Thursday, 25 August 2011

lucy stone

I came across this after following a myriad of links while surfing t'internet [so I can't remember what kicked it off]. I hadn't really given much thought to who took the first step in this and I had never heard of Lucy Stone. It would be interesting to know how many women no longer take their partners surname - and what the trend is in civil partnerships...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

women at the top

It is not news that women are still hitting a glass ceiling. What is different is how people define and talk about that glass ceiling. In the Guardian, in the response ot the publication of the Sex and Power survey 2011, I saw an intersting take on it.

Heather McGregor of the 30% Club – a group committed to bringing more women on to corporate boards in the UK and something I support – said "It's not a glass ceiling stopping women from getting to the top, but the fact that they are less likely to build networks, focus on their career priorities, and spend a substantial proportion of their time on their own PR. How will you ever be picked for a good job if no one knows about you?"

And this is where I get a bit annoyed. Women not doing something is not the same thing as saying there is no glass ceiling and it is all their own fault. People often don't do things precisely because there is a glass ceiling - but it is always easier to play the 'if you would only go out and do xx you wouldn't have a problem'.

I take the point that networking and having the contacts is important - but for me the question is why is it that women are not doing this and how do we address that rather than blame women wholesale for it.

My own view is that the reason women don't do this is linked to the patriarchal society we live in. Women are not socialised to 'big up' their work and skills in the same way men are - and we know that this has an impact on their salary as women are less likely to argue for a pay rise or to negotiate at the time of appointment to the same degree men are. It is acceptable for groups of men to range about golf courses on a Friday afternoon as part of their networking or to meet up for drinks or social events where this kind of networking can take place. When women are faced with the majority of the domestic and caring responsibilities popping out for some drinks to network is probably not that viable.

From my own experience my partner is very supportive of this aspect of my career. But I have met with comments from those I am networking with that are not. I have been asked 'where is your husband? and had comments along the lines of 'is your husband ok with you being out without him?'. I often get mistaken for someone's partner rather than the person who they should be networking with. Incredible in this day an age you may think - but it is there. Then there is the view that when women are doing this kind of activity they are 'gossiping' and that it is not seen as work. I have lost count of the times I have been teased for having coffee with contacts as though I only do this to talk about nail polish and the latest Sex and the City box set. Although it seems acceptable from men to talk about non-work related stuff like sports and cars when they network [yes, I know this is generalising].

I was once advised to mug up on football and other sporty ativities so I could hold a conversation in male dominated groups. First, I find it patronising to men to assume that they would not be able to converse with someone who doesn't know every score from last Saturday's games. But I also found it weird that there is no corresponding duty on men to study late into the night about what I am interested in to network with me. The onus is on women to fit in - not on social interactions to be based on the individuals who are there.

There is a final issue. This may just be me, but when I do network I am very aware of my gender on two counts. First, whether I will experience discrimination because I am female and sexual harassament because of my sartorial choices. Second, if it is an evening event I think about my safety. How will I get home? Will I be travelling with a group or on my own? Is it the last train out of Glasgow - in which case you won't see me networking on an evening when there is an Old Firm match that day. As I grow older I feel more comfortable about my clothing choices - after all, assault is wrong no matter what you wear and 'she had a short skirt on' is not a defense. And I have learnt through my own experience and report after report on sexual harassment and sexual assualt that jeans and a hoody do not protect you.

Neither of these issues should hold water in the 21st century - but they do.

If the reason women are not progressing is because they are not networking then a culture where women can't access that is part of a glass ceiling. Yes, there are cracks in the glass but we aren't breathing fresh air yet.

Monday, 22 August 2011


That's me started then - off into the blogosphere and within a short space of time started getting tweets on my first post - very exciting and a real boost to my confidence and the idea that this lark isn't just some weird compulsion without any real point to it.

And then there was a tweet about whether the blog was intended to be anonymous - a very valid question and the person who posed it was willing to delete tweets if I had made a mistake in my blog settings - a kindness many might not have offered.

I had thought about it, the sharp, secret and serious blogger yet to be unmasked with the silver tongue [oh dear, getting carried away], making a small dent in the world of 'lady blogging'. I thought about what people I know would say - would my workplace sack me, my colleagues look at me askance, my outing as quite the opinionated feminist result in a drying up of social invitations?

I have a role that does require careful thought - director for a charity brings with it responsibility. I am apolitical in my role and fight for people with diabetes - that is my primary role and aim. I take that seriously. I also have friends and family that probably don't want to see me fireballed by trolls who aren't keen on my views.

But I also thought about why I wanted to blog at all. Well, the 'about the burd' section of said burd's blog contains a line - "So here we are, a year on, and still a shortage of burdz on the Scottish blogosphere casting their beady eyes over all things political, topical, economic and social. Hey ho.". It chimed with me - because I felt that same shortage of voice - not just in the blogosphere but in other arenas too. And I have spent my fair share of airtime at work, at home, or over a glass of wine, decrying the parlous state of female affairs despite how far we are told we have come. As a female in a senior management role I also feel a responsibility - I can't quite define it but I feel it.

