- Georgie Reisser-Weston is United Trust Bank’s Human Resources Director.
Here, for International Women’s Day, she reflects on ‘stereotyping’ and one particular woman who fought to overcome the preconceptions and challenges she encountered during her career in politics.
This year the theme for International Women’s Day is to #Embrace Equity. Its key focus is to embed a gender equal world a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.
One word which has struck me this year is ‘stereotyping’ and so I began to think about the differences that iconic women in the world have made to change those perceptions.
One example which came to me was Betty Boothroyd, who died this week at the age of 93, who overturned more than 700 years of parliamentary tradition in 1992 when she became the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Commons and served for 8 years. She was raised in Yorkshire by parents who had started working at the age of 13, so everything that she achieved was through her own determination.
She had a tough fight, even to enter the Commons (at the time 90% of MPs were men) and she was finally elected as an MP in a by-election on her fifth attempt. She famously said in a speech “Elect me for what I am and not for what I was born”. After nearly two decades in Parliament, she was elected by her fellow MPs to the position of Speaker of the House of Commons – the first woman to ever have achieved such a position.
Her pioneering achievements made her truly exceptional, however her successes show sheer grit and force of personality. She was utterly professional, good-humoured, had breath-taking energy and prided herself on being more briefed than anyone else in the room. She is a true pioneer of ‘Equity’ because she didn’t see her background or gender as an impediment or disadvantage and she achieved every goal that she set out to achieve.