Although coming up to 70 Margaret Hodge has no intention of slowing down. Just appointed Professor at King’s college, she has a rich “hinterland”.
I get really cross when people talk about the older women’s agenda, care, pension, dementia. I want to talk about contribution.
Women just bring a different perspective to everything we do. I always say that women Ministers in the Blair-Brown government achieved things that just would never have happened if we hadn’t been there. Maternity rights, maternity pay, introducing the “right to child care” strategy, which has never been let go, even with this lot.
The most important thing to me was the right to request flexible working, which was strongly resisted both by Blair and Brown. They feared the reaction of business. It is not just about child care, you may be carers of elderly people. It was a bunch of us women ministers, with women in Blair’s office. But it wasn’t just me, it was a group, it wasn’t just one person.
A child I wanted to be an actress and a mum. I always think politicians are failed actors, so I ended up when I was ought to be. I achieved that. So I am a mum and I have 11 grandchildren.
The first time I was aware that women were treated differently was in my very first job, when I left university. I was offered a graduate traineeship, at quite a lot of money at the going rate. In the economics department. I thought it would be quite interesting. When I got there, the girls/ the women were only allowed to gather the information never allowed to write the report, that was left to the boys/men. That was when it hit me. So I went and complained to the HR, saying this is outrageous.
I was told this is the way of the world, and if I didn’t like it, I could leave.
So I left. I joined a women’s consciousness movement in Hackney. It was the very early days of feminism. That was in the sixties.
We believed that we could make the world a better place.
When I was selected as a candidate to the Labour party in ’94, I was up against all men. I was the only one asked about child care facilities.
It is still till a very male dominated world and culture.
Politics very much plays to the male, macho identity.
Women are different. I think the way in which we work is really different from men. Cooperative, inclusive. Less about your own ego, more about the the collaboration needed. Women are much better at juggling a whole lot of things, at the same time, which comes comes from juggling home and work. Those are the two things that I would point at as being an advantage.
Everybody should have hinterland. I love music, book club, playing piano. I go to concerts, go to theatre. I love my family. I garden like there’s no tomorrow. I love cooking. This is me in politics. I can’t stand people whose whole life is only politics.
A bad time was when I got a whole load of hassle and allegations around child abuse and the children of Islington, which we never really uncovered. We didn’t listen to the voices of the children. We listened to the voices of professionals, not the voices of children. I think I learnt most from that about how to challenge bureaucracy and listen to children’s voices.
My best moment, I think if I’m absolutely honest, is having my babies. My family, I’m really proud of them. Politically, beating Nick Griffin of the BNP was good.
Doing the google tax was quite fun
“You say you don’t do evil, but you do do evil”
The Pursuit of equality is what drives me.
Racism is key, inequality of opportunity. Getting rid of private schools, here in the U.K. would be a wonderful thing, which we will never achieve. Inequality on gender, compassion and solidarity, class inequality. For me the most important thing Parliament could achieve would be flexible working, to enable child care, or care for the elderly.
Life is not a short sprint, but a long journey
My advice to young women. You have your years of childrearing. You have a long of life ahead of you
in which you can fulfill a lot of potential. Just don’t don’t think you’ve got to do it right away. Having kids is incredibly fulfilling. I just worry a little bit about the younger generation, putting it off, then finding they can’t get pregnant. I tell my own kids, take 5 years out, 10 years out, you’ll work for 50 years.
At this point it is worth referring to Nicola Horlick with 7 children, entrepreneur and business woman, and Helena Morrisy, CEO of Newton Investment with 9 children, who recently commissioned (Cityam April 9) research on the number of women on boards and the factors which hold them back.
All photos by cityeye.