Today marks the 100th anniversary of The Representation of the People Act passing into law in British parliament. 6 February 1918 was the day all the work of the suffragette movement culminated in the right of women to vote. But the work didn't finish there.
Those early pioneers achieved something no one thought possible even a few years earlier, but the fight for gender equality goes on today. At the time in 1918, the act of parliament only enabled women over 30 and those who owned property to vote. The struggle for universal suffrage continued with all women not granted voting rights until 1928.
In the current British parliament, more than 30% of MPs are women, higher than ever before. We are currently led by our second female Prime Minister, Theresa May, and have Elizabeth II as our monarch. But just yesterday, the BBC reported that the gender pay gap still stood at 18.4%, with mothers suffering a 'pay penalty' at work, and the pay gap actually widening for graduates. There is still work to be done.
For its part, ROSL has made equality a central tenet of its purpose from its founding in 1910. Sir Evelyn Wrench strongly believed in equality and allowed women to join as of right from the outset. Our first female Chairman, Lady Willingdon, served from 1941-1946 and we welcomed Dr Diana Owen as our first female Director-General in December. ROSL continues this support today and will be hosting an International Women's Day debate on Thursday 8 March, featuring speakers with connections to the suffragette movement. Find out more here.
Despite the progress made in the UK, progress is not equal around the world. It was not until 2005 that women received the vote in Kuwait and 2008 in Bhutan. Several of our neighbours in clubland still do not accept women members. It is hoped the good example set by some countries will help others to catch up. New Zealand, for example, is currently led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who recently announced she was pregnant, becomes only the second elected world leader to hold office while pregnant, after Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto in 1990.
Coincidentally, New Zealand also celebrates Waitangi Day today, which marks the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840, New Zealand's founding document.