Women from the north of England will don hard hats, hi-vis jackets and men’s suits to picket delegates at the male-dominated northern powerhouse conference next week in a protest about female under-representation.
The conference in Manchester has caused controversy after all 15 main speakers highlighted in a press release were men. Only 13 out of the 98 speakers over the two days are women.
The “Lass War” protest has been organised by the standup comedian and poet Kate Fox, who has made a comedy series for Radio 4 and been poet in residence for the Great North Run. Protesters have been encouraged to dress up and recreate classic “northern powerhouse” photographs: men in suits and ties signing things and looking proud, as well as men on construction sites pointing at things and looking important.
In November 2014, 11 men from Greater Manchester lined up to sign the first devolution agreement with the then chancellor, George Osborne. The photograph prompted widespread criticism, with organisers later explaining that Stockport’s Sue Derbyshire, then the region’s only female leader, was on holiday.
“I think it makes the north look sexist and outdated,” Fox said of the lack of high-profile women. “Exactly the opposite of what is needed when the north needs to be pulled together into a future vision which inspires everybody.
“There’s been a lot of interest in the protest and hopefully several of us can remind the delegates that there are actual women…