History of BPW UK

BPW UK as a Federation was formed in November 1938, with three founder clubs in London and an immediate link to the International Federation of Business and Professional Women.

Beatrice Gordon Holmes, one of the few women in key positions in finance in the City of London, was the founding president. Her dynamism and financial acumen were the driving force for the Federation in its first ten years, aided by the organisational skills of the   Federation Secretary, Phyllis Deakin, a journalist and war correspondent.

Despite Europe being plunged into war, in 1939, the Federation grew rapidly and its first campaign when hostilities ended was equal compensation for civilian war injuries. A “Lights Up” fund was set up to help re-establish BPW clubs in Europe following cessation.

Years after suffrage, very few women held public office or top jobs in business.  Therefore, the UK Federation became a flag bearer and advocated for the removal of sex discrimination in opportunities for employment, promotion and remuneration and raising the standard of education to facilitate that equality. 

A highlight in October 1969 was the creation of the Women’s National Commission.   BPW President Mildred Head had promoted ideas for this to be organised on a more democratic basis providing BPW and other women’s organisations with a better opportunity and equal responsibility to represent their views and objectives directly to government. In 1971, success was recorded when the Equal Pay Act became law followed in 1975 by the Sex Discrimination Act which, in lobbying for both, BPW UK had been a key player.

In 1973, the then National President Delia Dalton initiated the Public Speaking Competition which has become a means for senior schoolgirls (and now boys too) to gain communication skills, confidence and ambitions for further education. A Young Career Woman Award gave encouragement for advanced roles in employment.

Each National President has maintained and advanced the key issues for equality of opportunity in her programme and campaigns over the years have covered  the ordination of women, more equal opportunities in  education, information technology, business and the professions  and politics. Coming ever more to the fore was a need to highlight violence against women and its elimination. These are all issues that BPW UK continues to take forward.