Category Archives: Michelle Obama

Campaign trail

We were lucky enough to attend the STEM ambassadors event yesterday in the House of Lords. An amazing organisation which sees brilliant people working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths volunteering their time to work with schools to teach kids about the amazing career opportunities that are out there. The event also launched a fantastic new photography exhibition called Leading Lights. The pictures aim to show scientists in a new light – no lab coats and test tubes allowed. It’s really worth a look and we will be featuring some of the ambassadors on our website as they are truly great role-models.

Speaking of which. The PR agency who were working with STEM Net, were really pleased to get a double page spread in the Times Magazine a few weeks ago, featuring some of these amazing people. Unfortunately, there was someone far more ‘interesting’ to go on the cover than one of these brilliant ambassadors.  And guess who this amazing cover shot was?

Here’s a clue: the sub head was: “A feminsit icon of our time?”

Have at think.

YES! Katie Price aka JORDAN! EH? You know. Jordan – the ex page three model. That amazing ‘feminist icon’.

I’m not going to get into a Katie Price bashing session. She has undoubtedly done some good things in her time. She’s clearly an astute business woman. She has dealt with her son’s disability in an admiral way and is clearly of some support to parents who have similar issues to contend with. But, there’s no getting away from the fact that her fame and fortune is inextricably linked to her status as a glamour model – surgically enhanced and selling her body to the paying public.

She was on the cover of the magazine because her face and her boobs sell papers. Full stop. The real feminist icons. The ones who are changing the world and curing disease and solving problems and saving lives are not cover material. And our argument is, is that they should be. When being smart is being cool (to pinch Michelle Obama’s phrase) that is the day when Katie Price is off the cover and Jo Carris, Laurie Winkless, Liza brooks, Clare Woods … are on it.

One of the women featured in that article has written a short and sweet response to the Editor’s decision. I wonder whether the editor will have the guts to print it. I sincerely hope so.

I’ll ‘print’ it here. Just in case you don’t get to see it.

Dear Sir/Madam,

The Magazine supplement to today’s Times (Saturday 18th April) featured Katie Price (a.k.a. Jordan, former glamour model), Jo Carris (environmental sustainability consultant), Laurie Winkless (nanomaterials research scientist), Liza Brooks (mechanical engineer and
founder of a snowboard company), and Clare Wood (computational engineering research officer).

No prizes for guessing which one had her picture on the front cover, with the tag-line “A feminist icon for our times?”

I’m saddened that the Times chose to reinforce the view held by so many young people in Britain today, that attaining celebrity status is more important than pursuing an intellectually-challenging career.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Heather Williams, Physicist and STEM Ambassador

Heather – we thank you.

I was also lucky enough to go to the launch of a new website yesterday too, at the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. is a new site which links campaigners together and gives advice to those wishing to make change.

It was a real pleasure to meet, and then hear speak, Jackie Schneider of the Merton Parents school dinners campaign. She’s an inspiration. She called herself a right pain! But I guess that’s what being a great campaigner is all about.

I also met Dinah Cox of the Rosa fund. She spoke too about the incredible strength of campaigners in the women’s field and it was hugely complimentary to see her handwritten list of ‘campaigns of note’ included PinkStinks.

Finally, today I received the latest copy of KnockBack – a fantastically funny and brilliant magazine for women – billed as a ‘Magazine we made because we don’t like the magazines they made for us’. I urge you to send a donation and get a copy. I laugh through the entire thing. I wish the editors of the Times were as brave and as brilliant as the creators of this.

I want to be pretty

Evening all

Just wanted to make a few small points following some things I have read recently. Firstly, a good article in the Telegraph on Saturday, by Bonnie Greer, and about Michelle Obama. For once it was about her and not what she was wearing. What an amazing woman. Michelle for President I say. Michelle visited a school last week really close to my office (Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School) Watch the film on the link – I challenge you not to shed a tear. She told the school girls there: “being smart is cooler than being anything in the World”. She’s a role model made of gold. It’s a good article. Read if you get a moment as I found it inspiring and hopeful.

Then, when I got back to work this morning one of my colleagues left an article on my desk which she had seen in the Metro. “Got boy trouble? Just ask Elaina, 7” is the headline. So it’s more of the same … this bizarre phenomena of children being given adult roles – as agony aunts and relationship experts. This time not in the US (where we could believe it could happen) but this time in the UK on Mercia FM. I really do wonder how anyone could think this to be cute? Or entertaining? Or appropriate! What purpose can this possibly serve? I am really not at all sure. Ratings? Ah yes. That must be it.

My new book this week is The Story of Childhood – growing up in modern Britain, by Libby Brooks. Fascinating so far. I liked this quote from the preface: “The human young must serve an extended apprenticeship, only after which they are deemed competent to become integrated members of society.” Slightly ironic next to the other extreme (these child agony aunts who appear to be being given adult wisdom – but are actually being used to make money … let’s face it.)

One of the saddest stories in the book is about Laura. She’s 15 and she’s tried to commit suicide. Bullied for years she finally cracked. She says: “When they started beating me up I actually remember thinking to myself, ‘I want to be pretty.’ Part of me thought something must look wrong with me for them to hate me so much and part of me thought if I become really pretty next time I see them that’ll show them that I don’t care what they did to me.” How completely and utterly tragic. Brooks says:

“After more than a century of the women’s movement fighting for the right to participate in public life, liberation has been appropriated for the private preoccupation with presentation. What this tells young women is: you can’t change the world but you can, and indeed you have a responsibility to, change yourself.” Gives a new meaning to the “Because you’re worth it” slogan, don’t you think.

Laura says: “Loads of teenagers don’t really know who to try to be.”

Which is why Michelle Obama, speaking to girls in a school in Islington, is such a powerful and hopefully life-changing moment for them at least.