Caroline Watson, Director of Progressive Women, shares her thoughts on Karren Brady’s autobiography
Sheryl Sandberg’s recent book ‘Lean In’ surprised me, as it’s the first book I knew of that was written by a successful, high profile business woman with the aim of addressing the lack of women’s representative in the top levels of business. However, as I was online ordering her book I came across Karren Brady’s autobiography and couldn’t resist adding it to my basket. And I am very glad I did.
Despite the title ‘Strong Woman: the Truth about getting to the top’, I didn’t expect the author to come out as an overt feminist. Yet she acknowledges on the first page that her motivation for writing was to ‘make a positive difference for women all over the UK.’ Chapter one begins with Brady attending an International Women’s day networking event at Downing Street:
It must have been about the tenth year that I had gone along to this one. But what struck me this time – alarmed me, even – was that it was all the same faces yet again, year in, year out. Where was the new generation of women leaders, snapping at our heels?
It was this experience that inspired Brady to write the book to inspire a new generation of women. At the age of 23, Brady was the youngest managing director of a PLC in the UK. She has run two Premier League football clubs, sat on a number of boards including Mothercare and Channel 4, and of course, most recently and most publically, starred on The Apprentice. Brady states that she wants to fundamentally change the way people perceive working women. At the same time, she says to women that they should never feel guilty about championing their career while being a mother and should never – ever – be afraid to be ambitious.
By page three of her book, Brady has fully embraced feminism. She states:
we have to change the perception of feminism [...] A feminist is simply someone who actively promotes the belief that women are equal to men.
Brady passionately covers the hot topics of women on boards, returning to work after having a baby and the role gender stereotypes play in society. For instance, on needing more women in the boardroom, she states: ’The more women leaders we have, the better conditions will become for all working women’, and cites the reason she returned to work after just three days’ maternity leave was to not to let anyone down: ‘[I was] feeling guilty about having a baby in the first place and [...] I was determined my employers wouldn’t think I was incapable of carrying on as normal now that I had a baby’. Brady also admirably raises the need for government to offer financial support in the form of tax breaks for childcare, saying ‘you can’t work unless your kids are taken care of’.
On gender stereotypes dictating the roles boys and girls should aspire to, Brady says she’s worried about the impact of magazines and images of glamorous women married to footballers holding our young people back:
When I meet young girls who tell me their ambition is to marry a footballer I always say, ‘Why? Your ambition should be to own a football club!’ [...] We need to encourage young women to open their minds to the possibilities of what they can achieve. Becoming an entrepreneur is nothing to do with your education. It’s about your spirit. It’s about your desire. A burning spark inside you that’s your pride.
There are some strong messages for young women and older alike from Brady’s book. She says:
I hope to inspire you not to feel guilty for having a dream, for having ambition and not being afraid to go out there to do something about it. To turn your dream into reality. After all, if you don’t champion your career, who will do it for you? I want to make things better for my daughter, for you and yours.
Brady says she’d love to be an adviser to Government. I’d love to see her in the Government too.
Guest blog from Lizzie Bailey, a second year sociology student at Durham University, and also the founder and chief presenter at lookPositive
In our society we are facing an epidemic of people with low body image and self esteem. Every day, tens of thousands of people are waking up, looking in the mirror and despising what they see. These constant anxieties about the way they look are causing over sixty percent of our population to have great amounts of distress, worry and misery about their bodies, which if untreated can contribute to the development of depression, anxiety issues, and eating disorders in an alarming number of people.
Young people especially are very vulnerable when it comes to these issues. Body image concerns are known to affect student’s ability to perform both academically and socially, as students are weighed down by their constant worries about the way they look. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the media heavily targets young people in a world of advertising which celebrates largely unattainable body types. Young girls are so affected by these body image issues that a significant percentage of them are more afraid of getting fat than they are of losing their parents, nuclear war, or cancer.
Approximately eight out of ten young people are struggling to accept themselves, and because negative body talk is so common, they begin to feel that hating themselves is an inescapable fact of life.
But it’s not.
