How Anne Lister of BBC TV's Gentleman Jack carries a business message for today - Greg Wright

WHEN faced with stifling conventions or tutting neighbours, Anne Lister simply turned on her heels and marched away.

Shibden Hall, once the home of Anne Lister

If you seek a feminist heroine for the ages, you don’t have to look much further than the pride of Calderdale who was a pioneering mountaineer and entrepreneur in the early 19th century; a period when women’s rights were virtually non-existent.

Apart from being the first woman to ascend Mont Perdu in the Pyrenees, Anne also provided a template for everyone who refuses to be cowed by the pressures to conform.

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From her home in Shibden Hall, she supervised the day to day running of the family estate, developed coal mines and generally proved that a woman can hold her own in business.

She was the first woman elected to Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society and her name has gained wider fame recently because of the popularity of Sally Wainwright’s TV drama Gentleman Jack. It tells the story of Anne’s life and times, which are illuminated by the 27 diaries she left behind.

There are signs Anne’s enterprising spirit is still alive and well in Calderdale, the West Yorkshire district she has helped to make famous. Calderdale has earned a place on a list of the best places for women to work in the UK.

The study from SmartSurvey found that Calderdale was ranked 13th in a list of places where women are likely to prosper in business.

The research from SmartSurvey analysed UK towns and cities with regards to the gender wage gap, median annual earnings and the number of women employed as managers, directors and senior officials.

This is all very encouraging and shows how Yorkshire really can attract the brightest and best female talent. But the survey also provides food for thought.

Five of the top 10 spots for women in business were taken by London boroughs, with the capital having some of the best scoring locations for women in senior roles.

Wandsworth and Westminster came first and second respectively, and apart from Calderdale, only two other places from the North of England - Trafford and Blackpool - feature in the top 15.

There does appear to be a regional imbalance in the prospects for women in business. Too many girls and women of all ages are not achieving their potential. So how do we address this?

To quote a former Prime Minister, it is fundamentally a question of “education, education, education”.

A report from the Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood found that harmful gender stereotypes are significantly limiting children’s potential.

Unlimited Potential - the final report of the Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood sets out how gender expectations significantly limit our children, causing problems such as lower self-esteem in girls and poorer reading skills in boys.

The report finds that stereotypes contribute towards the mental health crisis among children and young people, are at the root of girls’ problems with body image and eating disorders, higher male suicide rates and violence against women and girls.

Sam Smethers, the CEO of the Fawcett Society, who established the commission, said: “Gender stereotyping is everywhere and causes serious, long lasting harm.

“We need to end the ‘princessification’ of girls and the toxification of boys. The commercial sector too often uses gender stereotypes and segregates boys and girls simply to sell more products.

Ms Smethers added: “ But this is not about making everything gender neutral. We also have to make women and girls visible when, because of pre-existing bias, the default male will still be the prevailing assumption. So for example, routinely showing children women leaders or scientists is important.”

So when “Gentleman Jack” appears on our TV screens, she is carrying a message for our times. “Be bold and true to yourself,” she is saying.

On the back of such honesty can be built business success and confidence that lasts a lifetime.

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