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Manchester High School for Girls


Tuesday 2nd February 2016 will see Manchester High School for Girls host its first ever Founders' Day Lecture. The event will start at 7pm in the School's Zochonis Lecture Theatre.

Co-founder of the Women's Equality Party, renowned journalist and Prince Charles biographer, Catherine Mayer will return to her alma mater to give a straight talking insight into the British political system, discuss her years in the media and that controversial biography.

The Founders' Lecture intends to bring distinguished speakers to Manchester High to engage in topical detbates and broaden our perspectives. It is open to all pupils and their families, other local schools, colleges and universities, as well as friends of the School.

In a recent interview with our High Flyer magazine, this is what Catherine had to say...

Was there a particular catalyst for starting the Women’s Equality Party?

I proposed the party on impulse. On 2nd March this year at the Women of the World (WOW) festival, three female MPs set out their parties’ pledges on gender equality. These were impressive women and their pledges hit the right notes, but during the Q&A one audience member after another expressed scepticism. People doubted the will of the parties to promote women within their own ranks much less to focus on making wider progress on gender. Quite a few people said they might not even bother to vote in the forthcoming elections. The levels of disaffection were calamitous. So next thing I knew, I was clutching the microphone and suggesting founding a women’s equality party.

What impact do you hope to have on the British political scene?

We’re not exactly short on ambition. We want nothing less than to deliver gender equality, both by winning seats and by encouraging other parties either to work with us or nick our policies. And we’re already having an impact, by changing the debate and pushing key issues higher up the agenda. We’re not the only ones to see this influence. Many national newspapers attributed Downing Street’s recent move on pay transparency to the rising support for the Women’s Equality Party, which now has 65 branches, including, of course, one in Manchester, and 45,000 members and supporters across the UK.

How do you think your policies will influence the lives of Manchester High’s current students in the future?

Here’s the thing: these bright, shining MHSG girls are full of promise and they are privileged compared to many in their age group. Whatever happens, many of them will be successful. Yet without far-reaching political change, theirs will be triumphs against the odds. Women are horribly under-represented in many professions and spheres of influence; women earn less on average than men and are more likely to live in poverty. We aim to ensure all girls and women enjoy equal opportunities to thrive.

What can people expect to hear from your talks with us in Manchester and London in February?

Insights into the political system, certainly. I covered politics for 30 years but even so I have been frankly amazed by some of the things I have found out since doing politics for real. But I’ll be happy to talk about pretty much anything to do with the Women’s Equality Party or indeed more generally about politics, my years in the media or my books. I envisage the events as interactive and relaxed. I may have gone into politics, but I’m not worried about staying “on message”.

As you know, a number of our students attended the northern premiere of Suffragette. During the Q&A session afterwards the idea about feminism being a ‘dirty’ word was a recurring theme. What do you think it means to be a feminist today?

I love the f-word and use it often and with pride. As a feminist I believe in ensuring women enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men for the benefit of everyone. A really fundamental misunderstanding of feminism is to see it as anti-men. Many studies show that increasing female participation in the labour force is one of the surest ways to create growth. Companies with women on their executive boards do better than companies without. Diversity of views makes for better decision-making and, in politics, better policy-making. I’m happy to say that lots of men get this and are joining WE—our lovely, inclusive acronym for the Women’s Equality Party—in substantial numbers.

How has your career in journalism assisted your work with WE?

However much you know about journalism, nothing quite prepares you for being on the receiving end of it, but I’d already been through that experience several times before founding WE, most recently when my Prince Charles biography came out and I found myself at the centre of a media frenzy. It’s really helpful to be able to analyse what is going on in terms of the likely angles editors will chase and the sorts of agendas different news organisations will bring to bear.

If you had to describe WE in three words, what would they be?

  "Better For Everyone” or “Me&my Big Mouth".

The Founders' Lecture with Catherine Mayer is free to attend. Donations to the School's Pankhurst Bursary Appeal would be gratefully received.

To reserve your place, please contact Beverley Rubin: 0161 224 0447 or