'Femininity' Is An Open Ended Statement

The Mayor of London pens an essay for ELLE on what femininity means to him.

My experience of femininity is defined by being brought up by my inspirational mum, by my marriage to a strong and independent women, being a father to two amazing teenage daughters, by being a colleague of brilliant women in law and politics and now by being an employer to some of the most talented people I've ever met.

Growing up, I learnt so much from my mum. She was, and continues to be, a real inspiration to me, my brothers and my sister. She always wanted to do more to help us and she would sew clothes for 50p a dress for hours on end just to bring in extra money for our family. My defining words for her would include: loving, devoted, utterly dependable, selfless, stoic – to list just a few.

Now, as the dad of two teenage daughters, I'm learning and being challenged about femininity every day.

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Now, as the dad of two teenage daughters, I'm learning and being challenged about femininity every day. But when I see them and their friends I think of hope, confidence, opportunity, future and potential.

Ultimately, femininity encompasses a range of traits that a woman – or indeed a man – should feel free to decide to identify with, discard or modernise. Everyone should be free to be exactly who they are and who they want to be, at any moment, with no barriers or constraints put up by society's expectations or norms.

And this is what drives me as a proud feminist in City Hall. The ambition to do everything I can – both as the Mayor of London and outside of work – to make sure we have equal rights and opportunities for women in all areas of life.

It's just unacceptable that in London today, one of the world's greatest and most progressive cities, someone's pay and career prospects are still dependent on their gender.

It's just unacceptable that in London today, one of the world's greatest and most progressive cities, someone's pay and career prospects are still dependent on their gender. Or that there is pressure on women to behave in a certain way to get on.

I want to do all I can to ensure that my daughters – and all girls growing up in London – have the same opportunities in life and in the workplace as men.

I want to do all I can to ensure that my daughters – and all girls growing up in London – have the same opportunities in life and in the workplace as men. Free to be who they are and what they want to be. And I've already started to take action, including new plans to boost female representation at the most senior levels at City Hall and challenging businesses and organisations across London to do the same.

Let's work to smash the glass ceiling once and for all. And let's move away from any narrow, stereotypical definitions and labels that can be counterproductive. Just like no one should ever be told what they can or can't wear on the beach – burkini or bikini, Speedos or mankini – people should be free to be who they are, what they want to be and to reach their full potential.


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