Speaking up for women’s rights in the workplace

By RCM steward in the Grampian Branch Susan Dewar on 06 December 2023 RCM UK Research Safety Women Staffing Levels

RCM steward in the Grampian Branch Susan Dewar shares her experience of speaking at the Scotland TUC (STUC) Women’s Conference on the importance of hydration in health, safety and wellbeing for the female workforce.

I have had an interest in employment rights for a long time and I am especially interested in women’s rights and supporting women in the workplace. This conference seemed ideal for me to attend and I was not wrong.

The STUC Women’s Conference is where women from trade unions across the nation come together to discuss a wide range of topics that affect women in the workplace. The motions that are carried are then actioned over the following year. The list of actions from the previous conference were fantastic and this year was the same, but even more exciting that I was going to put forward a motion. Each motion is a gradual positive step in change for making workplaces better for women.

My motion was to be presented on the second day of the conference. In theory I had the first day to take in the wide and varied topics being put forward for discussion. In reality I was thinking wow! Everyone was presenting their motions so well. I had quite the example to follow.

We were presenting our motions on apprenticeships and hydration. Cher Dougan, an RCM Board member, spoke to the importance of apprenticeships for supporting MCAs and others to find different and more accessible routes into the profession. I was to speak on hydration.

In the evening, instead of going out for dinner with the team, I stayed in my hotel room going over my motion to make sure I covered all the important points and that my presenting would meet the expectation.

After a few run-throughs and some more research I managed to get out of the hotel and onto spending some time with women from all walks of life. Each of us had a common goal to ensure all women in the workplace were treated fairly and equally while also raising awareness of issues that relate specifically to women.

The second day came and my motions was going to be put forward. As I got up to present I felt fine although out of nowhere the shakes came and the dry throat, which was fitting for my getting across how important it is for staff to stay hydrated on shift. I placed my hand on the lectern and all I could see in my line of vision were the microphones.  

And I did it! No major faux pas and I may have got a chuckle at one point. Motion carried and I could relax. Shakes aside it was a fantastic experience all round. I gained so much insight into what affects women in all areas of work to even just getting the opportunity to learn from the experiences of my RCM colleagues.

Although I was nervous, my reasons for doing it got me through and that was to speak up and advocate for my women colleagues around me. I would highly recommend anyone who gets an opportunity to go.