Argh – I forgot to post this. So AGES ago (as in Autumn 2015) I was on Woman’s Hour talking about the impact of the Autumn Statement on women on behalf of the Women’s Budget Group. Have a listen here!
In February I took part in a 2.5 day innovation process to help Oxfam come up with some great ideas for how to solve women’s poverty. It was amazing, exhausting and emotional. You can see me in my various states of dress in this video below.
Sorry, this is about 7 months late! In the absence of the fabulous Kirsty Styles, I took over the Weekly Economics podcast to talk to economics guru and my buddy Sarah Lyall about why working a shorter working week would be good for the economy. This weekly podcast about economics is a must listen, so tune in here.
Kirsty and James are away for the bank holiday, but the show must go on. Guest host Polly Trenow is joined by Sarah Lyall, NEF social policy researcher, to talk about how shorter, more flexible hours of work could be transformative for our economy and society.
Delighted to be interviewed by Fiona for Womanthology – a completely wicked stealth-feminist blog. My interview came in a series around economics during World Economic Forum at Davos 2016.
Full interview available here or read it below:
Polly Trenow is a campaigner on gender, economics and education who has worked in women’s rights and gender equality since 2005. She is a freelance campaigner on gender equality working with schools, local government and charities and she currently holds several different roles, including sitting on the Management Committee of the Women’s Budget Group and working as Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer at the Fawcett Society. Last November, Polly became the 2016 Esmée Fairbairn Gender Equality Fellow on the Clore Social Leadership Programme.
“…We’ve…got to change the cultural pressures on men, for whom it’s often still seen as unacceptable to take time off to care. Gender stereotyping works both ways so men are disadvantaged too, and that’s something else that we need to challenge…”
Getting interested in working at the interface between gender and economics and saving the world
I think it was my degree. I studied Social Anthropology and as part of that I did a module on Gender and Trade. That was looking at how societies organise their economies, and what importance they place, if any, about what gender you are when you’re trading. I didn’t realise at the time how interesting I thought it was, but then when I left university I decided: “I want to save the world!” It seemed obvious that I should try and improve women’s equality, so that’s what I went for.
I started off volunteering in the women’s sector, working for a variety of different international development charities and UK charities. I became a trustee of a Zimbabwe women’s organisation (and I hadn’t even been to Zimbabwe!). I felt really at home and I loved what I was doing, and the people I was working with.
I then get my first job working in the Women’s National Commission, which was a quango – a quasi non-governmental equality organisation – and that was fascinating because we were based within the Civil Service, but we were theoretically independent. I got my first understanding of the challenges of talking to people in positions of power and how to manage what you’re saying to them.
No compromising: Making change from the outside shouting in
I had this great boss when I was doing one of my internships – a proper old-school feminist, who said to me: “Polly. There are two ways to make change. You’re either on the inside, or you’re on the outside shouting in. If you’re on the outside shouting in you don’t really have to compromise what you say, but if you’re on the inside you do.” So I thought, “I don’t want to compromise what I say! So rather than doing something like being in the Civil Service or being a Government adviser, I’m going to stick to charities and campaigning.”
So I worked for a variety of different women’s organisations. Lots of them were membership or network based where I got a real appreciation of the power in numbers, and also the importance of engaging members who have so much to give, but who maybe need some guidance to know how they can help or what they can do.
Ultimately the women’s sector is quite small, quite underfunded, and after about five or six years I was quite exhausted from low paid jobs and I didn’t really know where I was going, so I took a career break, which I though was just going to be a year, but it ended up being three years. I did something completely different with my life. I went to America and sang in a band!
I eventually thought I’d had enough of a break. I really missed the women’s sector and I felt I needed to do something a bit differently. I wasn’t that healthy or happy in the women’s sector before, so I decided to develop a freelance career, and I was lucky enough to get a part time job as a Policy Officer at Maternity Action and then at The Fawcett Society, which left me over half my week to do my freelance work, which I’ve been doing for about four years now.