Few people realise that the answer to these problems lies within ourselves, that we really do have the power to change this negativity about ourselves. While we face enormous pressure from the media, peers, and societal expectations; it’s up to us to stand up to them and change the way we think about ourselves so that we can create a more positive environment for everyone.
How many times have you gone into a bathroom and heard women talking about how much they hate their appearance – and their friends almost competing to see who can despise what they see the most:
“Eurgh, my hair just looks so disgusting today – why didn’t anyone tell me I looked so awful?”
“Forget your hair, what about my nose – have you seen how ugly it is?!”
You see the problem. We have so much of a culture of self-hatred that we’ve forgotten that we can fight it. But if you’d rather feel confident, self assured and beautiful every day no matter how you compare to the fictional models displayed by the media , then it’s time to make a change – not to your weight, your hair or your appearance, but the way you think about all those things.
So here is my challenge for you: Next time you look in the mirror, you might feel yourself about to say something critical about the way you look. Maybe it’s not even a structured thought – just a feeling of disappointment that when you look at yourself you don’t look like the people you see in the media – and probably never will. (Note that the people in the media don’t actually look like that either – but that’s another point entirely).
I want you to say STOP. The moment you even begin to feel yourself conjuring up some negative self talk, you have to be the one to make a stand and tell yourself that its not acceptable – because you deserve SO much more respect than that. You have the power to control the way you feel about yourself, and the first step is in recognising that – by putting your foot down and deciding that you won’t take your self-hatred any more. You’d be surprised at how just taking that first step, can make you so much more aware of how often you talk down to yourself, and by doing that, you’re in a position to stop yourself. Replace each negative thought with a positive thought, and never forget that you are worth just as much respect, love and care as everyone else – so treat your body just as you would a close friend or child.
You have to consider “why do I feel this way?”, “what is so wrong with my body, that I should be so abusive to it?”, “where is this idea of beauty coming from, that says my body is anything less than perfect?”.
The more you think about these questions, you’ll realise that we’ve been conditioned over a long put ourselves into little boxes of beauty – that no one can really achieve and to hate ourselves every time we fail. And hopefully the more you know this, and the more you stop your negative thoughts in their tracks you’ll see that you don’t have to settle for being unhappy with your body any more. That you can change your life, and learn to love yourself.
If you’d like some help with learning to love your body, lookPositive are running a community body image events in Durham – you can find more details about that here. And if you’d like a regular infusion of positivity and tips for how to love yourself, feel free to like our facebook page, where we’re always striving to create a positive space for all women.
Lizzie Bailey is a second year sociology student at Durham University, and also the founder and chief presenter at lookPositive. She is passionate about changing peoples lives for the better by helping people improve their body image, as she has seen first hand the difference having a positive body image can make, as it helped her recover from 5 years of mental illness. lookPositive offers fun, engaging and interactive body image workshops to combat the cripplingly low levels of body image that so many people experience. Read more at www.lookpositive.co.uk
Guest blog by Reena Ranger, Chairman and Co-Founder of Women Empowered
Women2Win, Conservative Women’s Organisation & Local Government Association Conservatives:
The discussion on how to encourage and elect more women on boards was chaired and opened by Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office. He noted there has been a change over the last few decades within public appointments: there used to be a huge emphasis on track record, which meant that people who had a great deal to offer but little previous experience were unable to apply and this mitigated against diversity. However, the days of long bureaucratic forms are over and have been replaced with a user-friendly requirement for a covering letter and CV, with the aim of getting the right people on board. The aspiration is that an equal gender mix will be achieved but the real issue is that nothing can be changed if women don’t apply! There is a need for serious people with expertise.
Also discussed was the diverse and vast range of board appointments available, extending far beyond FTSE roles. Many of the women who have excelled have been those with families wanting to do something more, or those who have taken a career break, who have then taken roles that are completely “out of the box”. If women are not being asked to take these positions, then we as women must be proactive – find the roles and apply for them. Another stumbling block may be that so many roles may not be publicised and are filled from within, so making your aspirations known and networking is imperative. The organisation Women on Boards is also there to help.
