For the design of the statue I wanted to show Emmeline as the courageous, determined, dignified and elegant activist she was

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Sculptor Hazel Reeves talks to Lyla Penman about creating Manchester’s new statue of Emmeline Pankhurst.

As International Women’s Day fast approaches (8 March), we’ve started to think about the women who inspire us and the impact that empowered women in history have had on our everyday lives.

Hazel Reeves is the sculptor behind the recently unveiled Emmeline Pankhurst statue in St Peter’s Square, Manchester. Working from her studio in the West Sussex countryside, she does a lot of work to promote women’s rights internationally. As well as creating the bronze of Emmeline for Manchester, she’s made other artworks celebrating women, including one of women biscuit factory workers, the Cracker Packers, for Carlisle. In this first blog, she talks about what Emmeline – both statue and figure – means to her.

What made you enter the competition for the Emmeline Pankhurst commission?

I saw the call for artists and immediately knew I had to apply. I’m never happier than when I’m combining my passion for portraiture with telling stories of struggles for social justice and redressing the lack of representation of women in public art. Emmeline is a hero of mine, of Manchester’s, and of women’s rights advocates across the world. Easy.

What does Emmeline’s legacy mean to you?

I admire her courage and tenacity in the face of sometimes violent resistance and her ability to inspire women of all classes to rise up and demand the vote. She brought about new forms of activism and pioneered concerns that became central to feminism later in the century.

Gaining the vote and enabling women to stand for public office weren’t just end goals but a route towards women shaping the decisions that affect their lives, challenging and changing discriminatory legislation and carving out space for women to be whatever they want to be. My choices and achievements in life have been hugely advanced by the sacrifices of the suffragettes and suffragists.

It’s befitting that the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst – affectionately known as ‘Our Emmeline’ – was unveiled on 14 December 2018, the centenary of when the first women voted in a general election in 1918. Despite this, both my grandmothers had to wait until 1928 before they were able to vote.

What impact do you want the statue to have and how did you include that in your design?

I wanted the statue to highlight Emmeline Pankhurst’s extraordinary contribution to progressing women’s rights, and remind us of Manchester’s radical legacy as the birthplace of Emmeline and the suffragette movement. But I also wanted her back on Manchester’s streets, to be a catalyst, to move people to action. We need her as much as ever to inspire us all – women and men – to rise up and demand gender equality and demand the end to violence against women. I dedicated the statue to our modern-day Emmelines, who are tirelessly working for women’s rights, and to the future generations of Emmelines.

For the design of the statue I wanted to show Emmeline as the courageous, determined, dignified and elegant activist she was. The scene is one Emmeline would be very familiar with – the suffragettes are ringing bells, summoning people from their homes and workplaces, to listen to Emmeline. Someone grabs a kitchen chair as a makeshift rostrum and the 5ft Emmeline climbs atop and addresses the noisy crowds, urging women to rise up and demand the vote. This design nods to the work she has done but also to the work that is left to be done.

Aspire (low res)Co-op Aspire

 

It’s been another busy year for Aspire

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Aspire’s Co-Chair Louise celebrates the network’s best bits from 2018.

2018’s been another momentous year for women. We celebrated 100 years of suffrage, read gender pay gap reports from all employers with 250+ colleagues, and saw Hollywood bring feminism to the center stage at the Golden Globes.

Inside Co-op, gender equality remains a top priority and the small army of colleagues who are part of the Aspire community has been working hard to make a difference.

Volunteer power

We’ve achieved a heck of a lot this year, and it’s down to our people. Colleagues involved with Aspire and other D&I activity are all volunteers, and they all role model the ways of Being Co-op. Without their dedication, commitment and enthusiasm we wouldn’t be able to achieve everything we have this year:

– 3 inspirational career story roundtables
– 3 mentor and mentee training days
– 3 new regional networks launched
– 4 Parents and Carers Together (aka PACT) lunches and workshops
– 5 blog posts on our new diversity blog
– 8 personal development days
– 9 Know Your Co-op events
– 11 newsletters
– 15 International Women’s Day celebration events
– 17 colleagues trialling the personal development support network
– 17 colleagues in our steering group
– 100+ parent and carers buddies
– 150+ colleagues involved with the mentoring scheme
– 500+ Facebook group members
– 800+ newsletter subscribers
– 1,900+ Twitter followers

Phew! Well done everyone.

