As International Women’s Day approaches, we’ve spoken to a number of inspirational women who are leading by example at some prominent co-operatives …
ELAINE DEAN is a Director of Central England Co-operative and Chair of Co-operative Press.
What does International Women‘s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to highlight how far we have come in some respects and how far we have yet to go before women are treated as truly equal globally. It is also a time to recognise achievements of women and how other women can be helped to aspire in their lives.
What is your experience as a woman in a co-operative?
My experience has changed over the years. When I was first elected in 1980, there were no women chairing boards or being appointed as chief executives or as society secretaries. I became a vice chair of an area committee in the mid 1980s but in the early years found men quite astounded at the thought of a woman holding any position.
I was seven months pregnant when I was first elected and one of the sitting members up for re-election told me I should stay at home with my baby. I was elected – he wasn’t!
After election until I gave birth every appearance of a teapot was accompanied with tiresome queries of ‘who’s going to be mother?’
Times have greatly changed for the better thanks to the pioneering efforts of some outstanding co-operative women.
What can be done to improve equality within the movement?
I think the women currently holding elected positions across the movement must be the role models for the future and must ensure they encourage potentially competent younger women to take on responsibility and to hold down senior positions. If women are promoted purely for the sake of numbers, it won’t do anyone any favours.
Or return to the International Women’s Day 2014 collection
Which female co-operators inspire you? Let us know in the comments below.