Must the news always be doom and gloom? We think not. Today we report the good news that a cheap, British-invented device could save the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world. Coincidentally, this is a good news story for women, on International Women’s Day, because the invention detects problems during childbirth and could thus save mothers’ lives in Africa, India and Pakistan.
We hope that today’s content proves that “women’s stories” do not have to be negative, depressing or tokenist. Of course, there are many serious subjects concerning women that are not cheerful, and we report on them too. Today, for example, we report on new evidence from the TUC that women have tended to bear more of the cost of recession than men, and that refuges for women suffering from domestic violence are under new financial pressure.
These are important stories, but we also cover many stories about people who happen to be women, such as Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru, and Vivienne Westwood, still designing clothes.
And, because it is International Women’s Day, we have a number of special reports about the campaign for equality. That is why we feature Dame Carol Robinson along with six other women who have confounded expectations about gender roles. Dame Carol, a professor of physical chemistry at Oxford University, will be recognised this month as a role model and mentor in the drive to persuade more young women to study “Stem” subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.
She says: “I thought it would be better for my daughter’s generation but it really hasn’t changed a great deal. It is still the case that there are too few women in senior positions.” So it may take longer than many people had hoped, but role models such as Dame Carol are important and inspire changes to attitudes. Those changes should start with young girls themselves who, as John Mullin writes, need help to build their self-confidence.
As with so many social changes, the three most important things are education, education, education. If girls at school choosing their GCSE options realise that science is for them, then that is the first battle won.
That is why we present The Independent on Sunday guide to women of power and influence worldwide. This is not a definitive selection, or an objective league table. The definition of “power” is contestable, and that of “influence” even more so, but our purpose is to show, in graphic form, that there is nothing in the field of social endeavour that women cannot do. One of the striking features of the map is how the United States really is a land of opportunity for women. Whatever else we might think of America, it is a remarkably open society for women who want to make it to the top. Next year, it might even elect a woman president.
We hope that this positive approach is the right complement to the more serious coverage of the injustices which tend to be experienced by 52 per cent of people. As well as the good news about the British invention that could save lives, we also report on how women are changing the military, why ambulance-chasing lawyers do more for women’s pay than unions, and how Norman Lamb, who wants to lead the Liberal Democrats, would force the party to choose more women MPs.
These are not women’s subjects, and the campaign for women’s equality is not a women’s campaign. They are people’s subjects, and the campaign for equality is a campaign to bring out the best in everyone, for the benefit of everyone.
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