A new campaign to end all male panels was launched this week. The campaign is promoted by a growing group of women from many walks all life, including politics, think thanks, charities and academia, all involved in promoting gender equality as the way forward to build a more progressive, sustainable and fair Britain.
The campaign is timely, as we are witnessing the dire consequences multiply of a world long dominated by men and by masculine visions. The finance empire, which has collapsed dragging Europe into darkness, was built on short-lived money and little or no interest in a long-term outlook, is a key example. The crisis in the EU, far from being simply a crisis of the Euro, is, to me, the crisis of an ideology which has pervaded for too long.
Women, and women’s approach to development and growth, can drive radical change. It is not by chance that women do often manifest change and progress. The recently elected female-led Denmark’s government, just to name one. Or the leading female figures in Latin America. This is why it is appalling that some organisations could even conceive an all-men panel in a policy roundtable. These gentlemen’s conversation can no doubt be lively but they are history in reverse.
A few months ago we launched Fabiana, the new magazine of the Fabian Women’s Network to respond to a new way of feminism which is surging across the UK. We realised that women’s presence is necessary, but just the starting point: women need to be driving change at all levels across public life, from politics to businesses.
We see the next vital step is creating policies from a feminist perspective, and how that perspective can shape a vision for Britain and the world. To achieve that, it is essential to establish a fresh dialogue between genders: for this reason, Fabiana hosts both female and male voices to deepen understanding and debate of foreign policy, welfare state, and financial markets. We want to encourage this dialogue between women and men who share the same conviction that female presence and ideas are the way forward to create the innovative policies we need to modernise our world.
I grew up in Italy, a country where all-men debates are quite common, to put it mildly. Once in a while – the best case scenarios – I would hear frantic conversations followed by the afterthought: ‘We need a woman, let’s find one’, as if it were only a matter of courtesy or some tedious formality. The country where I grew up and where I have been involved in politics for ten years before moving to the UK in 2008, is now in the public eye because of the downfall of its misogynist PM (Silvio Berlusconi). Being a feminist in Italy – together with many others – has been challenging, but has taught me a great lesson: that women need to remain vigilant at all times, as their rights and achievements are always a slippery slope.
With that conviction, together with Seema Malhotra and many others, I supported the idea of reacting and firmly saying we will not attend any all-men panels policy debates, without exceptional reason: there is simply no space for this in today’s world.
We live in a difficult age, and history shows us that financial crises are always hard times for women. Not just financially, but also in terms of ethics and the erosion of progressive values. In addition, women are bearing the brunt of the reckless cuts perpetrated by the Coalition government, being pushed out of the workforce, seeing their income driven down whilst cuts to legal aid undermine their access to justice and make them less protected from violence.
Let all progressive men stand with us women, and join us in our campaign. All-men debates are a worrying sign of sickness. Let’s stop it now, for the sake of women, men and Britain.
To join, you can sign here.
Editor of Fabiana