Sandi Toksvig: A political party for women’s equality I am so excited to be here. Everything in America is so much bigger than in Europe. Look at me – I am huge! It’s fantastic! And TED Talks... TED Talks are where everybody has great ideas. So the question is, where do those great ideas come from? Well, it’s a little bit of debate, but it’s generally reckoned that the average person – that’s me – has about 50,...
プレゼンに登場した世界経済フォーラムの「The Global Gender Gap Report 2016」は、経済、教育、政治、保健の4つの分野のデータに基づいた「男女格差指数」を発表しています。
I am so excited to be here. Everything in America is so much bigger than in Europe. Look at me – I am huge! It’s fantastic! And TED Talks... TED Talks are where everybody has great ideas. So the question is, where do those great ideas come from? Well, it’s a little bit of debate, but it’s generally reckoned that the average person – that’s me – has about 50,000 thoughts a day. Which is a lot, until you realize that 95 percent of them are the same ones you had the day before. And a lot of mine are really boring. I think things like, “Oh, I know, I must clean the floor. Oh, I forgot to walk the dog.” My most popular: “Don’t eat that cookie.” So 95 percent repetition. That leaves us with just a five percent window of opportunity each day to actually think something new.
And some of my new thoughts are useless. The other day, I was watching some sport on television, and I was trying to decide why I just don’t engage with it. Some of it I find curious. This is odd. Do you think it would be worth being that flexible just to be able to see your heel at that angle? And here’s the thing. Here’s the thing. I’m never going to be able to relate to that, because I’m never going to be able to do it. Well, not twice, anyway. But I’ll tell you the truth. The truth is, I have never been any good at sport. I’ve reached that wonderful age now where all my friends say, “Oh, I wish I was as fit as I was when I was 18.” And I always feel rather smug then. I’m exactly as fit as I was when I... I couldn’t run then. I’m certainly not going to do it now. So then I had my new idea: Why not engage people like me in sport? I think what the world needs now is the Olympics for people with zero athletic ability. Oh, it would be so much more fun. We’d have three basic rules. Obviously no drugs, no corruption, no skills. It would be... No, it’s a terrible idea. And I also know why I don’t engage with sport when I watch it on television. It’s because probably 97 percent of it is about men running and men kicking things, men trying to look neatly packaged in Lycra. There is... Not always successfully. There is so little female sport on television that a young woman watching might be forgiven for thinking – and how can I put this nicely? – that the male member is the very lever you need to get yourself off the couch and onto a sports ground. The inequalities in sport are breathtaking.
So this is what happens to me: I have a brand-new idea, and immediately I come back to an old one. The fact is, there is not now, nor has there ever been in the whole of history, a single country in the world where women have equality with men. Not one. 196 countries, it hasn’t happened in the whole of evolution. So here is a picture of evolution. We women are not even in it! It’s a wonder men have been able to evolve quite so brilliantly. It bugs me, and I know I should do something about it. But I’m busy. I have a full-on career, I’ve got three kids, I’ve got an elderly mom. In fact, if I’m honest with you, one of the reasons I came out here is because TED Talks said I could have 15 minutes to myself, and I never have that much time.
So I’m busy. And anyway, I already had a go at changing the world. Here’s the thing. Everybody has inside themselves what I call an “activation button.” It’s the button that gets pressed when you think, “I must do something about this.” Now, it gets pressed for all sorts of reasons. Maybe you face some kind of inequality, or you’ve come across an injustice of some kind, sometimes an illness strikes, or you’re born in some way disadvantaged, or perhaps underprivileged. So I was born gay. I’ve always known. I don’t think my family were the least bit surprised. Here is a picture of me aged four. I look cute, but inside I genuinely believed that I looked like Clint Eastwood.
So my activation button was pressed when I had my kids – three wonderful kids, born to my then partner. Now, here’s the thing. I work on television in Britain. By the time they were born, I was already hosting my own shows and working in the public eye. I love what I do, but I love my kids more. And I didn’t want them to grow up with a secret. 1994, when my son, my youngest was born, there was not, as far as I was aware, a single out gay woman in British public life. I don’t think secrets are a good thing. I think they are a cancer of the soul. So I decided to come out. Everybody warned me that I would never work again, but I decided it was absolutely worth the risk. Well, it was hell. In Britain, we have a particularly vicious section of the right-wing press, and they went nuts. And their hatred stirred up the less stable elements of society, and we got death threats – enough death threats that I had to take the kids into hiding and we had to have police protection. And I promise you there were many moments in the still of the night when I was terrified by what I had done.
