Marking the moment of change

Sharon Heal, 19.09.2016
Organising a 2018 network for gender equality
Anniversaries are a bit like buses – you wait ages for one and then three come along at once. As we emerge blinking from all the commemorations of the centenary of the first world war, 2018 will provide some very different opportunities for museums and heritage organisations to remember.

2018 is the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, when women in the UK got the vote for the first time. Well, some women did, you still had to be over 30 and either you or your husband had to own property in order to put your cross on the ballot.

And it turns out that 2018 is a year rich in anniversaries relating to women and their struggle for equal rights. It also marks the 130th anniversary of the Match Worker's Strike and the 50th anniversary of the Ford Dagenham strike that inspired the Equal Pay Act.

These anniversaries are important not just in terms of marking the moment of change but also for the opportunity they provide to debate and discuss contemporary issues. Things have moved on a bit since 1918 but women still get paid less (81p to every one pound a man earns) and are underrepresented in leadership and governance roles. Commemorating the historical struggle for equality provides a platform for thinking about what still needs to change now.

I’ve been inspired by these anniversaries, and by many women working in museums, to start compiling a list of events and exhibitions scheduled in 2018. An initial trawl has revealed a diverse group of institutions that are planning to commemorate these historic events, from the Cardiff Story museum to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

And there are also opportunities for partnership and collaboration - the Fawcett Society is organising a series of events, and other organisations, including universities and the BBC, have educational and other events planned.

It would be great if we could have a comprehensive list of what’s happening in 2018 – and a network to share experience and understanding.

The idea of a 2018 network came out of the first Space Invaders conference in March this year. The event looked at how we can campaign for equality in leadership and job opportunities for women in museums.

The third conference - Space Invaders, the next step... is happening next week – join us to find out more.

Contact sharon@museumsassociation.org if you have events planned for 2018 or are interested in the network.

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