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In depth International Women’s Day 2019
Friday 8th March 2019 @ 11:56 by Lee Wild, Lauren Entwistle, Anna Fletcher and Nigel Skinner
Features News Tameside

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender balance.

The history of the day can be traced back to 1908 when 15,000 women staged a march in New York.

They were calling for a right to vote and better working conditions.

Today marks International Women's Day 2019 and to celebrate the occasion we've spoken to some of the most influential and powerful women across Tameside, Glossop and Oldham about their experiences as women, prejudices they've faced and who inspires them.There's also a full feature in this week's Tameside Reporter, Glossop Chronicle and Oldham Reporter.

Gepostet von Tameside Reporter am Donnerstag, 7. März 2019

The following year the very first recognised International Women’s Day was held.

The date became March 8 in 1913 – and it has been observed on that day ever since.

The 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign doesn’t just end tomorrow of course – and it has steadily rolled out to become a week and a month of activities.

Balance is not a women’s issue – but one that affects everyone. 

The theme this year calls for gender-balance in business, in the boardroom, in government, media coverage, of employees, wealth, and sports coverage.

Collective action and shared responsibility for driving a gender-balanced world is key to achieving the above. 

Organisers are asking everyone to ‘put your hands out’ tomorrow and strike the #BalanceforBetter pose and make International Women’s Day YOUR day – and do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women everywhere.

People are also encouraged to post their #IWD2019 message on social media with your ‘hands out’ balance pose for a strong call-to-action for others to also help forge a #BalanceforBetter.

This week, to celebrate International Women’s Day ourselves, we spotlight just some of the region’s inspirational women and their achievements 

Stacey Copeland

Inspirational Hyde boxer Stacey Copeland made history by becoming the first ever female British boxer to win the Commonwealth title last summer.

But she continues to make history this year in the footsteps of those women from the region who were influential in fighting for and upholding women’s rights more than a century ago.

For Stacey, today one of Manchester’s leading ladies and role models, is one of the key figures in helping to promote the Manchester International Women’s Festival 2019.

“I’m a proud Mancunian and a proud sportswoman,” she says, adding she was honoured to help promote a cause so close to her heart.

The 36-year-old super-welterweight won the Commonwealth title last year in Zimbabwe.

At the time, Stacey, also a community ambassador for Sports Tours International – the company behind the Tour of Tameside – said she was thrilled to return home with the title.

“I started boxing as a six-year-old when it wasn’t legal for girls to box, and now I’m the first British woman to win a Commonwealth title. It shows what you can achieve if you work hard,” she said.

“I really hope that everyone… is inspired by this. I’m a normal person just like everyone else, but for any girls that are told they can’t do something, this shows that they can.”

Chris Bird, CEO of Sports Tours International, expressed his pride in Stacey’s achievement at the time.

He said: “I’m so proud of Stacey and all she has achieved in such a short period of time. She has since made history, and I’m sure she will continue to do so and pave the way for other females across the country. She really is a role model like no other.”

Stacey’s achievements inside the ring are matched by her efforts in the local community.

The hard-hitter has balanced her time between training in the gym and appearing in schools, radio stations and on TV shows to promote the message of female empowerment and equality in sport.

Her efforts to inspire the next generation were officially recognised at the Be A Game Change Awards in London last May, where she scooped the Sporting Role Model award, and then she was subsequently invited to open the Greater Manchester Summer School Games last summer, where she delivered a motivational speech to 2,000 pupils at the Regional Athletics Arena.

Stacey was the natural choice to play a fundamental role in helping to promote this year’s International Women’s Day – and in fact week – and the lead up has been an incredibly busy time for her as she supports this year’s #BalanceforBetter International Women’s Day theme.

She stepped out for Manchester’s Walk for Women on Saturday to kick start International Women’s Week, has given countless talks around the region and will be doing the same further afield too.

While her BBC Manchester Radio ‘The Dead Good Show’ on Tuesday was totally dedicated to highlighting the theme, spotlighting diversity and inclusion in communities and sport.

Ironically, Stacey wrote her first blog for Sports Tours International on International Women’s Day last year.

Then she stated: “I do lots of talks, particularly in schools, where I try to tell young girls that it’s okay to be strong, to be competitive, to be yourself and love what you do even if society tells you differently. 

“I faced a lot of stigma and resistance as a young girl and spent many years thinking and feeling that there was something wrong with me, so I want to be the role model I never had as a youngster, so girls and boys can feel okay about doing what they love. 

“Gender should never be a barrier to human potential.”

A message Stacey is busy taking to an even wider audience across the region – and country – this year.

Angela Rayner

In her own words, Angela Rayner left school in 1996 aged 16 “pregnant and with no qualifications.” Less than 20 years later she was appointed as the Shadow Secretary of State for Education. It was a meteoric rise for the former care worker who said she got into politics “just to prove that people like me can’t get elected.” She’s proved herself, along with countless doubters, wrong in her three and a half years in Parliament – becoming a key ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the process. She’s at the forefront of Labour’s fight to regain control of parliament but she’s also a mother, a grandmother and a devoted family woman.

