Dr Soryia Siddique was elected to Glasgow City Council in 2012 and re-elected in 2015. With a PhD in cancer research, Soryia is passionate about science, education and equality.
This year has seen several international women’s organisations launch campaigns to fight for women’s rights, equality and justice. The #MeToo, #TimesUp and #TimeisNow campaigns are just a few in a vast number of organisations doing incredible work.
My journey for equality has been multifaceted. I was born and brought up in Anderston, Glasgow, and was the first female in my family go to university. My dad was a champion of equality and education and encouraged my sister and I to attend university probably more than my brothers. Despite my modern studies teacher’s advice, I didn’t choose to study politics. I have no regrets – I love science and went on to achieve a PhD in drug delivery systems for cancer.
Standing for election was never part of my plan. When people ask me how I got into politics, I don’t fit the stereotype. As a child, my parents were active in the local community and strived to make a difference. I have fond memories of travelling on the bus to London, attending demonstrations, helping elderly neighbours and volunteering at community events. So I guess it was part of my everyday life.
As a female scientist in the pharmaceutical and chemical industry, where women earn a fifth less than their male colleagues in the UK and the gender pay gap increases with age and experience, I had already faced inequality. When I stood for election, I felt a mixture of wanting to change the world and naivety about what to expect.
The reality is that women in politics face barriers and abuse not just because they are speaking up but also because they are women. Muslim women in politics face even more discrimination, particularly if they choose to wear hijab. Standing for election, I fought expectations and perceptions from within the Asian, Muslim and indigenous community. Some wanted to fit me in a box, to be married, not have an opinion, wash dishes and walk a few steps behind my husband. Others said I wasn’t westernised enough.
I ended up topping the ballot in one of the most politicised wards in Scotland. Madeline Albright said: “there is a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t help other women”. I don’t intend to stop any time soon and I am more determined than ever to champion the women around me and tackle the low representations of women in our councils.