As Vice Chair of the Ayrshire Hospice Board, I’m delighted to have been asked to say a few words on International Women’s Day 2021. 

As some of you may know, I’m originally from Dalmellington, where my Dad was the local Minister and while eventually he did go to university after being a lace weaver in Darvel and serving in WW2, my Mum, like very many women of her generation, didn’t; she was so accomplished in every practical sense, but even as a fully qualified and highly skilled tailor, she was required to stop working when she married. She had different ambitions for me!

Fortunately, since my Mum’s days, there has been a transformation in equality of opportunity in our own and in many other countries. I started studying law in 1974, at which time considerably less than 30% of solicitors were women. When the Law Society of Scotland, my regulatory body, celebrated its 70th birthday in 2019, that representation had grown to around 54%...and counting. Quite an advancement since 1920 (just the year before my Mum was born) when Madge Easton Anderson (after a challenge, of course) became the first female practising solicitor in Scotland - and then in the UK. Notably, Ms Anderson never married and so was able to continue working! 

Sadly, even in these more enlightened times, too many women find it impossible to challenge and manage the workplace nor are they able to achieve a work:life balance, often to the detriment of their career. I was extremely fortunate in having a very supportive family which allowed me to pursue my local government career over a 40 year period until retirement in 2015, when I had been a Chief Officer for 25 years and for the last 10 years was Depute Chief Executive of East Ayrshire Council; I feel truly privileged and very grateful that I was able to fulfil my goals and support my communities in this way.

 

I have also been fortunate that my work and life challenges were minor in comparison to those faced even today by a significant number of women across the world and in a whole range of different and difficult circumstances. So, I believe that we must all continue to #ChooseToChallenge, to raise awareness against bias, to bring about universal gender equality and to celebrate women’s achievements.  

This last year has been arguably the world’s most challenging and equally so for our Hospice and for all of you who have so selflessly continued to dedicate your time and extraordinary expertise and skills at the forefront of palliative care and provide those much needed services to our patients and their loved ones in what have been the toughest of conditions. 

On this important International Women’s Day, and on behalf of the Chair, John Corrigan and my colleague Trustees on the Board, I celebrate your outstanding contribution and thank you for continuing to Make Today Matter for the people of Ayrshire and Arran who are in need of our care. 

 

Let’s all continue to #ChooseToChallenge. 

 

With very best wishes,

Elizabeth