Speaking to the Tameside Reporter, she says that she still faces prejudices every day and has to challenge it when she sees it.

“I think any woman that is in the workplace – whether that’s a cleaner, whether it’s the CEO of a company – they do still face those prejudices,” she said.

“You have to just challenge that really, in a subtle way and sometimes you do it in a more blunt way. I just think you’ve got to keep doing what you do, and anyone that underestimates women in the workplace is at their peril.”

Despite being in such an influential role at the heart of the Government’s opposition, Angela says she’s still put second to men in some instances in Parliament: “I’ve had situations where I’ve been at work and have been called ‘love’ or things like that.

“I walk into a room with some of my assistants, who are male, and they shake the hand of my assistant and say hello to them and then my assistant would go red faced and say this is Angela Rayner the Shadow Education Secretary and they’ll feel a little bit uncomfortable about that.”

Despite the disrespect shown, Angela says she doesn’t let it get her down. “I’m all right with that, it’s just the way society is at the moment.

“I just assert myself in a way that it’s about my role and people need to respect it – if they disrespect that then it’s at their peril, they’ll have to deal with the consequences of that.”

She’s keen to show that Parliament is a forward-thinking body, including having men speak on women’s issues. “It can be a bit frustrating at times but across party really we all work together to surround each other where we all sit around each other if one of us is giving a speech.

“We’ll often get a lot of social media abuse if we speak out but we try to do that.

“We try not to pigeonhole as women, we try and get the men to discuss things like childcare.

“Things like that are not just women’s issues – they’re across society. We try and vocalise and challenge perceptions of what women should be doing.”

Angela was inspired by her English teacher when she was young and hopes to pass on what she received to the next generation. It’s a cause close to her heart and she’s keen to help all young women, regardless of political affiliation. 

She said: “My English teacher who spent time with me when I was younger inspired me. I thought why is she spending time helping me after lesson? She really made me feel valued.

“Julia Gillard who was the Prime Minister in Australia, she was brilliant. She faced a lot of misogynist abuse, and you should google Julia Gillard misogynist speech – it’s just one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard in my life.

“One of the things I try and do – and many of the women in politics do – is bringing the next generation forward. So I’ve been to Fairfield High School for Girls and had the head head girl come to Parliament and she said ‘Oh Ange, what can I do to thank you?’ And I said, Well, when you’re successful, you do the same for the next women that are coming forward and really just try and help and create a ‘sisterly club.’

“There’s so much room for more women to be in senior positions that we don’t need to battle each other, we should support each other and get more women in positions and we will change society for the better.

“I don’t want to intimidate women, I want to show them I’m just like them and they could be like me and that’s why I talk about my past – being a teenage mum.

“I don’t do it because I want to tell people that’s what they should do, I do it because I’ve faced challenges in my life and made mistakes. I think, you know what, we’re trying to get other women to see that none of us are perfect and our lives and not perfectly round so you just got to keep challenging and keep putting yourself forward.”

She’s faced plenty of challenges in her own life, and worked hard to overcome the prejudices others have placed upon her. She says women need to change their mindset to help them succeed.

“Men think that if there’s a job to be done, they will do it.  They’ll see that job description and think I can do 80 per cent of that job so I’m going to go for it. 

“Women, they’ll look at the job description and think I can’t do that 20 per cent so I shouldn’t go for it. I think women just generally look at what they can’t do rather than what they can do and you’ve just got to keep pushing forward.

“One of the professors at Manchester University once said to me if all of the CEOs in companies are all men of a certain age, then as a young woman you wouldn’t see yourself as a CEO.”

Growing up on a council estate and being proud of her roots is something Angela hopes will show girls from similar backgrounds that they can flourish: “That’s why I talk about my background – coming from a working class background, not having any formal qualifications.

“Please don’t see me as something high and up here, see me as the same as you and you could do that yourself. You just have to believe in yourself and have that confidence.”

Angela is only one of a number of influential and powerful women in Tameside, some of whom will be spotlighted in this feature, and she says that the borough is doing a fantastic job when it comes to advancing the cause of equality.

“I think we’re doing really well actually. 

“I’m really proud of what Tameside has got. We’ve got a leader of Tameside Council that’s a woman, the mayor is a woman. We do some really fantastic things. There’s lots of feminism across the board and I think you’ve just got to keep pushing forward.

“We’ve got a lot more to do but when I visit the schools in Tameside the girls are always the first up and chatting to me. They seem to be really outspoken like me and one of my favourite quotes I say is ‘never know your place.’

“I think that’s what we’ve got to teach our young girls in Tameside, never know your place, speak up and be heard because your voice is important.”

She was also full of praise for the women that don’t make the headlines in the borough. “There’s so many from the home carers that look after our elderly, from the police officers that are on our streets, to the cleaners that are out there helping, to the people that are running companies and organisations locally – there’s so many.

