On Friday 8th March I hosted International Women’s Day at the Tasting Room Restaurant and I was delighted (relieved!) to see that we had sold out. There was the fear of being ‘Norma No Mate’s’ on the day. Delicious food from our Michelin starred chef, Chris Bailey, as usual. If you haven’t been for lunch yet, served Wednesdays to Sundays, or to our tasting menu on Fridays and Saturdays, you’re missing out!
The theme this year is Balance for Better and whilst that’s a great message it probably applies to both men and women in our increasingly hectic worlds. I talked to Faye, my 23-year-old daughter, and we discussed how different life is now from when I was younger and I reflected on what has changed. It was different then and nothing has brought that home to me more vividly than watching Prime Suspect, which Mark and I have been ploughing through, never having seen it. The first series was filmed in 1990 – no computers, no phones, smoking in the offices and blatant sexism at every turn whether it be in the ‘banter’ or in just who the best jobs and promotions went to. It’s taken me right back to that time when I was a young solicitor and what strikes me most is the anger I feel now – where was it then? Yes, I was angry when the ‘boys’ all went to out to lunch on Fridays to a ‘men only’ restaurant and yes, I was appalled when one of the very few women partners said to me ‘I never saw my children so I don’t see why you should expect to see yours’ but why did I not recognise the everyday ‘chat’ for what it was?
So yes, things have now changed and for the better in the workplace. However, there is much more to be done and this is where I think it is important to look closer to home, to ourselves and the differences we can make in our everyday lives. Regular readers will know that I still battle with the media over their portrayal of Rathfinny as set up by ‘Mark Driver, ex-hedge fund manager, starts vineyard’, never set up by ‘Sarah Driver, ex-City lawyer …’ In doing so, I am mindful of Mary Beard’s advice not to apologise for this, not to engage with the narrative of sounding shrill. Indeed, on Twitter recently when Stephen King posted the following
‘My wife is rightly pissed by headlines like this “Stephen King and his wife donate $1.25 M to New England Historic Genealogical Society’. The gift was her original idea, and she has a name: TABITHA KING.”
I replied in support with my story and Anne Krebiehl MW said
‘yes, women are often ‘shrill’ ‘bossy’ ‘feisty’ when men are merely assertive – words are so important’.
The funny thing is that Mark is still trying to recover from a recent review in the Week which said that Rathfinny was ‘the brainchild’ of Sarah Driver and her husband, which had him in a funk and the kids cheering. (For the record, it wasn’t my idea – what sensible woman would consider investing huge amounts with no return for years and years by starting up a vineyard?!)
There are other things we can do as women who after all have an influence on our husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, male friends and colleagues. Call it out – say when something’s not right, say it calmly and don’t be afraid of the debate. (I now sound like network travel – ‘see it, say it, sort it!’) At work, Jamie our COO, is expecting a new baby in the family. I have encouraged him to take the time off, to care for his children and, in the past when Iona has been ill, I’ve reminded him it’s easier for him to work at home than his wife who is a doctor. Support and guide men in their roles as parents and homemakers where you can.
This is where I differ from the more hardened feminists like Laurie Penny from the New Statesman, who I saw speak on a panel with Mary Beard and Miriam González Durántez. Men are not all awful. We need to take them with us on our journey as women, as allies in our quest for equality, not as enemies. I certainly see it in my sons and their friends, they are equal advocates for women’s place in society alongside them and that makes me hopeful.