “to move from talk to purposeful action” and make a pledge which will “collectively help women advance equal to their numbers and realize the limitless potential they offer economies the world over.”
I admit, I’m still debating my pledge for two reasons. The first is that I don’t know what I can do with what I know and do currently that can empower women. This is because of the second reason that I’m fortunate to know many strong women who actually serve to empower me and all the action I feel I can take with them is to remind them of how inspirational they are.
What I would like to do is recognise that a call for parity means recognising people for what they’ve achieved on a level playing field, and recognising that the size of the achievement should not detract from that recognition.
Many nights we’ve prayed
With no proof anyone could hear
In our hearts, a hopeful song
We barely understood
Now we are not afraid
Although we know there’s much to fear
We were moving mountains long
Before we knew we could, oh yes
There can be miracles when you believe
Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
When you believe, somehow you will
You will when you believe
Oh yeah, in this time of fear
When prayer so often proves in vain
Hope seems like the summer birds
Too swiftly flown away
Yet now I’m standing here
My heart so full I can’t explain
Seeking faith and speaking words
I never thought I’ll say
They don’t always happen when you ask
And it’s easy to give in to your fears
But when you’re blinded by your pain
Can’t see the way, get through the rain
A small but still, resilient voice
Says hope is very near, oh
You will when you
You will when you believe
I believe, I believe
You will when you believe
When You Believe by Whitney Houston