A Woman Educated Is A Woman In Power. So Why Are We Struggling At The Top?

When we are born we aren’t aware of our surroundings, equality, our gender, our financial status or even our social standing. 
We are only focused on one thing, survival. 
Survival is a basic instinct in all of us. The sink or swim analogy. The fight or flight response. We all have what’s needed for survival. Regardless of our environment. 

As women, I’m sure we can all share our stories of survival. It could be in a physical altercation, or it could be an environmental shift. But the key element that we all share is that we did it. We survived.

I know myself that I’ve had many elements in my life where basic survival was my only option. Whether I knew it or not. 

As a child, I went from privileged child in an upper class world, to the child of a single mother living on the breadline practically overnight. I didn’t notice much then, but what I did notice was my mother, working jobs to make ends meet. A woman who worked diligently from her teens to her 30s so she could enjoy her motherhood without sacrifice. Like many of you, she never had that luxury. 

Surviving on tiny morsels a day, she always made sure there was fruits and vegetables on my plate every day. She always made sure I’d never go to bed hungry. And she always made sure I was the same inquisitive child with the stubborn nature I was born with.

I was never aware of an attainment gap that young. I didn’t know that technically I grew up in one. I thrived on education. In fact, it was probably my saving grace. My survival instinct. 

I knew from that young that my gift of knowledge was just that, a gift. And I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. 

As an adult I set out what I conquered to do. To get my degree, in fact I got two of them. I surrounded myself in education because it gave me the comfort that every line I read would put me in good stead for the future. And even though I can be a dab hand at University Challenge, I knew it would have a greater good. 

When you are involved in activism you aren’t just opened to the world of gender pay gaps, LGBTQ+ issues, racial bias and such. You are violently and painfully aware of the general education gap in women. We hear every day about the need for women in specific industries, STEM for example, which I am grateful to call myself a woman in STEM research. But we never hear of the stepping stones that are put in place for women to get to these elusive industries. 

In fact, even when we get there, it isn’t made attractive for us. 

I remember my first day of University. My professor addressed the room of 300 people and told us that by the end of first year only 45 of us will be left, and out of that 45 only 25 of us will have an MBA. I’m proud to say I was one of the 25, and I was only one of two women who graduated. Much to my professor’s amazement. 

We know the scenario, because I guarantee you that you’ve all been there too. Sitting in a job interview, talking about your experience, and the question “Are you married” comes up. As much as you try and dismiss the question and talk about your achievements, it is always re-phrased and asked again. 

We sit there thinking why did we get ourselves into tens of thousands of debts to go through higher education to be asked about our nuptials and reproductive forecast. 

Why isn’t it made attractive for us? Why are we constantly told to let go of our dreams and face reality? Why are we hushed when we aim higher? Why are we told to calm down when we are passionate?

Education is a human right. But why is it not encouraged? Why are we not told to strive higher? Why are we always told to sit down?

I have always laughed in the face of doubt. Not because I am arrogant, because I became educated on my power, my rights and my knowledge. And that for me should be a human right. 

Education is not just academic. Its life skills, human rights, equality etc. It’s our basic survival. 

It’s learning the rights and wrongs of street life. It’s learning how to survive in a hostile world. It’s learning about your reproductive rights and options. It’s knowing you have the power of your own body and you will be listened to because it is yours and no one, repeat NO ONE can take that from you. 

It’s looking into the mirror and knowing your worth. Your impact and how you are going to survive. Are you going to make a difference? Are you going to know your power?

Education isn’t about giving women a voice because we have one. We know we have a voice. We don’t need that patronisation that people think they are “giving” us a voice. We need a platform for us to be listened to. 

Right now this platform I have is my power. My belief in education rights has led me down a path of pure activism and I am committed to helping women in Scotland achieve the skills and development tools they need to not only begin their careers, but make an impact in their own communities. 

This starts right on our doorstep. Spreading the knowledge that education is power. And with power comes survival. We are all here because we survived. Now it is our collective opportunity to raise attainment levels in all areas of the country. 

I was once told that if I didn’t have a seat at the table, or it wasn’t offered to me, then I should bring my own chair. 

Well now I am building a new table. And you can guarantee that my passion for education is firmly on it. 

We are the architects of our own future. And we owe it to our younger generations to make this basic right accessible for them. Because we don’t know what the future will hold for our daughters, but if we give them the right tools to survive, we can be sure they will make this world more beautiful than it is today. 

So the question is, how do we do this? How do we correct years of ignorance and distain? 

As I said, it starts on our doorstep. 

Using what tools we have right now is the key to being responsible for the future generation of young girls succeeding in roles that before weren’t even offered to them.

We have to change the narrative that is portrayed on our sisters that we are limited by our gender. That we are weak and feeble creatures who’s only saving grace is having to be liked by men. We have to show our daughters that they can be in control of their future, regardless of a male approval. 

We have to take control on issues that affect us. And not leave it in the hands of a dystopian society that feels it has a monopoly on women’s reproductive rights and their health. Showing women that yes, it is okay to stand up for what you want and need as a basic right in this world. Standing in solidarity with your sisters when one is being denied healthcare yet her male counterpart is joyfully prescribed drugs to help with his sexual performance. 

We have to understand why we are constantly sexualised in the media, and only valued by our features and figures, rather than your brains and ideas.

We have to stand up for our LQBTQ+ allies. As we are united in the fight for equality. 

We have to change the archaic nature of rising to the top in high level jobs. In a world where we are paid 53 cents to the male dollar, we have to take control. 

We have to vote. And use our vote well. We have to end the idea that “my vote wouldn’t make a difference”. We owe it to our fellow women that gave their life over 100 years ago just so that we would have the opportunity to say “actually, what about me? I am good enough, I am worthy”.

We have to educate out girls to let them know that it is okay to grow. In fact, it is their right. To let them know that they do not have to follow the path that is already set out for them. Be it cultural or situational. That yes they can aspire to more and yes we have the facilities to make that happen, because no women deserves to have her future mapped out for her before she is even born. 

We are the women we have been waiting for. In a world with #MeToo, we have to stand in solidarity with the women who were brave enough to come forward, and we owe it to the women whose voices have not yet been heard to smash through the glass ceilings that were set before them.

We may be called “Nasty Women” but we don’t care. We may have a wicked tongue and a vice grip on reality, but that shouldn’t limit our achievements. 

We have to end the cancel culture around our fellow sisters. Waiting for a fall. Waiting for a moment to jump on a failure of another woman. We all fight our own battles every single day. Enough with the rivalries and the “who did it best”. We all did it best because we survived what was prohibiting us before to get to the point that we could have the opportunity to fail. To use it as a learning block. To propel us to greatness.

We are trained to fear dark alleyways and walking home late at night. Not out of fear of our own bodies. But out of the fear someone will overpower your rights and take control of the body you grew and you own. They say its boys will be boys but I refuse to believe that. It’s purely down to education. We owe our voices to the women who have been silenced in the fear of consent. 

Education. It is one of the most messages we have to tell our daughters right now. I’m telling you now that when we give the paintbrush of an educated future to our girls, she will and trust me she will create a masterpiece. A world without oppression. A world without fear to rise. A world when she can learn and grow without prejudice or distain. She can freely have the rights to her own future. And it purely down to the education we have to give our daughters. Because we own them that. 

One of my favourite quotes from a woman I love is from Denice Frohman. She told us that a woman becomes herself for the first time when she speaks without permission. And every world out of her mouth, a riot. When a girl pronounces her own name there is glory. And when a woman tells her own story, she lives forever. 

We owe our voice to our sisters of the revolution. Rejoice. As we have only just begun.