On 24th April, the first ever statue of a woman in Parliament Square was revealed. The statue depicts the highly influential Suffragist leader, Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929), who was undoubtedly one of the most significant female figures in the twentieth century.
Fawcett’s statue joins eleven others in Parliament Sqaure - and all eleven are of men, including Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela. The fact that women’s contribution to politics has been ignored for so long is shocking in itself, yet what is even more unbelievable is that the statue of Fawcett has only been installed after a two-year long campiagn.
The campaign was led by Caroline Criado Perez, who succeeded in gathering a petition of almost 85,000 signatures before the statue was commissioned. The question is: why was this even necessary? The establishment should have recognised the need for a statue without such a campaign. Even two female Prime Ministers later, politics still remains an overwhelmingly masculine domain.[pullquote]
Women's contributions to politics have been ignored for so long[/pullquote]
The lack of female representation in Parliament Square only mirrors the absence of women in Parliament itself. Although a record number of female MPs were elected in the 2017 General Election, this still only amounts to a measly 32% of MPs. This figure decreases to just 21% when looking at the Conservative Party alone. Clearly, simply putting a statue up of a woman does not iron out this widespread instituitonal inequality.
The Fawcett statue is one small step on the journey to gender equality nationwide. Recently, the country has been rocked by revelations of gender pay-gaps in various companies. Ryanair disclosed that for every £1 a male employee earnt, its female employees received just 28p.
Millicent Fawcett may have pushed for female suffrage way back in the 1900s, but it’s clear that the fight is not over. Putting up a statue honours her memory and the genuine advancements she made for equality, yet until tangible,real-world progress is made, it can only ever remain symbolic.