On Thursday, a controversial debate hosted by Manchester Debating Union examined whether women are actually empowered by breaking the system, not succeeding in it.
The proceedings began with the proposition’s first speaker BBC’s Jo Fidgen. Fidgen opened the debate by arguing that only exceptional women can succeed in the system and that it’s the average woman that faces the big barriers. Fidgen brought up the fact that women are both less likely to ask for a pay rise and achieve it as an example of this.
This was supported by Katie Grant, news columnist and reporter for The Independent, who highlighted the tiny proportion of women who actually are in positions of power in comparison to men. Both women insisted the system needed to be broken to gain real change.
Former Conservative MP Edwina Currie, and Dr. Francesca Gains, Head of Politics at the University of Manchester, formed a fierce opposition. Gains used the example of the sex discrimination act in 1975 to argue that women need to gain positions of power to have the ability to challenge the system and that this cannot be achieved from the outside.
After declaring she was not a feminist, Currie added to this by placing heavy emphasis on not using the oppression of women as an excuse for failure. Currie also highlighted several times the need for women to compete with men and succeed as individuals within the system.
A question and answer session followed, highlighting issues such as women in the workplace and whether stating that there are barriers to women might, in fact, subconsciously influence women not to take chances to succeed. Summary speeches followed where each side concisely summarised their main arguments.
The verdict yielded a sweeping victory of 67 per cent for the proposition, with the opposition trailing at 25 per cent and 7 per cent abstaining. Interestingly this verdict is extremely different to the vote taken before the debate began, which showed 45 per cent abstaining, 16 per cent opposing and 39 per cent agreeing with the proposition.
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