The good news is that studies show that companies do better with a better gender mix, so women are vitally needed. However, all of this is futile if there are no women in the pipeline or coming forward for the roles. For those thinking of applying for the board, the following tips were offered by a head-hunter:
Support and workshops are available, so no one should be deterred from applying.
Be self-aware and a critical advocate of yourself.
Look at your skills and areas that need development: take steps to mitigate the latter to put ensure you are in optimum position.
Research the role and understand the search process.
If you are going through head-hunters or agencies make sure they are appropriate for the area which you are looking into.
Above all, if you have independence of thought, time to commit, are a good communicator and perhaps also have an area of expertise, then absolutely do apply!
Amongst the reasons the panel gave to be on a board were:
individuals realising that they had a lot to offer, which led onto other roles
those interested in community could do so at a leadership level
one could keep up to date with industry and market knowledge
building of networks
and building confidence in your leadership skills.
Amanda Slater, a Board Member, emphasised that many women on career breaks took on board roles and this had the added bonus of easing them back into the workplace. Her belief is that women are already capable of juggling so much, so shouldn’t hold back, but push themselves forward. Cllr Clare Whelan from the Local Government Association emphasised that there is a lack of women at council level too and more need to come forward for this rewarding role: even in opposition she has been able to play an important role both local and national level. The position allows you to talk policy, meet leaders and provides many speaking opportunities.
Marina Yannakoudakis MEP, who was also present, explained she was opposed to the EU imposing quotas and was more in favour of clearing pathways and allowing merit to succeed. She believes a lot can be done to get women on boards without the imposition of quotas: measures such as mentoring, sharing experiences, support, education, and women adopting a buddy system. She also highlighted that one should be realistic and couldn’t expect to go straight to the top; however, it is a journey she encouraged many to start.
Liane Cresswell is a public affairs consultant and member of the Fabian Women’s Network
In a packed room at a Fabian Women’s Network fringe event at Labour Party conference in Brighton last week, the topic of the day was the role of women in the economic recovery. A lively debate touched upon a range of issues such as female entrepreneurship, child care provision, flexible working and the gender pay gap. But one thing was clear throughout the discussion – by failing to support women to effectively engage in the economy, the UK is a missing out – big time.
The need to ensure women are able to participate in the economy is self evident. As the Government’s Women in Business Council recently reported, by equalising labour market participation rates of men and women the UK could further increase economic growth by 0.5 percentage points a year, with potential gains of 10% of GDP by 2030. And if women were setting up and running new businesses at the same rate as men, we could have an extra one million female entrepreneurs.
However, despite this evidence, the UK is still falling well behind in terms of gender equality in the workplace. Figures from the ONS show the gender pay gap was at 9.6% in 2012, and a recent study by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics revealed that the percentage of young women in the workplace has fallen for the first time since World War II. Meanwhile data analysed by the House of Commons Library just last month found that 14 per cent of the 340,000 women who take maternity leave each year find their jobs under threat when they try to return to work. While out of a total of 700 senior executives in the FTSE 350, only 31 women hold the top positions of Chief Executive or Chief Finance Officer.
With initial signs of economic recovery still fragile, it seems nonsensical that we are only drawing on the talents of less than half our population. So how can we address this fundamental problem and ensure women can play a vital role in the economic recovery? For starters we need more mentoring and support networks like Progressive Women, as well as Women on Boards and the Fabian Women’s network. Such groups are vital to providing the role models we need to inspire young women, particularly in those sectors where women are significantly under-represented such as science, technology and engineering. They also play a key role in enabling women to share experiences and best practice, while supporting fellow sisters to succeed in their chosen careers.
Secondly we need more flexible working, not just for women but for men too, to make it easier for women to return to the workplace after maternity leave. The introduction of shared parental leave is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done – in today’s global world there is no longer the need for people to be chained to the desk between 9-5, Monday to Friday. Indeed, evidence shows that flexible working increases the performance of businesses and improves staff retention. Having greater flexibility for both men and women in work will help to remove the stigma of part time working and demonstrate that it needn’t be a barrier to career progression.