“For the mums, the full-time mums – that’s a job! At the moment people think if you choose to be a full-time mum then somehow that’s not valued because it’s seen as ‘women’s work’. That isn’t the case, they’re superheroes.

“The women of Tameside today are raising the next generation and trailblazing and I think the future in Tameside is really bright.”

She spoke of her own brand of ‘sisterly feminism’ – empowering other women and encouraging others to do the same.

“Keep going – never know your place! 

“If you’re thinking now there’s something I really wanted to do but my times past I can’t do that, just do it and then encourage the next women as well. 

“I like to be a sisterly feminist. To me that’s about words of encouragement or helping someone because they don’t know what Parliament’s like but they’re interested in politics, then get on board, come and speak to us. 

“You don’t even have to be in my political party – if you’re a female in Tameside then you’re one of my sisters and I want to look after you.

“Anything that we can do collectively as women, I think we should. 

“We should reach out and tap a woman on the shoulder and say why have you not put yourself forward for that? 

“Because often that’s all it takes to get them to push forward and to be the next leader.”

Alex Hoskyn

A Lees woman has been awarded with an accolade for innovation and more than £7,000 in funding for her creation of the Chatty Café Scheme.

Alex Hoskyn, 35, came up with the idea for the scheme after having her son Henry. The scheme aims to combat loneliness by bringing people of all ages together, giving them a space to interact and engage in a social setting.

Alex said: “I did a Masters degree in social work when I was 30 and on my final placement I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant. So friends were qualifying and going straight onto jobs, but I couldn’t do that and it was really on my mind, it was a bit of a confidence knock.

“During that time I spent a lot of my time with Henry out and about at groups and in cafes, but you can do all that and still not properly speak to people.”

It was in Sainsbury’s Café in Oldham that the beginnings of Chatty Café began to form.

She remembers: “I looked around the rest of the café and saw an older lady on her own looking a bit fed up, a young guy with a disability and his carer and then there was me with a newborn and I just felt invisible and wondered if they felt the same. I thought it would be really nice if there was a table we could have all sat on together even for five minutes for some human interaction with no commitment to see each other again.

“Don’t get me wrong, my partner, friends and family were amazing, but there is that daytime period where you don’t want to put on people and you can often find yourself alone if you don’t work. You just can’t perceive how your life may change. Whether it is retirement, having a baby, becoming ill – there is so much that could change where you find yourself having less places to interact with people and make connections. That is what I wanted to help with.”

A year later, on her birthday, Alex shared the idea she had been thinking on for a year with her mum who encouraged her to make it a reality.

Alex said: “Her reaction really validated it for me so I decided to give it a go by spending as little money as possible but still creating a buzz.”

Alex set up a website and began working with local business Cornerstone to create the branding. She then started to visit local cafes to pitch the idea of a Chatter and Natter table where people could sit down and know anyone else there was open to interacting and having a chat.

Though many cafes said yes, over time Alex discovered that saying yes did not necessarily mean an investment in the idea.

She said: “Places would say yes and I would give them the pack to set up a table, but when I would visit later it wasn’t being used so I had to think about what I could do to really engage businesses and get them excited to invest in the scheme.”

Six months after she began Chatty Café, Alex decided to put a value on the packs.

She said: “I got some good advice and decided to make the scheme £10 a year, which is a small cost, but made such a massive difference because businesses were actively getting involved. I think when you are emotionally involved you don’t always see a situation from a business perspective so I really did seek advice from wherever I could get it.”

Two years on from starting the business it is continuing to grow with strong partnerships between Chatty Café, Costa and Sainsburys.

Alex said: “I built a relationship with Costa for over a year and they just really got behind it and last year put it out to all stores to see who wanted to get involved and 400 stores got back to them which is just amazing.

“That led to Sainsburys piloting a Chatter and Natter table in 20 of their stores. They sent over their report on how that went and it was such great feedback so I am hoping it will be rolled out there too. We even have businesses in Gibraltar, the USA and Australia taking part.”

Alex recalls feeling very emotional at the support businesses and individuals gave and shed some tears reading the report from Sainsburys which included letters from people who had used the table.

She said: “I feel really proud. Reading how it had impacted real people was just really wonderful. This isn’t a money-making scheme and it never has been, it is about helping people and reducing isolation and I feel quite overwhelmed at how well it has been received and at the genuine connections I have made with businesses.”

Alex continues to work as a social worker as well as running the Chatty Café Scheme and in January was the proud winner of the Innovation for Ageing Award which was looking for solutions to loneliness and isolation in an ageing society.

This saw Alex being invited to the Houses of Parliament as well as giving a three-minute pitch to a judging panel in London.

Unfortunately, as the awards ceremony hosted by David Baddiel, arrived in January, Alex was too unwell to go and had to send her mum in her place, which included giving a presentation on the scheme to the audience.

Alex was checking Twitter to see the results when she received a phone call from David Baddiel who congratulated her on winning.

The award also gave Alex £7,500 to put into Chatty Café as well as business support from the Just Group.

