Recently I attended two events organised and promoted by the UK government. Both events aimed to address issues facing women today. One was a panel on Body Confidence hosted by Junior Equalities Minister, Jo Swinson (as part of her ongoing campaign against re-touching and unrealistic depictions of women in the media). The other was organised by the Women’s Business Council and the Secretary of State, Maria Miller, and was all about how to get more girls interested in STEM careers and business, as well as trying to tackle the lack of female leaders in those areas. What should have been inspiring debates with people of power and expertise were, in fact, on both occasions a face-palming, frustrating, ticking of boxes. But, alas, all was not lost. I did learn a few things…
If in doubt, set up a panel
It seems Mr Cameron plans to fight gender equality with a complex network of panels and councils. When the government is bamboozled by issues that they can’t solve/don’t understand /don’t really care about, Cameron sticks a group of women in a room for an hour and hopes they come up with something.
Launch a report
If you are confused by the purpose of the panel, see the 30-page report. That will definitely make things clearer.
Forget to invite any men
In conversations that were essentially about equality, there was a distinct lack of men on both occasions. And whilst both panels had a token man, superwomen CEO and founder of 30% Club, Helena Morrissey, asked the WBC where all the men were? “Er, they were invited”. Hmm.
Be completely unclear about what you actually intend to do
Grand declarations of ‘changing the culture’ and ‘giving girls opportunity’ were repeatedly thrown about. What panels plan on actively doing when not at the panel, well that wasn’t so clear.
Forget to confer with the people you seek to represent
While we all discussed the pressure 15-year-old girls face, there wasn’t a single high-schooler in sight. Just an idea…
Avoid using the F-word
Prohibit access of violent porn to young men? Encourage girls to feel good about their bodies? Help women back to work after having a baby? I *think* it’s called Feminism.
Remark “how far we’ve already come”
Yes, Maria Miller, fortunately we have come a long way from the days of Suffragettes, but with a 25 year high in female unemployment, fewer women in the cabinet and slashes to services that affect women, it’s not the time to start patting yourself on the back.