Finally, we need to learn from the success of Australia in increasing the number of women in the board room (both executive and non-executive) by using corporate governance to set targets for female participation, coupled with the naming and shaming of those companies that fail to deliver. Women on Boards is making progress in this area with the introduction of its annual Traffic Light report in Australia which rates companies according to their progress on diversity at board level, but here in the UK we need to do more to increase transparency and hold the private sector to account on gender performance. The public sector can also lead by example, not just in its own senior management teams, but by ensuring government contractors also have to demonstrate gender equality.
In summary, ensuring women can participate in the UK economy and contribute to wealth generation through entrepreneurship is a no brainer. But this is not just a women’s issue, it is an issue for everyone who wants to see the UK economy thrive and flourish. Both the Government and Opposition are missing a trick by failing to make women a core part of their economic growth strategies. So, to all the (mostly male) spokespeople on economic issues across the main political parties – it’s time to sit up and listen.
Kathryn Walton is the writer and illustrator of Matriline, a blog on women’s life stories.
We are missing a stunning opportunity. Living in the age of digital media, anyone connected to the Internet has access to beautiful information-rich resources on a range of subjects, from the scholarly to the practical. Unfortunately, there is a key area in which this intersection of information and design is often missed: women’s history. As both formal and self-led education change, it’s vital that we don’t repeat old mistakes, leaving half the world’s stories behind yet again. There is the chance of a generation here: to reclaim the female figures and narratives that old educational models have ignored.
Over the course of the last six months, as I’ve scoured the Internet for resources on historical female figures, I’ve noticed the scarcity of well-designed, accurate sites on women in history. Good design, attractive design that engages its audience, is much more effective at spreading knowledge than poor design that obscures the excitement of an amazing story. Often, if I look hard enough, the details of each woman being studied can be found. However, that information is usually buried in poorly designed sites that cater only to those looking for the content. The best example of this is the university-based site, which often recalls the early days of the Internet: heavy textures, uninspiring fonts, clip-art liberally sprinkled about and layouts that are utilitarian at best. Join sites of this type with densely written academic essays and you have plenty of information, but only if you’re dedicated to the research and willing to sift through complicated terms, dry prose and ugly pages. I am. Many are not. Those who most want to find out about women’s history are already hooked. What we need is to show those who aren’t already curious that stories about past women are part of the lush, exciting tapestry of human experience. That there is entertainment, value and self-worth to be found in the tales academics tell.
So, why aren’t designers and scholars coming together? Surely, in this time of almost effortless connection, there should be more collaboration between those who excavate information and those who display it best. The interesting thing is that collaboration is occurring in other fields. TED is a great example of this joint effort between researchers and makers, generating good-quality short films that make complex concepts accessible to people unfamiliar with subjects such as neuroscience and economics. Another instance of accessible scholarship is the ‘Past & Present’ column over at Design Sponge, which uses a mixture of illustrations, detailed prose, fascinating photographs and engaging craft projects to explore the history of design. By suggesting that something should be accessible, I don’t mean that it should be dumbed down. People are smart, if you give them the chance to be. Yet, producers of content have to consider the mountains of information available and the limits of each person’s time. If information isn’t packaged in a pleasurable format, then it will be ignored by most. And women’s history really can’t continue to be ignored if we hope to gain equality in the present day.
So, let’s get the word out. Let’s stop choosing between proper scholarship and beautiful design. When we split content and format, we end up producing either dry, dull tracts or attractively shallow sites that frame past women as fun ‘bitches’ with little depth or complexity. I think we can have both the layers of real human experience and the visual artistry to present those experiences to the wider world. I have even come across the occasional women’s history example that proves this is possible. Though slightly hefty for some computers to cope with, Narratively contains a gorgeous, content-rich page on Annie Londonderry, in which adventurous, innovative design helps draw the reader into the little-known story of this 19th century stuntwoman. Narratively is not dedicated to women’s history, so you’d be hard pressed to find many other relevant examples on the site. Makers presents a simpler, but still well-designed, format dedicated to women’s stories. Yet, it only touches on recent history in the USA and doesn’t seem to allow its videos to be played outside of the country. There’s an opportunity here to produce women’s history sites of the quality shown by Narratively and Makers, but with diversity and technological flexibility in mind.
