In 2020, Plan International UK’s The State of Girl’s Rights study found that Dundee was the worst place to grow up as a girl in Scotland. This is in stark contrast to the Dundee which had a reputation for strong women and girls who were a key part of the industrial workforce for two centuries. Known in the early 20th century as ‘She Town’, women often led the culture and politics of the time.
The city held a pivotal role in the Suffragette movement in Scotland, and women formed the majority of the workforce in Timex and as activists in the 1993 industrial strikes. Dundee also broke traditional stereotypes by giving the world leading female characters: Minnie the Minx, Beryl the Peril, Ivy the Terrible and Jackie Magazine.
However, the scars of the city’s de-industrialisation continue to leave their marks now. Women and girls continue to face worse outcomes in Dundee – this drives a determination to be a fair city by many local organisations, including The Fairness Commission. Their report, A Fair Way To Go, acknowledged that poverty has a greater impact on women: “because of the high cost and limited availability of child care, part time working and low incomes, poverty is having a bigger impact on women, especially single parents. Our responses must take account of this and redress the balance.”
Taking Space is a project led by hidden route theatre company, theatre maker Hayley Blakeman, and young women and girls from across the city, devised in response to Plan International UK’s 2020 study and the difficulties of growing up as a girl in Dundee. Taking Space explores why this might be and dreams that, one day, Dundee is the best place in Scotland to grow up as a girl.
hidden route has had many conversations with young women from across Dundee to explore the challenges of moving through the city as a young woman today, as well as asking what needs to change so that, one day, young women can feel safer in their city. They created an audio verbatim play in collaboration with the young woman, which you can listen to online.
Earlier this year, Creative Dundee commissioned hidden route to conduct a small piece of research that explored barriers for girls considering a career in the creative industries.
As hidden route say in their report, “During the workshops we met some incredible, talented young women that inspired us with their stories and aspirations. Many of their experiences also left us feeling angry and challenged us further about the work that needs to be done.”
As this is a city-wide issue for us all to address, we’re making this report fully open and accessible to read online.
Themes within the report include: School, Location, Finance, Lack of Support, Information and Role Models. Key feedback and findings include:
School: there was a recognition that teachers who understood the creative industries were supportive, however a significant insight which emerged was that the school would only encourage a ‘creative career’ if it was graphic or tech design – and for many young women, it was felt these were subjects still often pushed onto boys.
Interestingly, the question that was repeatedly asked of those wanting to pursue a career in the creative industries, outside of graphic design, seemed to be: “WHAT’S YOUR BACKUP PLAN?”.
“You’re almost seen as a disappointment if you want to go into a creative industry ‘oh, but you’re so smart, why would you want to be an artist?’”
Location: young women struggled to see themselves working and living here as they felt that their dreams were not achievable in Dundee. Options are believed to be limited, but they didn’t want to leave the city as this is where their family and friends are.
“I don’t think I could do that in Dundee.”
Finance: essential life skills such as taxes, budgeting and money management were identified as something they had never been taught at school but wished they had. There was a distinct desire to access this information but many of the women did not know how.
“You can only do that if you have rich parents.”
Lack of support, information and role models: information on creative opportunities is difficult to locate unless you have the initiative, confidence, resources or incentive to seek this out yourself. Creative opportunities are very much dependent on personal social networks as opposed to the information being accessible through one central point/organisation, or being disseminated and shared consistently via school.
“The only thing you’ll be taking pictures of is cereal boxes.”
Next steps identified included: hidden route shared some recommendations for future work around the development of a city-wide programme of signposting, and information sharing; creation of careers ambassadors and networks; further research and more early-career opportunities across the city.
We invite you to read the report in full; we hope it’s of interest to others who work with young women. As part of our commitment to Dundee’s Creative Industries Strategy, we continue to work in partnership with others who are committed to improving outcomes for people locally.
Look out for Taking Space in Dundee City Square, 22-24 October – there will be activities and conversations around girls in public space, the opportunity to dream up and design your own ideal public space, or you can chill out, play and relax in the garden.
hidden route will also be presenting Taking Space Digital at NEoN Digital Arts Festival this November, which will see public artworks shared across the city exploring women’s safety in digital spaces. This project is again created with young women from across Dundee’s communities.
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