New UK Passport Sparks Sexism Row After Featuring Just Two Women Compared With Seven Men

The opening pages from the new British passport design that have been unveiled at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London.
The opening pages from the new British passport design that have been unveiled at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London.
Home Office/PA Wire

The Passport Office has been accused of having "airbrushed women out of history" and having "a problem with institutional sexism" as a row continues over the new UK travel document.

The design for the new UK passport with the theme “Creative United Kingdom” has sparked backlash as it was revealed that just two women were featured, compared with seven men.

Mathematician and writer Ada Lovelace and architect Elisabeth Scott are depicted in the latest version of the document unveiled today.

By contrast, seven men including William Shakespeare, artist John Constable and sculptor Anish Kapoor are represented either in portraits or through their achievements, the Press Association reported.

Official literature said that the new passport features some of the best achievements of the last 500 years in Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said of the new design: “Instead of being celebrated and remembered great British women are being airbrushed out of history.

"They could have included the first feminist and writer Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Virginia Woolf, Bridget Riley - the list is endless. This is completely unacceptable and the dismissive response of the Passport Office is revealing in itself.

"It appears that they have a problem with institutional sexism. Fawcett would be more than happy to offer them some help”

Mark Thomson, director general of the Passport Office, defended the design.

He said: "It wasn't something where we said 'let's set out to only have two women'.

"In trying to celebrate the UK's creativity we tried to get a range of locations and things around the country to celebrate our triumphs over the years, so there we are."

Asked about the omission of female icons such as Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, he said: "Whenever we do these things there is always someone who wants their favourite rock band or icon in the book.

"We've got 16 pages, a very finite space. We like to feel we've got a good representative view celebrating some real icons of the UK- Shakespeare, Constable and of course Elisabeth Scott herself."

Many on Twitter were less than impressed, including Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy…

Some also pointed out that no Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish people were included either…

However, some didn’t seem to see any problem with the selection…

New UK Passport