International Day of Women at Xross-PolyNation Gallery

Xross Poly-Nation welcomePower, action, passion and emotion reined supreme during charitable organisation Diversity House’s ‘International Day of Women’ event at Xross-PolyNation Art gallery.

This event drew support from speakers Helen Grant MP, Chair and Project Manager of Diversity House Christine Locke, Deputy Lieutenant Rosemary Dymond and Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes along with a cross section of the community who attended.

The gallery looked awash with colour with Mike Fryer’s art Exhibition dominating the main gallery on entrance and artist Stephen Bromfield pledged 10% from this event would go to Diversity House.  The atmosphere was charged with positive energy  and an expectant air – which always seems to exist at Xross-PolyNation Art Gallery.

MP Helen Grant, Lord Lieutenant Rosemary Dymon, Diversity House chair and Project Leader Christine Locke and Police commissioner Ann Barnes
L-R Helen Grant MP, Deputy Lieutenant Rosemary Dymond, Christine Locke and Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes.

At 10:30 the talks highlighting Diversity House’s ‘International Day of Women’ got underway and Diversity House’s Chair and Project Manager Christine Locke took to the floor.

Her talk was direct and inspiring and started with Christine asking ‘what is the difference between ‘ranting’ and ‘expressing a strong opinion?’.  Having been ‘accused’ of ‘ranting’ many times when she is simply highlighting the issue of women’s inequality in the workplace and society, Christine suggested ‘ranting’ is a negative term associated with women who express an opinion and subtle gender differences in society led to examples of vast disparity within society.  So much so, that for all gathered some reports of inequality were emotionally hard to hear.

The statistics speak for themselves and Christine highlighted what is happening here in the UK.  Many believe the UK are leaders for equality issues but this is not the case.   Some of the statistics listed by ukfeminista.org.uk put gender equality in the UK into perspective:-

  1. Full time gender pay gap is 10% and the average part-time pay gap is 34.5%,
  2. Approximately 70% of people in national minimum wage jobs are held by women
  3. Up to 3 million women and girls across the UK experience rape, domestic violence, stalking, or other violence each year
  4. Only 77% of young men agree that having sex with someone who has said no is rape,
  5. Women make up only 17% board directors of FTSE 100 companies
  6. Up to 30,000 women are sacked each year simply for being pregnant and each year an estimated 440,000 women lose out on pay or promotion as a result of pregnancy
  7. It is estimated that the UK would gain up to £23 billion (the equivalent to 2% of GDP) by better harnessing women’s skills in employment.
  8. Women’s unemployment is a 24 year high and unemployment is highest among Black and minority ethnic women.
  9. At the current rate of progress we would have to wait more than 150 years before seeing an equal number of women and men elected to English local councils.
  10. On average two women a week are killed by a violent partner or ex-partner in the UK
  11. Research on UK media found that men typically outnumber women as ‘experts’ by 4:1 on major TV and radio programmes across channels.

We have a long way to go to become an equal society and the UK are ranked 26th in the global Gender Gap World rankings – dropping 8 places since 2008 and falling a staggering 15 places since 2006 when the UK were ranked 9th.  We are placed behind all the Scandinavian countries and the Philippines [source: www.theguardian.com]

Adding her voice to the issue of global equality was Helen Grant MP who spoke about her recent trip to Nigeria and witnessing the grief of parents who have lost their daughters to kidnapping by the extremist group Boko Haram.

Helen was visibly emotional as she recounted the story and plight of women and young girls living with the fear of losing their lives or freedom.  Helen said “I can still hear the chants of those women and men saying ‘bring back our girls now and alive'”.

Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes also spoke of frustration with gender inequalities telling us about being in France when the French Border Force found a lorry with 25 young women and girls hidden in the back – they were destined for the UK sex slave trade.

Yet the emotive stories of global and UK based inequality were not the only topic. Ann Barnes outlined the positives steps being taken within the Kent Police Force for equality.

She told us that after 1 year of setting up gender strategy groups, equality became mainstream within the force.  There is an equal split of 50%  women 50% men in the role of ‘Superintendent’ in Kent and initiatives such as the ‘Kent Network of Women’ and ‘Circle of Parents for Guidance on Maternity and Paternity’ ensure employers and employees keep in touch.

Ann Barnes stressed that flexible working hours around family life are the norm in the force “you can have flexible working hours unless there is a good reason not to” she explained, and outlined that if an organisation such as the Police Force can change (that was once a heavily male dominated organisation) then any organisation can.

Deputy Lieutenant Rosemary Dymond also attended, representing the Lord-Lieutenant (who represents Her Majesty the Queen).  She gave a rousing talk about the positive nature of women in society – looking at the Royal Family and the strength of HRH Queen Elizabeth II and made the point that there is no one avenue for life to follow – talent comes from everywhere.

Diversity House, based in Sittingbourne, helps target inequality throughout Kent with initiatives and programmes to empower women against inequality.  Such charitable work should be applauded and if you want to get in touch with Diversity House to volunteer your help or find out more about the organisation click here.

Although the focus of the event was to highlight gender inequality and the plight of women globally, the event also celebrated women and their achievements within the working world too and the gallery had welcomed new international artists to their walls from China and Italy.

The next exhibition at Xross-PolyNation Art Gallery following on from Mike Fryer’s will be ‘Augmented Virtual Reality’ by David Williamson.