Gender Equality Awards 2016 - Engaging Women Award - Southbank Centre

Celebrating women – and discussing obstacles together

Southbank Centre has a culture of equality at its heart and celebrates diversity in all it does. This drives the organisation to engage in cultural activism and promote a dialogue for social change. Southbank Centre believes women are not achieving their full potential across the world, and the world is therefore losing out on 50% of its workforce – and 50% of its talent.

To address this, a strand of work has been developed over five years that celebrates women and attends to what needs to be done to achieve gender equality globally. The event is bold and broad-based in its approach and brings together people from all corners of society – both speakers and audience members – to energise, build stamina and provide inspiration and tools to make change. The project happens annually in London and at different times during the year across the UK and around the world.


The project incorporates talks, discussions, performances, exhibitions, markets and workshops. In each place the programme takes place, open planning meetings are called to help devise the programme, which include and are led by Southbank Centre. All team members across the organisation and members of the local community – women and men – are invited to attend meetings and contribute to the final programme.

The model to which activity is planned and co-ordinated offers a matrix of projects at a variety of scales, exposing junior staff to professional development opportunities and giving them direct access to working with leadership. Senior leaders are held accountable based on a range of qualitative and quantitative measures depending on the type of activity. Activity is monitored, evaluated and reported to staff, funders, sponsors and trustees.

The programme has its own subsidy from within the organisation and is supported by external patrons and sponsors.

The programme has taken place in six locations across the UK and in 15 cities across five continents. Next year, new programmes will take place in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

Over 600,000 people attended the London site during the 2015 programme of events and the programme hashtag trended locally and nationally with 80 million impressions generated from Twitter mentions. Southbank Centre has also published video content of 56 events from the 2014 programme and 37 videos from 2015, which have had over 100,000 views.

Men and women within Southbank Centre and who visit the physical site and website gain more understanding of gender equality and how to implement change in their lives and surroundings in a way that suits them. This means real change is occurring on personal and local levels. By providing information about gender equality in a fun and accessible way, Southbank Centre is changing people’s perceptions.

Speakers at the programme have gone on to develop an Africa-led campaign against female genital mutilation, have founded a political party and formed a non-profit talking about consent in schools across London.