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What It Means to Be a Woman in 2018: Helen Browning

To celebrate 100 years of Suffrage in the UK, we’re asking a host of women of note to answer our Q&A

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Tomorrow marks the start of Organic September; a month-long celebration of all things organic, helping people to find, try and buy organic food & drink and highlighting the farmers and business that produce it. Organic means you’ll always know what’s in your food – each step of organic food production is independently checked and certified by a body like the Soil Association. Organic also means fewer pesticides, no artificial colours & preservatives, always free range, no routine use of antibiotics and no GM ingredients. We spoke to Chief Executive at Soil Association and OBE Helen Browning for What It Means to Be a Woman in 2018.

Helen Browning Q&AHelen Browning

What does it mean to be a woman in 2018?

I think it’s hard to generalise, given that there are some 3.5 billion of us, living in circumstances that range from extreme poverty, to oppressive circumstances to the largely privileged lives many of us lead in the UK and the wider western world. But I think women are often deeply concerned to secure the best for future generations, and hence take responsibility for providing nutritious food, and caring for the environment on which all our survival depends.

What do women still need to achieve?

Again, this depends so much on circumstance. But overall, we hold ourselves back perhaps, by a lack of confidence, and too much concern about what other people think. I’m certainly keen to see more women actively involved in farm management; one of the things I notice from my role at the Soil Association is that many more women are now involved in farming…and nearly 70% of our staff are women at the SA!…but there’s still very few professional farm managers.

Your personal proudest achievement?

I try to avoid pride, as it always leads to a fall! That’s not meant to sound pious, but I leave both the achievements and the failures behind pretty quickly; there’s always the next challenge to tackle. I am proud, though, of the team I have helped bring together at the Soil Association; they are a brilliant crew, doing amazing work that is having a huge impact. I love working with them!

If you could teach young women one thing about being a woman, it would be…

There are no rules. Make your own, think things through yourself, find your purpose and follow your star.

And if you could teach young men one thing…

There are no rules. Make your own, think things through yourself, find your purpose and follow your star.

Complete the following:

In the next 100 years, I hope women will continue to lead the way in ensuring that humanity can survive and thrive, that we care for this fragile planet, and put the health of nature…and therefore our species…beyond short term profit. At our best, we are wise, compelling and powerful, and less hampered by the need to compete…testosterone has many benefits, but doesn’t predispose the collaboration that the world needs now. We need to make sure, though, that we get deeply involved in territories which still feel predominantly masculine, like engineering and artificial intelligence; as our species technological capabilities grow exponentially, and it seems that we can do anything we want, we need the wisdom to decide what we should do. Women must be well informed and have a full voice in these ethical debates.

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