How many awards ceremonies where all the nominees and winners were men would run punctually? Not so many, perhaps. On Friday 8th March the Manchester’s International Women’s Day awards ceremony – jam-packed with inspiring stories – ran ahead of schedule. The male half of the Manchester Climate Monthly team reports….
The Great Hall was very full, very colourful. Twenty two large round tables were dotted around, each named for an inspiring woman (Mine was “Betty Tebbs“). The attendees looked pretty representative in terms of the adult population of Manchester, as far as race and (perhaps?) class went. Certainly far fewer pale male and stale suits than usually are seen at Castle Grayskull events.
Claire Mooney, with a very light touch (but a firm and cool hand when something went wrong late on), got things going, explaining that the theme of this year’s event was Women in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
She introduced Dr Katie Steckles, a “mathemagician” and self-confessed “huge nerd” who warmed up the room with an impressive display of rubik’s-cube-solving-while-talking-about-rubik’s-cube-world-records (it’s iterative, or recursive, or something like that). She then moved on to some well-executed card tricks. Not somebody to play poker with, I’d say…
Next up Deputy Leader of the Council Sue Murphy, who observed – to applause – that she’d never done an event in the Great Hall where the most of the attendees were women. She gave a brief history of the origins of International Women’s Day (Russia, Sweden, the United States – around issues of exploitation, poverty and deprivation), congratulated everyone who had been shortlisted and then handed over to Sue Woodward of the Sharp Project.
Ms Woodward started with an anecdote about her silver-surfing aunt, laid out some statistics (repeated by other speakers)
- Women are 51% of the population
- 22.5% of the MPs
- 10% of the new police commissioners
- 5% of national newspaper editors and
- 0% of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee
[there are, of course, other, scarier, stats about poverty and so on, in other reports]
and recommended the film Made in Dagenham. The meat of Ms Woodward’s speech was, as befits the boss of a technological-innovation-is-good-for-you-and-your-economy scheme, this –
Technology will change our lives, faster and faster. Indeed “change will never be this slow again.”
Ms Woodward felt this would help liberate women, with everything connected to the internet it becomes easier, for instance to set up a business while looking after a baby.
She clicked her fingers and said that the clicking that is needed is not high heels but logging on, and the clatter of keyboards. She said that Manchester had been built on sweat and sinew, with men’s physical power having “kept women in their place” but the next revolution would be of brains and technology.
It was a practiced and well-delivered speech, but not entirely convincing. We have had the promise of technology as an unproblematic tool of liberation before. And the ‘dream’ of everything being wired up has a flip-side – of pervasive surveillance, of the “panspectron”. [But we digress!] [Update – this cartoon on technology and luddism is freaking hilarious.]
The ten awards were then made, with a woman of note reading out a short summary of each nominee’s achievements. In among them were some telling anecdotes (e.g. the taxi-driver who brought one presenter telling here “women no longer do what they’re told, they’ve too many opinions.”)
And the winners were –
- Women and Art – Maria Balshaw
- Women Business Innovators – Rose Marley
- Women Shaping our Community – Nadia Ali
- Women and Culture – Ruth Daniel
- Women Protecting our Environment – Amanda Woodvine [reported here already]
- Outstanding Young Women – Victoria Chetham
- Women and Sport – Joanna Calado
- Women and STEM – The Worm Wagon
- Valuing Older Women – Professor Katherine Perera
- Women’s Champion in honour of Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw – [er, cub reporter missed this one! Has written down Angela Lawrence’s name, but she may not be the winner…[yes, she was!]]
[UPDATE 12/3/13- here is more about each of the winners, from bodyconfidential.co.uk]
Closing remarks were from Cllr Suzanne Richards (see below), who said that she would go away “inspired and humbled by the nominees and winners” and referenced the “Sex and Power 2013: Who Runs Britain?” report. Thanks to the efficiency of the compere and the presenters, there was (plenty of) time still for a too short set by Re:Verb and a poem by Alex Keelan, the city council’s gender officer. You can see an earlier performance of that here –
During the post-event mingling, MCFly caught up with Sue Murphy (see our October 2012 interview here)
Cllr Murphy, does it disappoint you that in 2013, after 40 years of feminism, we still need award dinners like these?
“I think it’s good that we celebrate the achievements of women, but I look forward to the day when the main thing isn’t “how do we get more women in power so we’ve got a balance.” When we’ve got half of everything – or more than half because we’re more than half of the population – I’ll feel a lot happier.”
We also caught up with Cllr Suzanne Richards
What was the thing that made you proudest of tonight?
… the collective of women who worked together to make tonight’s event what it is. From the women who have nominated other women, the women who were nominees themselves, the ones who won the awards. But also the whole network of women across Manchester, who we went out and, spoke to and said ‘We’re doing this on a shoestring budget. Please help us’ and who just gave time some of them gave money, some gave gifts in kind. In the end we’ve been able to produce what I think is a top-class awards evening, which is way better than anything we’ve done before.
And how can sympathetic men and women support the work that is being done around International Women’s Day in the coming month and years?
Well, we’ve launched a pledge form tonight which details how you can get involved in future events – not just the women’s awards, but also International Women’s Day. So you can become part of our steering group, get involved in organising an event, you can promote international women’s day and its activities to people in your own community or network or families or friends. Or if you’re a business person or somebody who has some money to donate you could become one of our sponsors for future events.
Disclaimer: MCFly co-editor Marc Hudson nominated his awesome co-editor Arwa Aburawa for the Women and the Environment award. She was shortlisted and both were invited to attend the free ceremony at Manchester Town Hall, which included a meal and drinks. Arwa did not win – but there’s no shame in coming second to Amanda Woodvine of Didsbury Dinners.