The work of the Women’s Budget Group
I’ve been involved in the Women’s Budget Group for ages. I started off as their coordinator way back in 2008, and then whilst I was in America I was on the policy advisory group because it was a writing and research role, so I was able to do it long-distance. When I got back to the UK I joined the Management Committee, and I’ve been on it ever since.
The Women’s Budget Group is about analysing economic policy and saying: “What impact is this going to have on men and women, and how equal they are?” We have lots of academics who are there to crunch the numbers and to get into the nitty gritty. I’m not an academic, I’m an activist, but I suppose I see my role in the Women’s Budget Group as trying to communicate all of this vital, interesting academic work in a way that is going to engage the public.
At the moment I’m running a series of workshops across the country – so in Bristol in the South West, in East Anglia, in Manchester and in Glasgow. We’re bringing together feminists, because in the last few years we’ve seen a real resurgence in feminism, with lots of new feminist groups starting up and it’s really exciting, but a lot of those people are campaigning on things like sexual harassment or page three, and not really entering the economic sphere.
Here I am talking about what a good London would like for women… More info on Good London here.
On International Women’s Day – this is what I am going to be doing…. in the words of NEON, and not me.
What happens when a super-shero journalist gets on a sofa with a feminist economics guru surrounded by kick-ass activists from all corners of civil society?
…NEON’s March Social is what happens!
That’s right, in honour of International Women’s day journo Dawn Foster will be chatting to the brilliant Polly Trenow of the woman’s budget group all about her new book, Lean Out, and why (contrary to Facebook Chief Cheryl Sandberg’s famous business advice) it’s time to hold neoliberalism and patriarchy to account for the ever widening inequality that hurts women most.
NEON Women of the World: Lean Out!
March London NEON social
With Dawn Foster (Guardian), Polly Trenow (Women’s budget group) and special guest tbc.
Tuesday 8th March 2016 from 6pm
But that ain’t all. Joining Dawn and Polly on the sofa will be another (currently hush-hush) special guest to give us the down-low on the biggest intersectional feminist struggles happening right now and what NEONites can do to plug in.
NEON London socials happen on the second thursday of the month are an opportunity to meet other brilliant folks campaigning for social and environmental justice. Come along, get involved in the conversations, and have a drink or two if you fancy (bring your own – alcoholic or not). Don’t worry if you’ve never been to a NEON social before – there’ll be lots of friendly people waiting to welcome you. We’re also happy to meet-up beforehand if you fancy a chat – just get in touch. Our venue is fully accessible.
Hope to see you there!
Jannat, Jessie and the rest of the NEON team
As someone who is dedicated to feminist economics I understand that this is (wrongly) considered by most to be quite a niche subject and will rarely warrant discussion on national radio programmes. So you can imagine my delight when I was asked to appear on BBC Radio 4’s the Today Programme to discuss this very issue.
It was all thanks to Yvette Cooper who in her leadership speech in Manchester had said we must organise the family in a feminist manner, so Today thought they would get some of us on to discuss it. You can listen here until it expires – I’m endeavouring to permalink. I’m on in the last 10 minutes of the programme.
I was delighted to be asked to come and discuss feminist economics at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in York. I did two sessions – the first was a general talk about the ways in which gender interacts with the economy, you can see that session captured in the video below. The second was a session for the policy staff who asked a lot of tough questions! We looked more specifically at some of the measures the Women’s Budget Group advocate for in order to create a more equal society.
Great to be up in York with you all!
I was excited to go to King Alfred school and discuss pornography and sexting. I held an assembly on the issue, which was a bit tricky, but the students were very receptive and we ended up having a good chat.
We examined what porn is, why we might watch it and how we can compare sex in pornography to sex in real life. I tried to make it as unjudgemental as possible – I don’t think you can engage young people in issues like this by telling them something is wrong. We did examine some stories of ex adult movie actors who talked about their struggles and we also talked about orgasms in pornography and how real they were.
The issue of sexting is more black and white – there are many laws that prohibit the sending of sexual images to other people. Releasing pictures of yourself naked can be a minefield and very few young people (or adults!) are prepared for the consequences if these pictures make there way on to the internet which they very often do.
All in all, a fascinating morning!