With no budget, little time and a steep learning curve, I’ve started to experiment with how to do just that on Matriline. I’m not even close. I hope, as time goes on, as I make connections and learn more, to collaborate with others and meet the challenge I’ve presented above. I think it’s necessary. There are people fighting the good fight, challenging current cultural images of women, changing laws and demanding an end to normalised violence against half the world’s population. Yet, we don’t live in a chronological vacuum. We need to have a past to look to so that we know our stories matter against a larger narrative. We need that sense of belonging, of continuing a family, of improving on what was done before. We need, as women, to see ourselves reflected in the pages of history, whether those pages are made of paper or pixels. And we need to see all that whether we work in archives, behind a desk, in a shop or through the movement of our bodies. Everyone, every single person, deserves to connect with history. Let’s do the past justice by pouring a fair measure of the Internet’s rampant creativity into telling the stories of the women who came before us.
Kathryn Walton’s website can be found at http://matriline.org/ or follow Matriline on Twitter: @Matriline
Guest blogger Priya Shah is a 3rd year politics and international relations student at Warwick university. She aspires to be a journalist specialising in politics, development and feminism.
A woman without an education is like a bicycle without a chain. – Malala Yousafzai
As world leaders tentively listened to Malala’s speech on the importance of education at the United Nations; I too, listened in awe at just how incredible and inspirational this young girl sounded. At the age of 16, Malala is the youngest education activist, campaigning for universal education. The above quote very simply, yet effectively, summarises how education is not gender specific, and just like how a bicycle cannot function without a chain; countries cannot reach their full potential if they do not educate their female population.
Putting aside the emotions I was feeling whilst listening to and watching Malala’s speech, her message was clear. This is not to suggest that such a campaign has not been voiced before. Leaders around the world, particularly from developed nations have invested billions of dollars into education. The 2000 Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) emphasised universal primary education and gender equality. The two are not mutually exclusive, if anything, they are both interlinked and dependent on each other.
The benefits of education on a nation, on a macro level, are profound. From economic growth to the attraction of foreign investment, education paves the way for further growth and development. For women, however, education results, first and foremost into empowerment. An educated girl has obtained more opportunities by attending school because she now has the ability to read, write and use numerical skills. These basic skills are vital for reducing gender inequality in a number of areas. For example, many uneducated girls, are forced into marriage once they’ve hit adolescence. Whilst they do not have the fruits of an educated mind to offer, they do have, dare I say, a child-bearing body to offer. Although a very generalised statement to make, because teenage girls are in no position to be bearing a child, what this highlights is how this lack of education is likely to run in the family and result in a vicious cycle of uneducated girls. Nevertheless having the ability to read and write means girls have more choices in the future and are not subject to marriage so early on.
In addition, education for girls is also vital for having an equal political sphere. On the one hand, one could argue that developed nations, such as the UK, are continuously guilty of having over-representation of males in Parliament. Yet this issue is slowly, but surely, being addressed. In developing nations, such as Pakistan, however, having women in politics is especially important. Women have different needs. Such needs are unfortunately not always addressed by their male counterparts. Today, a woman is expected to carry out numerous roles in the public and private sphere, but policies do not always reflect these various roles. Having educated women in politics means that they are more sensitive to issues which would effect, not only themselves, but millions of other women in their position too. In due course the problem of gender inequality can be addressed if women are given the opportunity to participate in politics.
The list of the benefits of education for women is endless. Something as simple as being able to read and understand health information can often mean the difference between life and death. Being able to read road signs means women can steer clear from dangerous routes. The instrumental point being here is that educated women have choices; therefore they do not only feel more equal, but they are more equal. A nation cannot be considered progressive in the slightest if it only educates males. Progress is education for all, enabling opportunities for both males and females and thus reducing the gender gap between men and women. Malala has echoed and reiterated a very simple message “education for girls”, and she will not let anyone stand in her way to achieve this goal.
