To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve looked back through our history to highlight the interesting ways gender equality has shaped our early days – way back in the 19th century – and what we’re doing to break the bias today.
As a mutual operating in the best interests of our members, fairness is at the core of our business model as it has been since we were founded back in 1849. The Ipswich and Suffolk Freehold Land Society (FLS) was established to extend the franchise to the working classes by balloting off plots of land large enough to confer the owner the right to vote in national elections.
At the forefront of social change
All our members, regardless of gender or age, were treated fairly even back in those days – in fact, the decision by the Society to give equal voting rights to both men and women was nothing short of extraordinary at a time where women would not be able to vote in elections for many decades.
Our records show that in 1885, during a ballot of 9 houses on a newly-constructed estate in Felixstowe, no fewer than five went to female members – meaning that a significant proportion of the 470 members balloted must have been women. It’s possible that many were encouraged to set up businesses and take advantage of the newly passed Married Women’s Property Act 1882, which significantly altered English law regarding the property rights of married women.
Empowering women today
Currently 3 out of 9 members of our Board are female, as well as being well-represented across all levels of management within the Society.
We are proud to be an official signatory of the Women in Finance Charter, where we are committed to achieving 40% female representation in senior management by November 2024. As of September 2021, we have 33% female representation in senior management, and we are working towards improving this all the time.