On June 10 Emma Isaac and her daughter Molly joined some 80,000 people, dressed in the original suffragette colours of purple, green and white and carrying banners, to celebrate 100 years since the Suffragette movement won the first women’s vote.
“It felt like a real privilege to be there,” says Emma. “It was such a joyful occasion with such a strong sense of camaraderie. I felt very humbled to think what those women had achieved, but also very aware of how we’ve still got a long road ahead of us to achieve true female equality. Marching with Molly and so many young women of her generation, I felt very hopeful and inspired for the future.”
Molly, now 17, agrees: “It was really amazing to be out marching with my mum. She’s raised me to be actively engaged and it was cool to experience it with her. There was such a happy and positive atmosphere, it felt very empowering.”
By wonderful serendipity, Molly was in the midst of her Extended Project Qualification, researching the changing role of women in the workplace over the last 100 years. Her interest had been piqued by her mum’s talk of one of her heroes, Emmeline Pankhurst, and how the suffragettes had campaigned for women to be allowed to vote. Although a massive step forward for women, the 1918 Act only gave the vote to those aged over 30 who owned property. It wasn’t until 1928 that women over 21 had the same voting rights as men.
For Emma, attending the March buckled together her personal and professional interests. As she says: “I’m in a very fortunate position that my roles as a professional, as a woman and as a mother came together on that beautiful memorable day; that the company I work for has invested in the day and is an active advocate of equality and inclusivity and was demonstrating these values in such a positive and powerful way.”
Emma is Director of Brand Marketing at NatWest, a role which includes brand strategy, sponsorship and events.
“At NatWest we believe in inclusivity and equality,” she says. “Our strapline is ‘we are what we do’; we’re not just talking the talk, we’re walking the walk - and there’s no better way to do that than to sponsor the Women’s March.”
On the day, the Women’s March culminated in a living mass participation artwork. “Each marcher wrote an individual pledge with the hashtag #nofinishline - in recognition that we’ve come a long way but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” explains Emma. “Holding our pledges we walked through an arch with huge digital screens of Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett applauding their contemporary sisters. ”
For Emma’s daughter Molly, the highpoint of the day was meeting Emmeline Pankhurst’s great granddaughter. “She was at the end of the March next to the screen which brought Emmeline Pankhurst back to life to cheer on the marching women. It was amazing to say hello to her when she’s related to someone who was such a massive figurehead for such an incredible historical moment.”
Emma believes marching with Molly is “now part of our story; a positive shared experience. It also prompted conversations I might not have had about tangible examples of how my work has supported women. It’s a lovely thing to come home and talk to her about real women’s stories of achievement.
“She’s also been blown away by the stories of how the statue of Millicent Fawcett came about as a sign of progress; that it was only when the feminist writer and activist Caroline Criado Perez, who also led a successful campaign for Jane Austen to appear on the £10 note, was running in front of Parliament that she realised the only historical figures commemorated there were men. Molly was appalled when I told her there are more statues named John in the UK than there are statues of women.”
And as the most recent generation of women to march, Molly, is hopeful for the future. “I’d hope that girls will have the same opportunities as boys, not disadvantaged or intimidated. I’d hope our gender isn’t a barrier in any way. Everything should be based on your ability and experience; nothing to do with gender at all. Gender should be irrelevant.”
To discover more about how NatWest could support you in your business goals, visit www.natwest.com/boost
To listen to the NatWest Women in Business Podcast hosted by June Sarpong click here