What ‘Coder Barbie’ Should Have Said

Barbie I can be... booksMattel’s Barbie’s new range of “I can be” books has high hopes; featuring career choices such as presidents or sports players but still falls wide of the mark. We could potentially forgive ‘computer engineer’ Barbie needing help to reboot her computer, a skill she should’ve mastered by now? We’d even turn an eye at the pink heart shaped USB stick hanging round her neck, but when she utters those fatal words: “I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing. “I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!” Needless to say, the twittersphere was hot with ‘suggestions for improvement’.

We love ‘Barbie Remixed’ by Casey Fiesler, which features suggested amendments to the book which has Barbie narrating: “Really good games are made by a team of people. I’m doing some of the coding now, but Stephen and Brian are helping, too. There are lots of pieces to making a game, like art and music and storyline. Brian drew that puppy. You’re a good artist, Skipper. Maybe you could be a graphic designer when you grow up.” Skipper grins.“I love art, but I really love science, too. Physics is my favourite class. I think I want to be a physicist.”

Like all good code, we hope Mattel’s version of their story is an ongoing work in progress.

For ambitious woman, is the smart money on seeking a second fiddle spouse?

couple1-e1421849361535While most women and men claim to seek egalitarian relationships, there is at least one group of men who predict at the outset they won’t end up in these idylls. And is there something for modern women to learn from them? Harvard Business School recently surveyed 25,000 recent alums and found that it’s male graduates predicted they’d end up in traditional, 1950’s style nuclear families. The women on the other hand sought out egalitarian relationships – and were more frequently disappointed with their career progress. Rather than see Harvard men simply as sexist, would we do better to view them as pragmatic for today’s institutions – and copy them instead?  These men had spent 2 years studying what it took to develop successful careers and businesses and probably saw how senior people need a good team – in and outside the office.

As explained in Catherine Rampell’s piece in the Washington Post ‘Stuck in the 1950’s’: ‘They’re also members of a socioeconomic class that invests substantially more in their children today than in the past, meaning they may feel the need to have a spouse who has the time to be an active parent.’ We at Female Breadwinners are championing a more egalitarian workplace, where two partners can each have fulfilling careers and an active home life. But until that happens, perhaps the savviest women will be those who seek smart men who’d be willing to play second fiddle to an ambitious woman.

‘Advice to my Daughters: Why Young Women need Feminism More than Ever’

Emma Watson UN speechNow I’m working with InclusIQ, I notice more to share with my daughters. The recent Emma Watson speech at the UN certainly was a great springboard for discussion, as it might be for your own children. I tell my three daughters to aim high; with hard work and commitment they can achieve anything. This is true, but sadly it’s not just their attitude and zest for achievement that will affect their path.

Recent research by Girl Guilding shows 87% of female 11-21 year olds feel they are judged more on appearance than ability. Three out of 4 (75%) say sexism affects most areas of their lives. This is disappointing, but all the more reason to support girls who get involved in campaigns such as the Everyday Sexism Project and No More Page 3. Girls are taking a stand and ensuring their future is one they have a say in.

Julie Bentley, Girl Guiding CEO told the BBC, girls: “can do anything that they set their minds to”. They produced a short film and dedicated it to all party leaders, explaining why girls and young women play a vital role in society. They want the support of parliament to ensure a ‘future that truly sees parity between men and women’.

Ellie Dibben, also of Girl Guides explains: ‘People are beginning to understand society isn’t as equal as we thought and young women are no longer content to remain a silent group within society. We are the voters of tomorrow and government needs to take our views into account’.

Girl Guides are taking on a more proactive role calling directly on politicians to:

  • Listen to their concerns about harassment.
  • Requesting schools teach body confidence and gender equality.
  • Address harmful sexualised content in mainstream media.
  • Guarantee women will be equally represented in parliament.

Girl Guides give young women aspirations; with initiatives such as ‘Camp CEO’ which partners them with female executives from a range of sectors. It’s a great way to help girls consider leadership roles.

The best advice for my daughters? Be true to yourself, work hard in all core subjects – and get plenty of exposure to strong women. If they feel inspired into action by Emma Watson’s speech all the better. At the end of the day our children shape our future.