Eventually, the dust settled. Against all expectation, I carried on working. And my kids were, and continue to be, absolutely fantastic. I remember, when my son was six, he had a friend over to play, and they were in the next room. I could hear them chatting. And the friend said to my son, “What’s it like having two mums?” I was a little anxious to hear, so I leant in to hear, and my son said, “It’s fantastic, because if one of them is sick, you’ve still got another one to cook for you.”
So my activation button for gay equality was pressed, and along with many, many others, I campaigned for years for gay rights, and in particular, the right to marry the person that I love. And in the end, we succeeded. And in 2014, on the day that the law was changed, I married my wife, who I love very much indeed. We didn’t do it in a quiet way. We did it on the stage at the Royal Festival Hall in London. It was a great event. The hall seats two and a half thousand people. And what we did was we invited 150 family and friends. Then I let it be known to the public: anybody who wanted to come and celebrate, please come and join us. It was going to be free to anybody who wanted to come. Two and a half thousand people turned up. Every kind of person you can imagine: gays, straights, rabbis, nuns, married people, black, white – the whole of humanity was there. And I remember standing on that stage thinking, “How fantastic. Job done. Love triumphs. Law changed.” And I genuinely thought my activation days were over.
So every year, in that same hall, I host a fantastic concert to celebrate International Women’s Day. And we gather the world’s only all-female orchestra. We play fantastic music by forgotten or overlooked women composers. We have amazing conductors. It’s Marin Alsop there from Baltimore conducting, Petula Clark singing. And I give a lecture on women’s history. I love to gather inspirational stories from the past and pass them on. Too often, I think, history is what I call the Mount Rushmore model. It looks majestic, but the women have been entirely left out of it. And I was giving a talk in 2015 about the suffragettes. I’m sure you know those magnificent women who fought so hard for the right for women in Britain to vote. And their slogan was, “Deeds, not words.” And, boy, they succeeded, because women did indeed get the vote in 1928. So I’m giving this talk about this, and as I’m talking, what I realized is, this was not a history lecture I was giving. This was not something where the job was done. This was something where there was so much left to do.
Nowhere in the world, for example, do women have equal representation in positions of power. Let’s take a very quick look at the top 100 companies in the London Stock Exchange in 2016. Top 100 companies: How many women running them? Seven. OK, there are seven, that’s all right, I suppose, until you realize that 17 are run by men called John. There are more men called John running FTSE 100 companies than there are women. There are 14 run by men called Dave. Now, I’m sure Dave and John are doing a bang-up job.
Why does it matter? Well, it’s that pesky business of the gender pay gap. Nowhere in the world do women earn the same as men. And that is never going to change unless we have more women at the top in the boardroom. We have plenty of laws. The Equal Pay Act in Britain was passed in 1975. Nevertheless, there are still many, many women who, from early November until the end of the year, by comparison to their male colleagues, are effectively working for free. In fact, the World Economic Forum estimates that women will finally get equal pay in 2133! Yay! That’s a terrible figure. And here’s the thing. The day before I came out to give my talk, the World Economic Forum revised it. So that’s good, right? Because that’s a terrible... 2133. Do you know what they revised it to? 2186. Yeah, another 53 years. We are not going to get equal pay in my grandchildren’s grandchildren’s lives under the current system.
And I have waited long enough. I’ve waited long enough in my own business. In 2016, I became the very first woman on British television to host a prime-time panel show. Isn’t that great? It’s wonderful. I’m thrilled. But 2016! The first! Television’s been around for 80 years! So it may be television’s not so important, but it’s kind of symptomatic, isn’t it? 2016, the UN were looking for a brand-new ambassador to represent women’s empowerment and gender equality, and who did they choose? Wonder Woman. Yes, they chose a cartoon. Because no woman was up to the job.
The representation of women in positions of power is shockingly low. It’s true in Congress, and it’s certainly true in the British Parliament. In 2015, the number of men elected to the Parliament that year was greater than the total number of women who have ever been members of Parliament. And why does it matter? Well, here’s the thing. If they’re not at the table – literally, in Britain, at that table helping to make the laws – do not be surprised if the female perspective is overlooked.
Now, it’s a great role model for young people to see a woman in charge. In 2016, Britain got its second female prime minister; Theresa May came to power. The day she came to power, she was challenged: just do one thing, do one thing in the first 100 days that you’re in office to try and improve lives for women in Britain. And what did she do? Nothing. Nothing. Because she’s much too busy cleaning up the mess the boys made. Even having a female leader, they always find something better to do than to sort out the pesky issue of inequality.
