Centenary of women’s suffrage in the UK: Why it is more important than ever for women to have a voice

February 6th 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which meant women over the age of thirty were able to vote in the General Election later that year for the very first time.

To mark the centenary, Walpole asked members of its Women in Luxury network why it is more important than ever for women to have a voice:


100 years since some women were given the vote and there is still much work to do to ensure that women have an equal role in society, as well as business. A plethora of negative headlines have in recent months brought so many current issues to the fore, it is time now for action to make positive change. It has been proven time and again that women as both senior executives and board members drive business success, yet there continues to be a shortage of women in both these areas in many organisations. The importance of women as consumers/purchase influencers has also grown exponentially and businesses can only benefit from women driving development to reflect and cater to this. Walpole aims to support its membership around these important issues and I look forward to the results of the upcoming survey to understand how best we can work together to tackle them.

– Meribeth Parker, Chair of Walpole’s Women in Luxury Network, and Consultant Publisher, News UK

Women have always had a voice, but nobody has listened to it enough. Now there’s a chance to make ourselves heard – but not as Whoa-men, as ourselves, as women. Creative, not always competitive; floral, not always pin-striped; team players, not always star turns; funny, not necessarily peculiar; noisy, but retaining the right to remain silent. We are different but we count. In the time we put in, the work we do, the effort we make. So our voice is not His Master’s, it’s our own and it’s coming through loud and clear.

– Julia Marozzi, Head of Lifestyle Communications, Bentley Motors

Recent events have highlighted that gender equality barriers still exist. Women’s movements are becoming stronger, more global, and more inclusive than ever before – but there is still so much progress to be made

– Patricia Sancho, CEO, Temperley London

Women don’t just need a voice. Women need to know they have the power to make decisions for themselves, their work and their families.

– Sasha Slater, Head of Magazines, The Telegraph

Because we have so much to say that is valuable, insightful, intuitive intelligence that serves in today’s workplace.

– Kate Percival, Founder & CEO, Grace Belgravia

A hundred years on, Parliament is still far from representative of the population. In the last election, over 100 constituencies had all-male candidates, but there was only one where all the candidates were female; while the proportion of female MPs is only 32%. If you have to see it to be it, what sort of a message does this send to young women and girls?

– Lydia Slater, Deputy Editor, Harper’s Bazaar & Town & Country

As Michelle Obama put it “there is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish” and this really defines my approach as a woman in luxury. Increasingly women are the decision makers, the influencers and the customers. Increasingly women are key to defining the luxury industry, and that makes them more important today than ever before.

– Priya Malhotra, Head of Heathrow VIP

Women have entered so many different professions in the past 100 years and the opportunities are now increasingly without boundaries. It is so important to continue this progress into the 21st century and to inspire the women of the future which, having two daughters, I am very conscious of.

– Jo Smith, General Manager PR, DAKS

Women having a voice has always been of extreme importance. Today’s world has given people all over the globe, even in the most isolated of places, a mouthpiece via technology. Women need to utilise these tools to the fullest and subsequently ensure that they have a seat at the discussions that affect our world and continue to serve as influencers within our communities.

– Christiana Savvides, Head of Marketing & Communications, Backes & Strauss

My grandmother was old enough to vote in the 1929 General Election – a year after the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 extended the rights given to women in 1918, finally putting women’s voting rights on an equal footing with men’s. One of my earliest memories is my grandmother impressing on me the importance of women having a vote and a voice: The centenary of the 1918 act reminds me that each generation carries the baton forward for the last – it feels more important than ever to make our voice heard.

– Helen Brocklebank, CEO, Walpole


The Walpole Women in Luxury Network launches this year under the chairmanship of Meribeth Parker, Consultant Publisher at News UK, look out for further information on events and initiatives, and get in touch with celandine.wade@thewalpole.co.uk if you would like to be involved.