By guest blogger Wendy Rundle

Highs and Lows for Women in 2014

Women CEOs in increaseIt was a year of highs and lows for women according to Claire Cohen in her Telegraph article ‘Was 2014 a good year for women?’. We won’t soon be forgetting Microsoft’s CEO telling women to put faith ‘’in karma’ to give them the right pay rise, Boko Haram’s kidnapping of nearly 200 schoolgirls for forced marriages or Facebook and Google offering to freeze the eggs of female employees.

Highs included getting more female CEO’s in FTSE100 companies, the extension of flexible working rights and shared parental leave and seeing a few truly diabolical men such as American Apparel’s Dov Charney ousted. Even Mattel went from the sublime to the ridiculous with various editions of Barbie, including Entrepreneur Barbie (High!) and Software developer Barbie (who needed to ask Ken for help with her code – a real Low!)

Osbourne’s incentive for stay-at-home mums?

working motherIn the UK, there are currently 14.4 million women in employment, a record high, according to The Telegraph but the Government want to see nearly 500,000 more by the beginning of 2016. The Chancellor, George Osborne, stated: ‘Today’s Treasury research shows that women are playing an ever larger role in the economy, but it also makes clear that there’s more we can do to support women into work’. So how exactly does he plan to incentivise women back to employment?

The Government proposes to reform childcare to support families. £2million would create 50,000 childcare places across the country; and introduction of tax-free childcare would cover up to 20% off childcare costs for a maximum of £2,000 for each child. As an added carrot, the current government would extend the New Enterprise Allowance and Childcare Business Grants, which provided money to prospective childminders to start up nurseries in England. So far, these initiatives have generated around 4,000 new childminders creating 29,000 childcare places.

Childcare is a hot topic amongst all parties with Nicola Sturgeon, in Scotland last month promising to double the amount of free childcare available for three and four-year-olds taking the number of free hours from 16 to 30 every week if the SNP wins the next Holyrood election.

The proposals have evoked mixed reactions: Minister for women, Nicky Morgan, said: “I’m delighted more women are working than ever before – in the last year alone 350,000 extra women have been employed, giving them greater financial security. Women are making huge strides in the economy and it’s vital that their contributions are recognised.”

But not everyone sees this as progress. Laura Perrins, from campaign group ‘Mothers at Home Matter’, said: “Osborne fails to understand that mothers caring for children are working. They are caring for their kids.” She felt paid daycare places stigmatises stay-at-home mothers by suggesting paid work is the best way women can contribute.

We believe woman shouldn’t have to choose between their career and their family. The proposals encouraging stay-at-home mothers to go to work follow last year’s changes to child benefit which forced many back into the workplace.

$1 contraceptive shot for world’s poorest women

3rd world countries toWomen in the developing world will now be able to buy the contraceptive device, ‘Sayana Press’, for £1 or receive it free. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Children’s Investment Fund, are extending access to new contraceptive injections for women in 69 of the world’s poorest countries.

The BBC describe ‘Sayana Press’ as simple and pre-packaged so doesn’t rely on preparation by health workers; reducing risk of spillage or dosing errors. The device is single-use so cuts infection due to needle-sharing and works for 3 months.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 222m women in developing countries would choose to use contraception but don’t have access. Only 26% African women use contraception, a figure that’s doubled in the past two decades – but remains low for a region where women want safe, affordable and reliable contraceptives.

Kadidia Diallo, a midwife in Burkina Faso, West Africa, the first country to be offered the pilot contraceptive injection spoke to the BBC saying: ‘Normally for injections you have to put them in someone’s bottom, or the top of their leg, but with this – you use the arm. That’s an advantage for women living in the bush. Many women don’t come forward for injections if they have to pull their dresses up – this is more discreet.’

Basic health, prosperity, equality and access to contraceptives are essential to secure a sustainable world. Head of Global Development at the Gates Foundation, Dr Chris Elias, said in The Independent: ‘When women are able to plan their families, they are more likely to survive pregnancy and childbirth, to have healthier newborns and children, and to invest more in their families’ health and wellbeing’.

It’s a sentiment shared by the women demanding contraceptives themselves. Rahimata Tiendrébéogo, who is 18 and from Burkina Faso, wants to attend university to study English: “It’s not good for people to have babies so young because they are students…they don’t have money or the means to bring up children. I’m independent and I want to be responsible.” More women like Tiendrébéogo can take control of their bodies and choose to use birth control, something we in the West take for granted.

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