What are you most proud of as a woman?
I am proud of being part of a moment of enormous social change in the West, and hope to carry a feminist agenda forward so that future generations enjoy unquestioned equality.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced to date as a woman?
Being taken seriously about ‘feminised’ industries such as fashion, and having serious economic discussions dismissed as frivolity. Having to balance being ‘serious’ and being ‘feminine’, and trying to demonstrate that one does not negate the other.
What female figure has inspired you the most, and why?
My mum – she went to university as a first generation immigrant at a time when less than 1% of the female population went to University and then became a successful entrepreneur. She showed unprecedented ambition, hard work and resilience without sacrificing kindness.
What needs to change for women, worldwide, and why?
Equal education for all women and a holistic integration of pregnancy and childcare provisions (nurseries, breastpumping rooms, pregnant park spacing, equal paternity care, flexible working conditions etc.) into the working world are crucial. These two features are fundamental for normalising egalitarianism and integrating women into society with an independent and equal voice.
How have the generations of women in your family changed, from one generation to the next?
My grandparents on my mothers side fled Egypt during the Suez Canal war of 1954, and ended up in the UK. Despite being a feminist, my Grandmother was brought up with the traditional Middle Eastern mentality that the man should be the sole provider for the home. It was not until they lost all their assets having fled Egypt, that my grandmother began working out of necessity, given that she was the only one who spoke English. She was incredibly ambitious and became the first female supervisor at Air France. And yet when my Grandfather had learnt enough English to bring in a decent income, she gave up work after having her first of three daughters, as my Grandfather felt uncomfortable having a working wife. His traditional upbringing meant that he felt his wife working was a slight on his ability to provide for his family.
As the oldest of three daughters, my mother was the first to be brought up in the UK and was brought up in between two cultures. My mother was ambitious and, strongly encouraged by my Grandmother who wanted her children to have more education than she had, eventually studied at University against my Grandfathers preferences. She now owns her own business which she has run for over 25 years, and is an active member of the Women’s Equality Party, alone side my father.
I feel incredibly privileged to have been brought up without the cultural constraints that my mother had, and with the ambition and confidence to pursue my field of choice. I feel very supported by both my mother and father, both of whom are proud feminists. I am currently undertaking a Masters in History of Art and Visual Culture, after which I will join Nestles Graduate Marketing Scheme. Eventually I hope to own my own business as well.
Hannah Debson is a postgraduate student in Art History at Trinity College.