Being 'anon' would bring a certain amount of freedom - I could say what I like. My typos and mispellings would not haunt me. My gauche attempt at writing with meaning could be swaddled in the knowledge that the two or three internet surfers that happened across it would not know it was me.

I think it is an entirely valid position to take. It is valid if you are oppressed and fear further admonition through speaking out. Many would argue women still fit this category in many ways. But for me I cannot occupy it. Voices of all types and genders, race and social class, are drowned out by the inequality and unfairness in our society, in our world. If I can't be open - white, educated, in employment, the fruits of being born in the first world bestowed upon me - what does that say? It says that it is time to speak out. Politely but firmly. And without losing my job [did I just dissemble?].

I was and am inspired by strong women and the men who were and are strong enough to know that working together is infinitely better than not. I may never be one of those women but if I can catch a coat tail and at least be part of it and not stand by watching it that will be enough for me.

So - as they say - 'views are my own'. And thank you for reading.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

go reggie

Spotted this article in the Guardian - Reggie Yates is taking part in the Women's Aid Real Man campaign on domestic abuse.

At the end of the article he says "I'm not sure if I would call myself a feminist. I just know that I respect women and that's the most important thing to me." This interests me because I reckon if you think the last sentence in that quote then you are a feminist even if you don't call yourself one. And why that leap seems so vast.

Then you scroll down into the comments - always a dangerous thing to do even in the Guardian - and you see why this is the case.

No wonder he isn't sure whether he would call himself feminist - as many women find the response is not always positive. Good on you, Reggie, for being a real man and being honest.

Friday, 19 August 2011

a levels, pretty girls, not surprised

A level results came out this week [so no doubt I will have spelling/grammar errors in this post that spoilsports will spot and say 'see what happens when you dumb down the education system and take away rote learning and the strap?] as did the expected flurry of pictures in the press of young girls jumping for joy - young, blonde, slim girls. Usually in white vest tops.

Now, I wasn't surprised because I am a dour feminist sensitised to every possible insult against women real or imagined. The press however, in a real quine of a story, reported on the a levels using such pics, then reported on the pics being used and what it might mean, then pointed out we all knew this last year.

And a whole tumblr has birthed on the subject of sexy a-levels which proves - through, of course, publishing pics of the very thing it proposes to be exploring - the hypothesis that no a levels story should be without some leaping ladies.

There is a whole other train of thought - that no-one should get all twitchy about young, barely legal girls being photographed mainly by blokes old enough to be their fathers encouraging them to jump, hug and smile, smile, smile because -

"Spotty oiks [the author means teenage boys] don't take much of a picture, and anyway girls get better exam results. They also express emotion in photographs and boys, with the best will in the world, just don't."

and -

"Firstly because A-levels are like popularity - important when you're 18, and for the rest of your life you couldn't care less. And secondly because the sight of a happy teenage girl with a whole life of possibilities in front of her is one of the most magical things you'll ever see."

followed by how crap the whole world pretty much is for girls, so please, feel guilty that -

"In India if you're a girl you're lucky to survive to 18. In most of Africa school is an expensive luxury that comes a long way down a parent's list. In China a girl will probably be aborted if her parents can afford it, and dumped after she is born if they can't. In fact, while we're busy bewailing pictures of successful young kids in the newspapers covering our tiny, self-important part of the planet, there are 100million women in the rest of the world who have simply disappeared."

but you are spending your time worried about pics of girls getting their a levels. First world problems, people.

The things is, the article above actually has valid points to make. The world is a hell for women in many - and varied - ways. There is a gulf between not even being born because of your gender and being photographed to sell newspapers on exam results day. I get that. But ultimately it is all part of the same package - exploitation and abuse of women and girls. It isn't two separate issues - just different degrees of burn. But not mentioning the a level pictures doesn't - in some kind of magical trade off - mean the 100 million the article states have disappeared will magically reappear. Or that one woman or girl destined to disappear will remain. Not one of them will.

So - rather than argue the toss [sorry, I know, I kinda just did that myself] why not say 'yes, this is unacceptable - and by the way these other things are unacceptable too - how 'bout we do something to change that too?'. Then we get to change the world instead of argue ourselves round to next year's exam results and find ourselves smack-bang in amongst the same spaghetti junction discussion we thought we were working our way out of. Not much learning going on there, is there?

Friday, 5 August 2011

the lass o' pairts

The lass o' pairts is a girl or woman with some smarts about her, a promising lassie, a young woman with some talent to her name. Scotland has a long tradition of tough, smart women. But we still are underepresented in Parliament, in business and in public life. And we still get paid less for the work we do.

I love my work, am intrigued by politics and current affairs, and want to be a strong woman taking her part in what Scotland is about. And I want to reclaim the 'f' word and have a voice in the issues that affect everyone without having to consider my gender first and navigate it as an obstacle.

So this blog combines my thoughts and comments on politics and current affairs with a healthy dose of feminism.