She said: “I am so happy as it has allowed me to hire someone to help with admin and continue to grow the scheme and as long as people are interested I will keep going. It gives me a purpose and a passion and I am very lucky. If it all stopped tomorrow though I would still be proud of what I have achieved.

“It just shows that if you have the motivation and the drive you can achieve a lot. It was just me and my laptop at the start but I had a lot of drive even though sometimes all you want to do is go and watch television or something instead of work. You have to put your blood, sweat and tears into it if you feel passionately about it. I would also say seek as much counsel wherever you can, but trust yourself and don’t be put off by others, stand your ground and know there are always things to learn.”

Carolyn Wilkins

Dr Carolyn Wilkins OBE is the first female Chief Executive for Oldham Council and as International Women’s Day approaches we got the chance to speak to her about her journey to the role.

Carolyn was born in Yorkshire and after seven years of living in the south of England made her way back home to go to the University of Leeds where she studied psychology. From there she got a graduate trainee job at Bolton Council.

Carolyn said: “I worked in the committee section and it was really good grounding for me, I got to learn all about how local government worked. I went to work for four more of the Greater Manchester authorities-Trafford, Salford, Crewe and Nantwich and Bury.”

It was at Bury Council that she was seconded to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister acting as an external advisor to several public bodies.

Then in 2005 Carolyn became Deputy Chief Executive at Rossendale Council and worked her way to the Chief Executive position within a year. The council was rated as poor and over three years, Carolyn along with the team, turned it around and saw the council reclassified as ‘good’ by the Audit Commission. Rossendale was only one of two councils nationwide to make that jump at the time.

It was from here she secured her position at Oldham Council, the first woman to take on the role. Carolyn undertook the lead chief executive role for Greater Manchester on a range of issues including being the architect for Greater Manchester Leadership and Workforce Development Framework as well as being the lead chief executive for Population Health.

Carolyn said: “I really love Oldham and when I came for the interview there was just something about the people that lived and worked here and I have continued to find that working with the team here and how they respond to challenges, it is a really enjoyable place to work. The variety of what we undertake is really vast, we get to work with communities to make a difference and it feels like we are making a real contribution.”

Carolyn will have been in the appointment for ten years in April and continues to enjoy the variety the job brings. More recently Carolyn has taken on the position of Accountable Officer for the NHS Oldham CCG.

She said: “It’s a lot of work because at the moment it is two jobs, but it has been really great and there are not many places that have integrated those roles, it is real cutting-edge work. We’re working together to make sure that Oldham is a place where people, families and communities thrive. A thriving Oldham means one where people are living healthy lives with the support to stay well and active for as long as possible. It means all of us doing our bit to look after our own health and it means making sure that they way we work is focused on promoting mental and physical wellbeing and when it’s needed, that support and care is available and is as connected with home and community as is possible.

“The opportunity to do that kind of large-scale integration is a big challenge and a big opportunity for us which is really exciting.”

Carolyn is also Chair of the board at Maggie’s Oldham and is soon to join the Christie’s Cancer Board.

In 2016, Carolyn received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List for services to Local Government and Public Service Reform.

She said: “I am really focused on the team so it felt a bit strange to receive it, but such a privilege. I really can’t do anything without the amazing team of people I work with so even though I got that as an individual I think of it as for the team.”

Carolyn added: “I don’t think we should limit ourselves, I have a daughter and a son and I want them both to be able to have as many opportunities as they can. If you want to do something then make the most of any opportunity, look for people that can support and help you. I have had so much support from both women and men over the years who have invested in my career and I am very thankful for that.

“So whatever you want to do go for it, but don’t feel like there is only one way to do something. Don’t get in your own way, don’t let anybody else psyche you out and try. It may not work straight away but that is a lesson in itself. Have a good team around you and really love what you do. I love what I do and I believe it is making a difference and that really helps.”

Nicolette Peel 

Nicolette Peel has dedicated her life to helping women. Through her award-winning work as a charity-chair and ambassador for Mummy’s Star – the only charity in the UK and Ireland dedicated to women and their families affected by cancer during pregnancy and within 12 months of giving birth – and as a midwife, she understands the bittersweet nature of it all. Namely because she’s been there herself.

Talking to the Tameside Reporter and Glossop Chronicle, Nicolette said that the charity is incredibly close to her heart following her first diagnosis of breast cancer when she was 35.

Herself and her husband James were living in Spain at the time with their son and two daughters, and following surgery decided to come back home and tackle difficult chemotherapy and radiotherapy surrounded by friends and family.

“I was very fortunate – it was then clear after that for roughly five years, during which time we desperately wanted another baby but we didn’t know if I could, especially after all the treatment.

“But we had Frankie, our little girl, but when she was seven months I was rediagnosed again and it is such a rollercoaster, with a new baby, two young kids and it was all very frightening.

“Luckily my cancer hadn’t spread, but going to surgeries and chemotherapy sessions with a small baby in tow was really tough.”

