As part of our International Women's Day coverage, Talat Yaqoob, founder of Pass the Mic, addresses how women of colour are still shut out from power and having a voice

Whilst it was a huge moment last year when the first woman of colour was elected to the Scottish Parliament, it shouldn’t have been. It shouldn’t be such a win to simply have women of colour in Scottish public life, that’s just the minimum.

We have such a long way to go, particularly when it comes to genuine action and accountability of the racist and sexist abuse women of colour in public life face. We also need to examine our democratic processes from political party selections to local council participation, embedded in these are exclusionary processes which hold back particularly, working class women, disabled women, women of colour, unpaid carers LBT women and those who are at the intersections across all of these groups.

I started Pass the Mic in October 2019 out of frustration. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve recommended women of colour experts for media interviews and they’ve not been contacted or have read something and thought of the women of colour experts that I know who should have been quoted to give a fresh and necessary perspective. I hope it’s making a difference, it lists over 200 women of colour on the website with expertise from the economy to the environment, from anti-racism to healthcare.

Pass the Mic has done research, in collaboration with Dr Karen Boyle and Melody House at the University of Strathclyde, examining the representation of women of colour in the news as well as what topics they were represented in. What we found was disappointing but not surprising. Across a full week of news in Scotland, only eight women of colour were quoted or were commentators. That’s across almost 4000 news stories. Only 0.4% of all journalists and commentators were women of colour and women of colour were more likely to be seen than heard; images of them in press were more common than their opinions. What happens in our news, influences what’s happening in our lives, to see women of colour so grossly under represented simply isn’t good enough.

We need the status quo in politics and media to change. We need political parties to tackle sexism and racism within their structures, we need local councils to exist in a way where those with caring responsibilities can actually take part as decision makers, we need quotas so political parties have to field more women candidates and in media, we need to pay commentators adequately, we need to reach out beyond the known voices and create more space for new ones.