You’ve probably heard this statistic, - only 4% of statues are dedicated to women. Do you know how many more statues we’d need to make it equitable? We do. Because we’ve spent the last 12 months finding out.
And we’ve got a suggestion.
12 months ago, SheSaw was a travel company dedicated to telling women’s stories on small group tours. We wanted our itineraries to include all of the places significant to women, so clients left their trip with a good understanding of the country’s ‘herstory’ and we increased the visibility of women along the way. Through our network of female travel bloggers, guides and historians we uncovered some incredible stories of women hidden in landscapes and cities.
But what we didn’t find, were many examples of public recognition of women - statues, museums, monuments and plaques. The things tourists like to take a picture of. The landmarks we use to navigate ourselves around unfamiliar cities. The traditional way some societies show who it thinks is important and represents its greatest achievements.
We weren’t surprised though. As feminists, travellers (pre-Covid) and historians, we knew the statistic that gets circulated, particularly around International Women’s Day. Only 4% of statues globally are dedicated to women. And we decided to do something about it. We decided to put women on the map. A little more about that later.
The statue superheroes.
SheSaw certainly isn’t the first to notice the lack of public recognition for women or try to do something about it. Here are just a few organisations and individuals making sure women get the recognition they deserve:
- Herstorical Monuments is adding statues of women to Google Maps to make existing statues easier to find. She has already mapped hundreds!
- Statues for Equality is running campaigns to encourage communities, businesses and governments to fund new bronze statues of women across the globe. They have already installed a number of new statues and many more are planned.
- Put Her Name On It is campaigning for increased recognition of women in public places, and has already been successful in Victoria, Australia.
- Malia Knox is a 9 year old responsible for the #FemaleFaces4PublicPlaces campaign. It has already succeeded in getting the Queensland government to update its framework to ensure diversity is considered when commissioning new statues, pictures or plaques so that more women are represented.
- In the UK, the Public Statues and Sculptures Association have a database of all statues dedicated to women in the UK and are asking for more submissions.
- There are numerous campaigns fundraising for statues dedicated to various women. Two current fundraising efforts are for Emily Williamson Founder of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Virginia Woolf.
The monumental issue.
There are many others who didn’t reach their funding goals, so the statues remain unseen. But with bronze statues costing between $50,000 to $250,000, this isn’t too surprising. If we were to put up the additional 24,000 statues we need to get gender equity across the globe, that would cost somewhere in the region of $3.6billion (AUD).
We need more public recognition of women because the absence of women memorialised in bronze suggests they haven’t done enough to deserve such expensive honours. The lack of place names and plaques suggests there aren’t many women whose name deserves to live on. And that’s an issue because women have made significant contributions to society in a vast number of ways. We need to see that. Not just to appreciate their efforts, but to be inspired to go forward and make similar contributions themselves.
Visibility is one of the most powerful ways to empower people – when you see it you can be it.
SheSaw a solution.
Like all of the incredible people mentioned in this article, SheSaw wants more statues, plaques and placenames to bear women’s names. We need to walk down streets and see more space given to women, especially women from minority groups. We need that visibility. But, the cost, time and space needed to bring about equity in public recognition across the globe make it unlikely that you will see as many women’s names and faces as men any time soon.
And you need fewer statues of men to be commissioned in order to level the playing field. In Canberra and Sydney, despite this call for more recognition for women and diversity in public art, the two most recent public statues are dedicated to white men.
So, we are suggesting that we use technology to create equality.
SheSaw has developed an app that uses AR icons to give women public recognition. As you walk around, AR icons appear to let you know you are walking in the footsteps of a woman who deserves to be remembered. And the app will then tell you her story.
We feature women history-makers and future-shakers. We are as much about looking forward as looking back.
Now you see her. And her. And her. And her.
And because the cost to commission a SheSaw icon is as low as a bunch of flowers, we can tell the story of many more women. We can put more than 24,000 statues on our digital map.
We are in fact aiming to put 1 million women on the SheSaw map. It's ambitious, we know. But the truth is, this is still only a fraction of the women's stories that should be told.
We feature women who are not considered well-known enough to be honoured in bronze, but whose stories are as inspiring as any sports star or suffragette. We can put all women on the map. Where they belong.
Businesses can also use SheSaw to give public recognition to the women in their organisation and encourage a new generation of women to join their industry. By showcasing the diverse projects they are working on and the things they have achieved, other women can see that opportunities are out there for them too.
And while we are all about the digital, SheSaw is committed to seeing more physical space given to women and increasing the effectiveness of public recognition. SheSaw's app can be used to help fundraise for a physical statue by raising awareness of the woman’s story and showcasing designs in-situ via AR models. When she is immortalised in bronze, a QR code that links to her SheSaw profile will mean people continue to see her story, as well as her statue.
Let's change how we see the world. Help us give it a woman's perspective. Get in touch to find out how you can help SheSaw give women the recognition they deserve.