The current First Minister of Scotland (and the first woman to hold the position), Nicola Sturgeon, spoke at
the Women in the World Summit in New York City. The Summit acts as a platform for powerful women to share their personal stories in a way that news media cannot. During the First Minister’s talk at the Summit, she elaborated on her experience in politics.
Naturally, discussing her experience included acknowledging the unfortunate way in which the media portrays women. As an example, interviewer and CEO of the Women in the World Summit, Tina Brown, presented the Daily Mail’s front page, which showed a picture of Sturgeon and Theresa May with the controversial caption, “Never Mind Brexit, Who Won Legs-it!” Undermining the significance of the Brexit decision and the important work that both women do, the headline implies that their bodies are what is most important about these two women. “No matter how much progress women have made and are making – [the headline]’s a vivid illustration of how much more we still have to achieve,” said Sturgeon. She stated that “there is a tendency to reduce women to body parts” instead of valuing the insight they bring and the impact they have on important conversations.
Sturgeon, the second most powerful woman in the UK, also decided to speak about her decision to not have children. Because of the expectation that all women will have children, Sturgeon has frequently been asked why she has never had any. “My predecessor, Alex Salmond, doesn’t have children either,” Sturgeon said, “and I’m not aware that he has ever been asked that question in any interview he did.”
Sturgeon found the assumptions that people made about her decision to not have children to be the most shocking aspect of this public discussion. “Assumptions were made about why I didn’t have children, and the assumption was that I had made some very cold and calculated decision in order to pursue a political career,” Sturgeon said, “but [that] shouldn’t have been the assumption.” Sturgeon went on to let people know that enlightening the public to her miscarriage was her way of challenging the stereotypes that women without children are cold-hearted, and of making it clear that no assumptions should be made about a woman’s personal decision to start a family. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a woman deciding not to have children,” Sturgeon added.
During the talk, Sturgeon also expressed her appreciation of the fact that all three of Scotland’s major political parties are led by women and her hopes that this will not make people complacent when it comes to seeking equality. “Let’s celebrate that we have so many women in senior positions,” said Sturgeon, but “we mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that it means that we have every problem around gender equality solved.” She mentions feeling a responsibility to use her influence to address the problems that women still face, saying, “It’s not enough just to be a woman in a leadership position; it’s important that you do the right things with it.”
Additionally, Sturgeon shared the most important advice that she can give to young girls about pursuing their passions. “Don’t think that because inwardly you might be terrified about doing something or you might lack confidence that you shouldn’t [follow your dream].” She encourages women to overcome that feeling and “be true to yourself.”
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