Since its inception in 2008, First Women has endeavoured to stand for education, representation, freedom and diversity in all its forms.
The focus of this project was pioneering women. Its brief, a simple one: to find and celebrate UK female firsts, from across a divergent range of accomplishments, areas of work, and fields of expertise. I actively sought out a diverse range of women to inspire others through this project, which in turn helped me begin to really understand more about the disparity between the opportunities and routes to success available to women of white privilege, versus women from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities.
It moves me that whenever I look at the collection, I am struck by the lower percentage of women from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities to be found there. Not only has this project revealed to me that gender is a block to pioneering potential – but ethnicity compounds that struggle.
I have seen how inspirational the 100 Firsts are to viewers and visitors. And I also see how this exhibition is a mirror of the challenges women from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities face, even now, in the 21st century when it comes to accessing opportunities.
And of these women I am in awe.
I hope that the questions the 100 Firsts have triggered lead not only to more conversations, but most importantly, concrete actions within the broader art community, and more proactive engagement in emboldening and platforming all women, regardless of ethnicity.
Through 100 First Women Portraits, I wanted to celebrate a range of achievements from a range of women. And whilst I was able to honour a diversity of fields, I am aware of being unable to wholly honour women from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities. I, like many others, am on a learning curve. I want to continue to do everything I can to be anti-racist in my work. I would love to hear from women from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities who have become a UK First, and it is my hope that there will be greater diversity in possible future collections to come. The next 100 Firsts…
The way we are educated on our history is all too often white-washed and male-dominated. I hope that as I move forward with my work, it will be contributing further to changing the way we view our history, and acting in support of all women.