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 …
MARGARET CLARK is Chair of Plunkett Foundation.
What does International Women’s day mean to you?
It is a great opportunity to celebrate both the achievements of women and to remind ourselves that we still have some way to go. The co-operative movement can be proud of its track record, not least that women had the vote as members of co-operatives before they had a political vote. Indeed, even today, in some parts of the world, co-operatives are the first way that some women experience democracy in practice.
What is your experience as a woman in a co-operative-focused organisation?
Plunkett has a proud tradition of involving women. Margaret Digby, who was at the forefront of our organisation for over 30 years, showed the way at a time when similar bodies were almost entirely male. I am proud to be the Foundation’s first female chair and to head an organisation where all those involved are there on merit and where 60% of the staff team and the board are female.
What can be done to improve equality within co-operatives?
Women play a crucial role within the co-operatives Plunkett supports. Without their time and energy, many community enterprises would not get off the ground or survive. Women make up around 55% of community shops’ management committees. Equality is essential for the co-operatives we support, if they are to reflect properly the local communities in which they operate. Women are often the ‘doers’, but also need to play a greater role in the strategic development of co-operatives in the future. The co-operative movement must continue to press for real equality.
Or return to the International Women’s Day 2014 collection
Which female co-operators inspire you? Let us know in the comments below.