By Director and Co-founder of Progressive Women, Caroline Watson
The comic strip in which the Bechdel test first appeared in 1985
Who would have thought the Metro would be leading the way on feminist talking points? It’s great to have noticed a number of articles about women and equality in the daily paper, and that the issues are reaching commuters on their journey to work, providing some food for thought. This week I was reminded of the Bechdel test by the Metro. The newspaper was considering how the number of women in film has improved or increased since the test was made popular back in 1985. According to the website The Bechdel Text Movie List, the test names the following three criteria: 1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. It’s one of those things that when I first heard about it, I couldn’t believe it would be that hard to find a film that passed this test. So as I travelled towards Westminster on the Jubilee line reading this article, my mind began to consider the recent films I have seen.
Last Saturday I watched Arbitrage starring Richard Gere, and the wonderful Academy Award-winning Susan Sarandon. There are three strong female characters in the film – his daughter, his mistress and Sarandon as Gere’s wife. Wife and daughter do indeed talk to each other, but yes, it is about the main character played by Gere. The unwilling accomplice, the solicitor, the policeman, the business associates and colleagues, are all male. Yet these are roles that could have easily been distributed equally among the sexes or at least more evenly so.
I think what shocked me most about realising this is that when I watched the film, I was so pleased to see that Gere’s daughter in the film was his business partner and the Finance Director of his company, that I totally missed the fact that there were so few other women in the film. It’s so normal for this to be the case, that I only tend to notice when a strong interesting female character materialises. It’s just as depressing that when you flick through the papers of any newspaper you will be hard pressed to find any coverage of women’s sport, or pictures of women that are there to support the news piece rather than a picture chosen because they look attractive (ie. a Pussycat Doll or a Middleton on a night out).
This isn’t news to anyone reading this, I am sure, but the real question is what can we actually do about it? Firstly, we can support women in film with consumer power. Wadjda, for example, is at UK cinemas now: made by Saudi Arabia’s first female Director Haifaa al-Mansour. It’s a story about a ten-year-old Saudi girl and the constraints placed on her life by her culture. But don’t just go and see it just because you want to support a female director make a film about women, go and see it because it’s got fantastic reviews and it explores an area very rarely explored in film! Plus, it’s got to be far more interesting than seeing more women talking about a man, and Oscar-winning performers consigned to the role of supporting wife, yet again. The best hope for more women in films is to celebrate the good films that are out there made by women and filled with strong and central female characters. Hopefully, the market will meet the demand.
Our guest blog this week is from new organisation Stand Up For Women, which aims to become the ‘Comic Relief’ of the women’s sector – with televised events, raising millions and reaching millions.
Stand Up For Women – destined to become ‘the Comic Relief’ for the women’s sector? Join in on July 7th and find out! We’re not quite there yet, but support for the initiative in the mere 6 months since we were founded has been so overwhelming that we are about to hold our first ever comedy awareness-raiser in just a couple of weeks’ time. Our inaugural event promises to be a bit of a smash hit – held at a West End Theatre with a ‘jam-packed line-up’ (Time Out) of award-winning TV comedians, comedy sketch artists, singers and magicians and supporting not just one but three women’s charities: Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid and No More Page 3.
VIP ticket holders (a pinch at £55) not only will enjoy the best seats in the house but can hob-nob with some of our special supporters – Baronesses, MP, business leaders and others – at a pre-theatre champagne reception, whilst being serenaded by an Opera singer! The Women’s Groups themselves are as much as part of the show as the acts. To quote our Director, Dr Sasha Rakoff:
“We really wanted to emulate some of the amazing ideas behind Comic Relief - after all, this needs to be as much about as awareness-raising as fundraising. So the NGOs themselves are going to take centre stage. WOMEN’S AID and some of the women they have helped will be on stage talking about the incredible difference their work has made, at a time that could not be more fitting following the recent Nigella-Saatchi incident.
No More Page 3 are probably going to steal the show! NMP3, with over 100,000 supporters, have of course been very much in the news recently with Caroline Lucas MP, asking Parliament why it is inappropriate for her to wear a NMP3 Tee in the House of Commons but not for half a dozen of its shops to stock the Sun. They are actually going to bring a 1970’s style protest march complete with flares, funk and glitter balls to a West End Theatre – it has to be a first!”
