100 years of the Representation of People Act – media appearances

100 years ago some women in the UK first got the right to vote. I have been delighted to talk about this subject on a variety of media including BBC East Politics, BBC Radio Suffolk and have three articles appearing across the year in Suffolk Life magazine.  Here I am standing outside Millicent Fawcett’s house in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, very early in the morning!polly @ uplands

Women, Aldeburgh and the Vote – a workshop with the Britten Pears Foundation

What better place to celebrate 100 years since some women first gained the vote than by running a workshop in Aldeburgh, the home of Millicent Fawcett who was instrumental to this hard-won right. Delighted as ever to be running workshops – polly wordcloud women's votesmy favourite kind of work – I teamed up with the Britten Pears Foundation and author and historian Viv Newman to discuss women’s rights past and present.

Viv gave an absolutely fascinating talk about the what the suffragettes and suffragists did in WWI, I was enthralled and immediately preordered her book on the subject.  I then spoke about what has happened to women’s rights since 1918 – lots of good news of course. Things have improved dramatically!  But there is also still some way for us to go before we have true equality. There was a lively discussion afterwards with a focus on what we can do to change the status quo.

Here is a word cloud of phrases that came out during my talk. The largest words are the words mentioned most often.

100 years of women’s votes

fawcett annual conference workshop2018 brings another celebration – 100 years since the Representation of People Act which gave women over 30 the right to vote on equal terms as men.

In November 2017 I ran a workshop at the Fawcett Society annual conference looking at how we could commemorate 100 years since this important event locally. We looked at engaging the unusual suspects, working regionally and heard about some fantastic ideas that are already planned! Fawcett have created some fantastic resources on suffrage have a look at them here.

Celebrating Britain’s first woman doctor – Elizabeth Garrett Anderson


ega-with-text-smallerI was delighted to be on the committee for helping to celebrate this remarkable woman. We held a series of events across the year including:

  • ‘The Garrett family on Aldeburgh Council’ by Richard Marson.
  • ‘Shake the Chains’ concert at Snape Maltings
  • ‘Millicent Garrett-Fawcett; the sexual politics of a suffragist’ by Janet Howarth*.
  • Exhibitions at the The Long shop Museum, Leiston, Aldeburgh Moot Hall Museum
  • ‘The Life of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson’ by Diana Quick
  • ‘Make More Noise’ – An 80 minute BFI compilation of silent films about the contemporary portrayal of suffragettes
  • Promenade play: ‘A Woman of Purpose’

To find out more about Elizabeth Garrettand the events we held in 2017 click here.

I was delighted to appear on a BBC Radio Suffolk documentary about it as well for a Look East Politics Programme.

Does Local Government Work for Women?

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 22.47.17It was fantastic to be involved in the project during my time at Fawcett and I am so pleased to see it published. It is an incredible in depth report looking at women in local government from councillors to staff. It is such an in depth piece of work.

Click here to read the the results of a year-long study led by the Fawcett Society in partnership with the Local Government Information Unit, which asked ‘Does Local Government Work for Women?’ and contains recommendations to help solve the issues faced by women in town halls.


Oxfam Social Innovation Boost

boostIn 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.

Big up to the women from SkillsNet, Marginal Voices and City Gateway Women’s Project. Also look out for my GENIUS idea on a post-it “more bloody money”….


London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Gender Equality Charter Launch

Gender-Equality-585x275-300x141Whoop! Pretty excited about the Gender Equality Charter being launched on 10 March 2016… It’s been a year of consulting and talking, learning, persuading but I think this is pretty cool. Here is the press release from LBBD or you can read more here.

An east London council has made history by becoming the first local authority in the country to adopt a Gender Equality Charter.

The Cabinet at Barking and Dagenham, where the actions of Ford machinists Rose Boland, Eillen Pullen, Vera Sime, Gwen Davis and Sheila Douglass changed labour relations, last night adopted a Gender Equality Charter and called on local partners to support the initiative.

The charter will support everyone in achieving their full potential and have more influence over decisions affecting their lives. It places a strong emphasis on making sure that all genders have the same chance of success.

It has been developed through consultation with the community and focuses on four themes; access to power and representation in public life; economic inequality and impact of caring responsibilities; culture including gender stereotyping; and, violence against women.

It reflects not only the national issues that impact on gender equality but, more importantly, prioritises the issues and challenges identified locally.

Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Councillor Darren Rodwell, said: “I am proud to be the Leader of a council that is delivering ground breaking work on gender equality.

“Our borough has a proud history of promoting gender equality – from the 18th Century writer and philosopher, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the early suffragette movement, to the workers of Fords who helped secure the equal pay legislation we enjoy today.

“The charter will help make sure the council and its partners make a demonstrable difference to tackling gender inequality and support everyone to achieve their full potential regardless of their gender.  I believe this will inspire civic pride and help us to build one borough and one community.”

Councillor Afolasade Bright, the Council’s Equality Champion, added: “The council has a vision to tackle equality issues relating to each of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act, and is starting with gender equality – which affects everyone.

“In particular, tackling the issues faced by women, girls and the transgender community in the 21st Century needs the active support and participation of everyone, especially men and boys.

The Gender Equality Charter will be launched at an event on 10 March in Barking Town Hall, and will be the centrepiece of the council’s second annual, Women’s Empowerment Month.

Beyond homo economicus: Making positive change in the economy by challenging traditional assumptions about gender – my interview with Womanthology.

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.

Family-figuresFull 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.

Polly Trenow

“…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.

MoneyThe 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.

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