On 12 December 2019, Forbes published a list of the most powerful women in the world. It’s a fascinating document, detailing women leading countries, companies and culture change, starting with Angela Merkel and ending with Greta Thunberg, the teenager who has done so much to galvanise the global conversation around environmental catastrophe.
On the same day, the UK held a general election, which resulted in the highest number of female MPs ever, occupying roughly a third of the House of Commons. Meanwhile the number of women running major cultural institutions in the UK keeps rising, and even the Financial Times, that bastion of the suited commute, has a female editor for the first time in over a century of existence.
As the new decade dawned, beneath the sound of celebratory fireworks something else could be heard: the shatter and shard of so many glass ceilings being trampled underfoot.
And yet. In the introduction to her 2018 book Can We All Be Feminists?, June Eric-Udorie asks another pertinent question: where does all this female power leave poor women, disabled women, Black women, Muslim women, trans women? Where does it leave society as a whole?
Earlier in 2019, another document was published: a UN report on extreme poverty and human rights in the UK, following years of austerity. It noted that: “Women, racial and ethnic minorities, children, single parents, persons with disabilities and members of other historically marginalized groups face disproportionately higher risks of poverty.” This despite more women in power than ever, including the country’s second female prime minister.
Given that the social sector does so much to challenge and mitigate that poverty, it’s an opportune time for Clore Social to look at leadership development in the women and girls sector specifically, to think about the qualities and possibilities of leadership by women, and reimagine leadership from a feminist perspective.
In October 2018, two new targeted leadership development programmes took place, one for emerging leaders (with three to six years of experience in the women and girls sector) and one for senior leaders (with more than six years’ experience); and a second programme for emerging leaders began in February 2020.
Over the next few months I’m going to write a series of reports on different aspects of these programmes, talking to some of the participants and thinking further about the shifting cultural contexts. This first article focuses on a particular collective from the 2018/2019 cohort of emerging leaders, who began collaborating as the Intersectional Feminist Leadership group.