It was then that Nicolette was put into contact with Mair, the wife of Mummy’s Star founder Pete Wallroth, who had received her cancer diagnosis while she was pregnant.

“I was so desperate to meet somebody else in a similar situation because it’s so isolating, turning up to hospital appointments with a your baby, especially as the demographic of people with breast cancer tends to be a lot older.

“I met Mair at that point, she just had Merlin their little boy and she was so, so lovely. But sadly she died not long afterwards. That was when I met Pete and we started the Mummy’s Star journey.”

When her daughter Frankie was two and she was well enough, Nicolette went on to become a midwife – a job that she loves with a passion.

It is estimated that one in every 1,000 pregnant women is diagnosed with cancer – making it such a rare occurrence that there was very little support for mums and families in that situation before the creation of Mummy’s Star in 2013.

The charity works directly with women to provide vital support, allowing referrals from family members, health-care professionals and even self-referrals in order to make all-important contact.

“We try to put a package of care around each family, each woman according to what their need is,” Nicolette explains.

“So it might be signposting to other places of support, it might be providing grants – have a really robust grant system in place.

“We have an initial amount for women when they first come to us, and there’s a further amount for women if they are diagnosed with a terminal diagnosis for memory-making activities and holidays.”

She has since stepped down from the chair of Mummy’s Star after being diagnosed again in 2017 with secondary cancer, for which there is no cure, with the aim of spending more time with her family – but still finds the time to be an active participant in the charity’s support page on Facebook.

“All of these women who have been in this situation or who are in this situation come together and they share, they talk and they support each other.

“It’s a beautiful place to be. It’s a tough place to be, but it’s really important just to think ‘I’m not the only one, I’m not on my own and other people understand what I’m saying.’”

Women are very much at the centre of Nicolette’s world, whether they are supported through her work as a midwife or through the charity, something that was recognised when she was nominated for the Women of the Year Awards.

The awards aim to “recognise, celebrate and inspire women of all backgrounds and will continue to shine a light on extraordinary women” – an accolade that Nicolette said was amazing, but very unexpected.

“It totally knocked my socks off. On the day I met so many inspiring women and I felt almost like I didn’t deserve it – I’m just a normal person and I think people are sometimes very quick to say “oh, you’re very brave, you are inspirational.”

“But I didn’t choose for hard things to happen to me, they just happened, so I’m just cracking on and doing the best I can and trying to do some good stuff along the way if I can. Because otherwise what’s the point?

“I just think we all need to look at the other women around us and appreciate how hard everybody’s working.

“Life is tough and tough things happen to everybody, so we could give each other a bit of a lift, some support and not be judgmental.

“Simply look out for the other women around us – it’s really important.”

Ruth George

Ruth George made history in the High Peak back in 2017 when she was elected the first female MP for the constituency.

Her passion for politics started when she was a teenager, growing up under Margaret Thatcher’s government and seeing the huge changes that were arising under her controversial policies.

Ruth told the Reporter and Chronicle that watching those struggles was a huge motivating factor, quickly jumping into the Trade Union movement and working as Parliamentary Officer for shop workers’ union USDAW for 18 years.

It was there that she met and campaigned alongside a number of women who have served as her inspiration ever since.

“We were working with those in retail, women who often worked part-time and were working very, very hard raising their families while supporting other people at work too.

“They were also Trade Union reps, who decided they’d seen injustices happening at work and they would stand up for their colleagues in the workplace – and they became the most fantastic advocates for one another.

“Talking politics and policies with those women was a really good way to make sure you never got ‘pie in the sky’ fanciful ideas because everything has to be rooted in if it works for families on low pay. That’s what really rooted me I stood for Parliament in 2017.”

In 2018, a record 208 women MPs were elected to the House of Commons at General Election 2017 (a never-before-seen high of 32 per cent) – but it is still very much a male-dominated area.

Ruth added that women Labour MPs have formed a “supportive, embracing network” for each other, something that has grown from many members receiving horrific abuse.

“Standing up in the House of Commons for something such as Prime Minister’s question time, if you’re asking a controversial question – as I tend to sometimes do – then you can just be hit by a barrage of male barracking from the other side of the chamber.

“You just have to stand your ground and I’m happy to do that, but it can be very intimidating. And it’s almost as if it’s intended to be intimidating?

“So that just makes me want to fight harder.”

Ruth is keen to get young women in the High Peak into politics, having seen a number of fantastic community-led projects around the constituency and last year’s International Women’s event held at Glossop Labour Club.

She hopes to encourage more young women to get their voice heard by offering work experience, in a bid to ‘close the gap’ between Parliament and rural areas.

“We get many girls who come along and do either a week’s work or a bit longer and I try to help them come down to London, look around Parliament and see what I do down there.

“I love to show them there are a lot of women working in Parliament doing some great stuff and just inspire them as to what they’d like to do.

“I’ve met some fantastic younger women who often get patronised and possibly put on quite a bit – and it’s about having the confidence to stand up for yourself.