So I keep talking about equality like it matters. Does it? Well, let’s take a very quick look at the STEM industries. So science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – pretty much important in every single aspect of our daily lives. There is the thickest and most incredibly well-documented glass ceiling in the STEM industries. What if the cure for cancer or the answer to global warming lies in the head of a young female scientist who fails to progress?
So I thought all these things, and I knew I had to do deeds, not words. And I spoke to my wonderful friend, brilliant journalist Catherine Mayer in Britain, and we rather foolishly – and I suspect there was wine involved – we decided to found a brand-new political party. Because here’s the critical thing. The one place women and men are absolutely equal is at the ballot box. We had no idea what we were doing. We didn’t know how complicated it was to start a political party. I thought, “It cannot be that difficult. Men have been doing it for years.”
So we started by calling it the Women’s Equality Party. And straightaway, people said to me, “Why did you call it that?” I said, “I don’t know, I just thought we’d be clear.” I didn’t want what we were doing to be a secret. And then some people said, “You can’t call it that. It’s much too feminist.” Ooh, scary word! Ahh! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard somebody say, “I’m not a feminist, but...” And I always think if there’s a “but” in the sentence, it can’t all be roses in the garden. And then I started getting asked the hilarious question, “Are you all going to burn your bras?” Yes, because bras are famously made of flammable material. That’s why all women spark when they walk.
Here’s a quick history sidebar for you: no woman ever burnt her bra in the ’60s. It’s a story made up by a journalist. Thank goodness that journalism has improved since then.
I announced what we were going to do in a broadcast interview, and straightaway, the e-mails started coming – first, hundreds, then thousands and thousands, from every age group, from the very young to women in their 90s, to hundreds of wonderful men. People wrote and said, “Please, can I help? Please, can I visit you at party headquarters?” We didn’t have a headquarters. We didn’t have a party. We didn’t have anything. All we had was a wonderful, tight group of fabulous friends trying to answer e-mails pretty much 24-7 in our pajamas. We were all busy. Many of us had careers, many of us had children, but we did what women do, and we shared the work.
And almost instantly, we agreed on certain fundamental things. First thing: we wanted to be the only political party in the world whose main aim was to no longer need to exist. That’s a fantastic idea. We wanted to be the only political party with no particular political leaning. We wanted people from the left, from the right, from the middle, every age group. Because the whole point was to work with a simple agenda: let’s get equality in every aspect of our lives, and when we’re finished, let’s go home and get the other chores done.
And we wanted to change how politics is conducted. I don’t know if you have this, but in Britain, we have two major political parties. They’re the dinosaurs of politics. And how they speak to each other is shameful and poisonous. I’m sure you’ve never had that kind of name-calling and lying here. Wouldn’t it be great if just one politician said, “Do you know, my opponent has a point. Let’s see if we can’t work together and get the job done.”
And let’s get more women into politics. Let’s immediately get more women into politics by being the only political party to offer free childcare to our candidates, so they can get out of the house and start campaigning.
Within 10 months, we had more than 70 branches of our party across the UK. We stood candidates for election in London, Scotland, and Wales in May 2016. One in 20 people voted for our candidate for London mayor. And when the men in the race saw how many votes we were attracting, wonder of wonders, they began to talk about the need to tackle gender equality.
You know, I’ve been promised change since I was a child. It was always coming. Women were going to stand shoulder to shoulder with men. And all I got was empty promises and disappointment – enough disappointment to found a political party. But here is my new idea for today. This is my five percent. And this one is really good. The fact is, this is not enough. It is not enough to found one political party for equality in a single country. What we need is a seismic change in the global political landscape. And the wonderful thing about the model that we have created is that it would work anywhere. It would work in America, it would work in Australia, it would work in India. It’s like we’ve made the perfect recipe – anybody can cook it, and it’s good for everybody. And we want to give it away. If you want to know what we did, we’re giving it away. Can you imagine if we could mobilize millions of women across the world to say, “That’s enough,” to the traditional battles of politics? To say, “Stop the bickering. Let’s get the work done.” We could literally change the world. And I want that. I want that for our daughters, and I want it for our sons. Because the fact is, equality is better for everyone.
Come on, people, let’s activate! Let’s change the world! I know we can do it, and it wants doing!