But underlying all the ‘fun’ there’s a very serious rationale. As Dr Rakoff says:
“I’ve worked in the women’s sector for over a decade now, with the WNC (the now dismantled Women’s National Commission), the WRC, and then going on to set up the hugely successful pressure group, Object. But the thing that has always struck me was the huge lack of public awareness even of some of the most salient facts and issues, not to mention linking them all together. And of course the absolutely crippling lack of funding that has always been faced by women’s groups – despite being such a crucial part of the charity sector.”
Caroline Quentin, a Stand Up For women supporter
“Between our Director and Trustees we have over 2 decades of experience of the women’s voluntary sector and of the theatre/entertainment industry,” explains Sally Hughes, one of Stand Up For Women’s trustees and artistic director of The Mill at Sonning Theatre.
“We know there are many people in the ‘entertainment industry’ despite its bad rep, who are secret, or even not so secret, feminists. It made sense to create something that was firmly focussed as a human rights initiative but that had a positivity and ‘lightness’ about it that could really entice performers and comedians – in fact people from all works of life – to get involved. Give the sense of creating a movement. The first 6 months have been a bit of a trial period really, sounding out what people will make of the concept. So we’ve just asked as many, ethical, public figures that we could – from Caroline Quentin to the Women’s Minister. And we’ve received a resounding ‘YES! Count me in’.”
Dr Linda Papadopoulos
And as one of those celebrities, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, Stand Up For Women patron, sums it up:
“It seems timely for something like this. The awareness generated by great fundraisers either televised or on the public calendar has highlighted a need for something in this space that focuses on women – especially when issues like domestic violence, trafficking and abuse effects so very many individuals and with such devastation– as many women in the UK experience violence as do cancer, and that doesn’t even begin to include the harassment and discrimination experienced by many nor the fact that a misogynistic culture actually hurts men and boys as well.”
So join Stand Up For Women at our first ever event – support the women’s groups and help make our dream a reality. When we are the next Comic Relief it will be something to tell the grandchildren: ‘I was at their first ever benefit gig!’ Stand Up For Women is pleased to offer Progressive Women followers a 20% discount on £25 tickets. But hurry while there are still some left!
Line-up includes: Andi Osho, Lucy Porter, Josie Long, Tiffany Stevenson, Joe Wells, John-Luke Roberts, Nadia Kamil, Lara Stubbs of Barbershopera, Rob Castell of Barbershopera, Miss London, Ada Campe and Joe Bor
Rosalind Adler and Lea Sellers from Media Skills for Women are this week’s guest bloggers
‘Step up’, ‘sit at the table’, ‘lean in’. But what does all that mean in terms of practical steps?
We’ve heard the soundbite responses to the obstacles encountered by women at work, in society and in our own feelings about self-worth.
We know that attitudes and behaviour need to shift in so many areas. There’s an expectation gap between men and women about salaries and promotion. The often-quoted study about women’s lower self-worth (the job advert posting the salary at 50K getting hardly any female applicants whereas the same job advertised at 30K had a huge response from women) is so well-known because it’s so clear.
We know that the thorny issue of gender roles has roots everywhere: little children watching TV unconsciously absorb that 50% of the boy characters solve their own problems as opposed to 35% of the female characters.
We know that for adolescent girls, being popular and liked is usually more important than it is for adolescent boys.
We know that gender stereotyping can limit girls’ career choices – and that applications from girls to study car mechanics shot up when Kylie Minogue’s character first wielded a spanner in Neighbours.
We know that even when women big up their achievements at work, employing the same strategies as men to get ahead, they may still be overlooked because the problem lies not in their approach but in the reactions and evaluations of the organisation that employs them.
But we know a lot of other stuff too: that for many people job satisfaction is just as important as climbing the greasy pole; that being liked is no bad thing; that we may have different priorities from men and from each other. And that’s all good.
What we all need to do is start from wherever we are and move on into the jungle one step at a time.