“And then you can stand up for others around you, which is the best way to be able to think yourself into a role of representing others.

“Having that practical experience, whether it’s in the workplace, whether it’s as a mum, whether it’s as a woman just standing up for your friends – women are standing up for other people and trying to support them.

“I think that’s something that we definitely need more of in politics.”

Of course, many modern women find themselves becoming experts at spinning plates, often juggling careers with being a parent and family life – something that Ruth notes could make politics seem inaccessible.

But she adds that none of it has to be a barrier to whatever you want to achieve, citing her own surprise and slight trepidation when she ended up becoming an MP.

“Being a member of parliament came upon me quite unexpectedly and it was something we had to adapt around. But by pulling in a network of fantastic friends and my older kids help out with the younger ones, it’s actually made us much closer as a family, which is really nice.

“People see politicians as being very cut off and remote down in Westminster, because that’s where you see us on the TV.

“But you make time for your family and you do end up staying part of the community – having people be able to come and ‘nab’ you for a chat is still really important.

“Plus, my kids are always taking the mickey out to me so there is never any chance of ever getting ideas above my station!”

Brenda Warrington

From her roots in the trade union movement to leading Tameside Council, Brenda Warrington said that wherever she’s been she’s cared about people. It’s that instinct which has seen her rise from being a shop steward to the first ever female leader of Tameside Council. Now, after just over a year in the role, she spoke to the Tameside Reporter about the difficulties she’s faced as the boroughs first ever leader, what Tameside are doing to be more equal and which women inspire her.

Cllr Warrington’s political leanings began in her early work where she became a shop steward. She explained: “I found myself being quite vocal about things that I didn’t feel were fair or correct and from that I became a shop steward, predominantly representing women at the time.”

From there, she moved to become a senior convener – representing people at a national level in things like wage negotiations, pensions schemes and national terms and conditions. All things that would stand her in good stead for her future career.

Brenda’s dedication to her work challenges many preconceived notions that women don’t belong at the top level. During our interview her passion for the people she represents really shone through.

Such a dedicated worker could’ve worked in many roles, but she said she made a conscious decision around 20 years ago to focus her efforts close to home. She wanted to represent the people where she was from and be closer to family. 

She said: “For me, trying to represent and look after people is what I have always done. I do care about people and I do care when they have any injustice against them. I care when they don’t know where to go for advice and I care very much in trying to help people.”

Having been in position for just over a year, she reflected on the challenges there have been. “I hope that have not let people down. I hope that I’ve responded appropriately to the challenges that we’ve faced. I do believe that we have a really good set of officers and members of staff at Tameside Council. And and I do quite frankly, enjoy working with them.”

With such a focus on local issues, Brenda is passionate about ensuring Tameside leads from the front when it comes to equality issues. “I think we’re getting better. We’re not quite there but we’re not far away from having a 50/50 split of male to female councillors.

“We will continue to work towards that. That is a Labour Party aim, in any case, but that’s something I’d like to see us do because women represent at least if not more than 50 per cent of the population. Women and their needs and their views cannot and will not be ignored.”

Brenda says that every decision they take is inspected to ensure equality: “I think we are doing better in Tameside. I do believe that we do ensure that equality is at the heart of virtually everything that we’re doing.

“We always have these equality impact assessments on many, many things and it is something that we have to make sure we fulfil.

“We do our best to make sure that women are made aware of opportunities that they may want to take advantage of.”

Despite progress made over the years, the leader of the council concedes we still have some way to go, but won’t stop striving for full equality. “There isn’t fully equality in Tameside but I would say that I do believe we’re going in the right direction and I do believe that women today exercise their voice in the best possible way to make sure that their voice is heard and  I’m quite proud of that.”

Being such a high powered woman can often be frustrating when she comes up against prejudice and sexism in her role. When first getting into politics she said she came up against opposition from men who couldn’t accept the fact that a woman was determined to make a change. 

“It was a boys’ club it you know, going back to when I first became active.Women, particularly women at senior levels, were quite frankly few and far between but some did exist and they became role models for people like me and I’ll never forget that.

“I think that now there is a greater opportunity for women in politics. Although, again, I do believe that glass ceiling still exists and we still need to break through it properly. 

“I do believe that lip services is much less of an issue these days. There may still be some gentleman that do that but I think on the whole most of the men that I know respect the fact that women are equal and have an equal right to be considered for different options and opportunities.”

Cllr Warrington said that despite the progress that’s been made, the majority of family work still falls to women, and says that the balance needs to be fairer.

“Clearly it can and still be perhaps more difficult for women to enjoy the freedom of being able to take on the full career, particularly when it entails travelling and other things because of childcare, because of family responsibilities. 

“In the main, I would still say that family care and responsibilities – whether that’s for children offer older people – often still falls to the women to deal with. That shouldn’t be the case it should be a shared responsibility and I do think that we still have a job to do with some of our men to get them to understand that.

“I do think there’s a vast improvement and I do think that we’re heading very much in the right direction.”