A refreshed identity

When Aspire was established in 2012, our purpose was to create a network that encourages women in lower grades to ‘aspire’ for senior roles.

Rebalancing the numbers is still important, but being a woman involves much more than career development and we wanted Aspire to reflect this. We wanted to move from being a network to a community, strengthen our purpose and change perceptions of being ‘women only’. After lots of workshops and input from colleagues, we’ve agreed on a new mission statement:

Aspire is a community of colleagues who believe that all women in Co-op have a right to equality. We support others with their career development, challenge others to support women and raise awareness of issues which affect women.

For our brand, we’ve kept the name Aspire but a new, less work-focused tagline – ‘Women in Co-op‘.  For big moments, such as International Women’s Day, we’re also using a new purple cloverleaf Co-op brand; purple’s the international colour of women, and it signifies Co-op’s commitment to gender equality.

Growing our community

When Christine and I became chair this year, we both agreed that growing an inclusive Aspire community was really important. We would both love for every single colleague, all 65,000+, to be involved!

We now have a web page and a national Facebook Group so our community can chat, share ideas and organise activity in a safe space. We’re also helping colleagues to set up regional groups so they can focus on their specific needs. Colleagues in Glasgow, Plymouth and Insurance held their first Aspire events this year.

Get involved

We’ve got big ideas and plans for Aspire next year and we’re always looking for colleagues who want to get involved. Find out more information on our webpage:
https://colleagues.coop.co.uk/aspire

Louise Anderson
Aspire Co-Chair

Aspire (low res)Co-op Aspire

Working flexibly means I do my job well

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In celebration of International Men’s Day, Director of Insights and Data Tim Sleap talks about how balancing work and family life helps him be good at both

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I know people work in different ways and with varying levels of flexibility; mine even changes from one day to the next. For me, flexible working is essential, not only so I can keep my life in check, but also so I can do my job well. I’m really open about needing flexibility at work, and people often ask me why it makes such a difference. This is what I always say:

I want to play an equal part in bringing up my son

I want to be involved as much as I can, not just so I can join in the fun, but also so he grows up with an open mind. Being the primary care giver isn’t – and shouldn’t be – defined by gender; it shouldn’t be a role that belongs to just women or just men. Why should there be just one person in charge anyway? My wife works shifts so I need to be flexible with my time, for practical reasons like the school run as well as for getting time together as a family.

‘Make sure you put your lifejacket on before helping others with theirs’

Someone once told me the key to holding down a big job and having a happy family life is to listen to the safety announcements when you get on a plane. I’ve used this motto ever since; for me to have a work-life balance I need to put on my life jacket first. Flexible working lets me look after what’s most important to me, and that means I do my job well.

Being with my family is the best and, as it happens, it also makes me better at my job. It’s so easy to become stressed and over-involved in work; spending time with my family gets my head back into reality, so when I come back refreshed I can see the bigger picture and make better decisions.

I’ve found work I really want to do

I’m actually writing this in the evening, after going to see my son’s harvest festival assembly in the morning – it was amazing! I really enjoy my job and want to do well in it, so I don’t mind working outside traditional business hours; it makes it easier to switch between family and work life.

Making these two parts of my life work together is a challenge, but it’s one I enjoy. I’m not the only one, which is why PACT exists. I’ll be speaking act their Flexible Working Parent’s Event on 29 January, showing support for colleagues balancing work and parenthood. I hope to see you there!

Tim Sleap
Director of Insights and Data

PACT’s Flexible Working Parent’s Event is taking place on 29 January in 1 Angel Square’s 9th Floor Barn. Feel free to come along, hear more and share your experiences.