At MEDIA SKILLS FOR WOMEN, we come across one very big issue in different guises. Time and again we coach women whose diffidence and self-doubt is holding them back from unlocking their full potential either as speakers or as people who are going to have to handle media interviews. We’ve worked with women who feel inadequate as speakers because they feel they need to emulate someone else’s style; often they feel that in order to be a good speaker, they have to speak like a man.
We’ve worked with women who are about go on BBC’s Question Time because they are senior or hugely expert in their field and yet believe they’re not good enough, that they’re going to mess up.
A woman’s first step therefore is often to acknowledge some lack of confidence. A large part of our work is to assure women that their own voice, their own style and their own message is more than good enough. That’s what we work on.
In the conquering of unhelpful levels of diffidence, however, we in no way encourage women to emulate the worst bits of (stereotypically) male ‘confidence’: winging it, bullshitting, flying on empty. That is self-evidently not confidence at all but bluster – no good to anyone. We don’t want women to fall from the frying pan into the fire: an impenetrable, rock-hard swagger is not what we’re after for our clients. We’re looking for the real deal and that involves painstaking preparation, ruthless editing, crystalline clarity.
Let’s remember, men have it quite tough too – particularly young men – because of the fear they might lose face if they admit to vulnerability or insecurity. Women find it easier to say they’re unsure about something or to ask for help, and that can be a strength.
In the same way, we feel it’s important that women who are working in politics of any kind, as councillors or MPs, don’t fall from one kind of ghettoisation into another: becoming spokespeople solely on ‘women’s issues’, whether that be workplace discrimination, FGM or sexual violence. The last thing we need is to narrow ourselves right back down again. Issues of gender affect us all. Isn’t that the whole point?
MEDIA SKILLS FOR WOMEN training encourages women to examine – and maybe shift - their attitudes to themselves. We want you to exploit your own talent and potential and be the best you can – not just for your own sake but because we don’t want to be stepping into a jungle. We want to be creating and entering a world – all of us surely? – where the talents of everyone, regardless of gender, are fully realised and fully employed. That’s how we’ll change the planet, after all.
Caroline Watson, Director and Co-founder of Progressive Women writes on the success of our leadership conference ‘Making it Happen’ and how those who missed it can still share the experience
On Saturday 11th May over 70 current and future female leaders assembled in Limehouse, London, to come together to share their experience and their ambitions, to support one another and celebrate women’s leadership. Workshops covered a range of issues from starting your own business, reaching the board, maximising social media, having it all – balancing work and family, building confidence, and getting ahead in politics. There was a wealth of wisdom and enthusiasm unparalleled at any event Progressive Women has previously organised, and in fact any event I have been to! If you have ever met me, or attended a Progressive Women event you have probably heard me say that we want debate and discussion about women’s equality particularly in leadership positions. However, what we want to do even more is practically support, inspire and enable women to take the steps necessary to propel them on their own path to success. This is why, this spring, we hosted ‘Making it Happen’. If you were unable to make it, you can share some of the insights from our speakers and attendees by watching the short films here.
Why Society is Poorer without Women Leaders with Dame Tessa Jowell MP
Showing Women What’s Possible
Lessons for Leadership from Making it Happen ‘Ask yourself why not?’
The day couldn’t have happened without the generosity of so many women and men. Thank you to Royal Foundation of St Katharine, the Electoral Reform Society and Care by Design for sponsoring the event. Thank you to Sally Overhead and Emma from MojoMums, Rowena Ironside of Women on Boards, Candy Piercy of Midas Training Solutions, Ruth Culver of North London Hypnotherapy, Judy and Charlotte Oliver of ANKLE and Oliver & Company, Emily Benet author and blogger, Katie Ghose of the Electoral Reform Society, and Dame Tessa Jowell MP. All of whom donated their time and their expertise free of charge. Without these fabulous women the day could not have happened.
Huge thank you also to Georgia Hussey for making the short films. And last but no means least all the Progressive Women: Lucy, Emma W, Emma M, Binita, Nicole and Anna for ‘Making it Happen’.
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