An inspiring woman in her own regard, Brenda is also inspired by those that went before her, particularly a former trade union worker.

Terry Marsland. Born in 1932, she was instrumental on the front line of the quality movement during the 1970s – including campaigns for equal pay, abortion and better working conditions. Brenda said: “There was a woman that inspired me when I started to become active some years ago. She is famous within trade union circles but but not perhaps in other circles and that was a woman called Terry Marsland. 

“Sadly she’s no longer with us but Terry was a huge inspiration to me because she was one of the first women to break through that barrier and become an Assistant General Secretary of the trade union and that was frankly unheard of at the time.

“She was a fierce lady but nevertheless she was a real inspiration about, at the time, what women needed, what women should have and  sort of took the lead from her in that nothing is impossible. 

“Where women have the desire to get involved in these areas of work and representation nothing should stop them and they should be helped, aided and cajoled by all of the men involved, all of the men in their lives – whether that’s family life or career life – women should not be held back and should be helped a long and that’s not because they need it to do the job but because they need it because of those male inhibitions that have existed.”

She says that those inhibitions are partially broken down these days but still have some way to go. “It does still exist and we have to continue to battle, as women, to make sure that in our voices are heard and we don’t let those gentlemen keep us underneath them.”

She says that she’s unsure if she’s been an inspiration to any other women, but would like to think that she could be.

“As for being someone that inspires others. I don’t know. I’d like to think I could be but that’s for others to say.

“That isn’t something that I’ve particularly aimed to do. But if what I’ve done and the work I’ve done – the paths I’ve trodden and the life I’ve led does inspire people then I would be honoured and delighted that any young woman that wants to speak to me.

“I’m always more than prepared to have that chat with them and if they are experiencing any barriers, then again, I would do everything I could to help them get over those barriers.”

The conversation then moved to prejudice she had faced in her working life. Despite the best efforts it still does exist, but it was surprising to hear that one of the most powerful female figures in Tameside had experienced it recently. She explained: “I make myself quite clear to start with and people get the message politely that I would not tolerate prejudice. But yes, I have experienced it – relatively recently actually.

“A man asked me whether I was able to cope with having so many different roles – as a councillor, as a leader and other things that I do. This man asked me that, as if because you’re a woman, you can’t cope with all of that work or all of that responsibility. I did feel very angry about that and and said If I was a man, would you ask me that question?

“He was quite embarrassed about that. 

“I made it quite clear that yes, I am quite capable and I’m quite able to cope with the with the workload that I have. It’s no different than other male leaders within Greater Manchester – it’s just the same and yes, I’m quite able to cope with it and I don’t believe at this stage that I’ve ever let anyone down, I certainly am not aware of that. I have to say that I suppose with my experience, now I’m able to deal with it perhaps in a polite manner, maybe not so polite sometimes, but it happens very rarely.”

Civic Mayor of Tameside Councillor Denise Ward

As the visible figurehead of Tameside, the Civic Mayor Denise Ward is no stranger to being a strong woman. Beginning work in the male dominated industry of barbering, she was toughened by years of work in a traditional ‘mans business’.

During her year of mayoralty, she’s supported numerous good causes and charities, all whilst continuing her barbering and work as a councillor.

She combines all of the above with being committed to her family and her home town.

Of beginning work in such a male dominated industry, she said: “Fortunately for me, when I left school at 16 I went into the barber industry in Manchester. There was a big male dominance in in the barbershop and there’s still that stigma today but you overcome it, but I was kind of used to it because you just take it on the chin really.

“They expect a man and unfortunately I’m a girl! They say “do you know what you’re doing” ermm yes! “Can I wait for a man?” nope! it’s just one of those things. 

“They do seem to sort of take notice of the men more than the do the girls and you know that’s not the case anymore is it?”

She says in her role she has plenty of support from her colleagues.

“It wasn’t easy – and still isn’t easy now – because people expect a man to be there but my two ward colleagues council Vincent Ricci, he’s a man, and councillor Allison Gwynne she’s a girl so two against one.”

She says that women’s rights have come on immeasurably in the past years, but women can still be expected to be able to juggle many different roles.

“Women have come along in their own right and quite right as well because when you think of a woman’s job she has a career, she has a husband – most of the time – she has a family and she has to juggle all those things around as well as a job.

“A man comes home from work, kicks off his shoes, sits down and that’s him done for the night, whereas a woman is preparing tomorrow for her, for him, the children, maybe there’s a school night she’s got to go to it’s it’s a 24/7 job for a woman.”

The conversation turned to how much there still is to do. 

Brenda said there’s lots still to be done but referenced Tameside’s history with the suffragette movement. “I think there’s loads to be done. You know, I personally don’t think that women are equally on the same line as men. 

“We’ve got fabulous women when you think back to the suffragettes a hundred years ago. It was the start of it then. These women gave their lives so women could have a vote.”

A passionate supporter of other women throughout Tameside, she’s proud of her female colleagues who’ve made it all the way to the tops of their professions, and in doing so have spoken out for equality.

“We have come a long way but I think we’ve got loads to do yet, I think that we have swam the channel with the first female leader of Tameside ever.

“Angela Rayner. She’s fabulous as the MP for Ashton and she’s come up through the ranks, she’s lived the life, she’s been 16, she’s had children, she’s been sleeping on the settee. She must face problems but you know they’re out there doing their bit.”

She’s excited for the next generations of feminists fighting for equality and had an inspiring message for any young girls out there: “I think girls coming from school and coming from college, they need to gather the speed and say yes I can do that.

“Don’t think anything’s impossible because you can reach for that dream, we need to instil that in our young ladies that are juggling everything around and just trying to make a bit of difference to whatever they’re doing.

“That’s what we all want to do isn’t it? T o make a difference. 

“If I can make somebody’s life a little bit better through my council work or through my mayoralty I will do that and you’d like to leave a legacy that yes – I have made a difference.

“I’m sure we’re doing that with Angela Rayner, with Brenda Warrington and myself we are making a difference but I think we’ve still got a swim a lot of channels.”

Speaking on International Women’s Day 2019 itself, the mayor said it should be a day of celebration, recognising the fantastic work that has already been done but looking ahead to what comes next.

“We need to get together.

“There are some strong women in the country and certainly in Tameside. 

“We’ve got strong women and we just need to let our voices be heard, we do matter.

“I just think it’s fair that we we have a good crack at the whip. 

We are girls, we do have families that we look after, we work in the industry and we all just want to make a difference.”

Sally Bonnie

Sally Bonnie (pictured far right) has dedicated her life to empowering women while bringing them together to support each other.

She came to Oldham in 2007 and over those 11 years created a wonderful community encouraging woman to feel empowered, that culminated in Inspire Women Oldham.

Sally, who has worked and trained all over Europe, started life in Manchester, moving to Rochdale after getting married in her early 20s.

Sally said: “I have always worked in community throughout my career and when I moved to Oldham in 2007, it was to support their social enterprise project. Oldham didn’t have its own women’s centre and I wanted to do something about that. I set up the Collective Partnership once that ended as well as my coaching business.”

The Collective Partnership is a management consultancy and social trading organisation. Sally’s work as a transformational coach has taken place over 25 years where she focuses particularly on coaching women enabling them to leave behind limiting beliefs and labels to live happy, healthy and successful lives.

Sally said: “I’d been involved with some great coaches, but when I looked at what was available to women who couldn’t afford to pay for coaching or training, I found there wasn’t an awful lot available and what was there was medical or clinical rather than personal development. So some of my interest was in how you could take personal development programmes into the community for women in way that was sustainable.

“I wondered if we could spend time working with women who were labelled as disadvantaged to turn that around through personal development and empowerment programmes and then they could go on to help other women. I suppose that was the embryonic stage of Inspire Women.”

Sallie created Inspire Women, registering as a community interest company in 2013, and with a grant in 2015 from the Lottery Women and Girls’ Fund they were able to set up a permanent home to continue their work.

That work has been recognised both on a local and national level with Sally invited to speak at The Royal Society in London last year. Even the structure of the organisation is unique with no Chief Executive and everyone still involved with front facing activities.

Inspire was developed over a decade and Sally had not planned for it from the start.

She said: “If you had told me ten years ago where we are now I wouldn’t have believed it. I am so glad that I had the conviction to try and stay surrounded by great people who have been cheerleaders. 

“If you ask anyone trying to make a difference, the network they have around them will be kind and generous individuals that keep you uplifted and I certainly have people like that around me. I am personally very inspired by the women around me.”

Though Sally doesn’t remember it herself, her mum recalls that Sally always wanted to work with women.

Sally said: “After I spoke at The Royal Society, my mum said she remembers me at four watching a charity advert and saying that when I was older I was going to work with women and children and help them to be happy.”

Sally has also been busy forming the Stronger Together Collective, a social enterprise to bring people together to talk about community-led innovation and start having the conversation about gender and equality.

Sally said: “The network is for men and women, it is about getting influencers and decision makers in a room together, people who want to start exploring what a gender platform is. Decisions being made in Greater Manchester affects us, especially with so many funds and services facing cuts, and we want to discuss how we can be a part of it, how do women get into spaces where they currently have no influence? My passion is women’s voices being heard and women being able to live full lives.”

Sally is also beginning a project working with young women that will start this year, something she has always wanted to do.

She added: “I would say to anybody that has a dream or a goal, you are the only person that can truly see your idea or dream. 

“Don’t allow the comments of others to destroy that, instead surround yourself with people who will encourage you because even if it doesn’t work out you have tried. Without people to believe in it, an idea is just that. I love a quote from Brene Brown, she says ‘…unless you’re in the arena getting your arse kicked then your comments don’t mean anything to me.’ Don’t let criticism or fear stop you from trying.”

By Lee Wild, Lauren Entwistle, Anna Fletcher and Nigel Skinner