Category Archives: Teachers

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.

Spreading the word

We’ve had an amazing response over the last few days, due to an article we had published in the NUT’s Teachers magazine, but also as networking takes hold and the popularity of Twitter has helped. It’s clear to me that there are people all over the world who share some of the concerns we raise and more than that, want something done about it. We’ve heard from Australia, Paris, USA, and even caught up with an old 6th form college friend who said he was astounded to think: “hang on is that the same Abi and Emma I knew at Chesterfield Tech in 1990?” Oh yes. It was!

There have been some interesting stories in the news too. The reaction to Gail Trimble, who became the most successful contestant on University Challenge ever was incredible. High praise mixed with vilification. “She’s rude”, “she’s pompous”, “she’s stealing the limelight from the others”.  God help us – it’s not even acceptable to be brainy now! Incredible when you then compare the way Jade Goody was originally crucified in the press for being stupid. It seems that the only way you can get any acceptance as a woman is if you fit into a nice safe middle area – not too stupid, not too intelligent and certainly not having opinions. 

TV was interesting last night too. I flicked over between a few programmes – none interesting enough for me to watch all the way through. Interesting more was the focus of them. Firstly, I noticed that BBC3’s Naked programme (we’ve talked about this before) was an all men episode. This time the men were given the challenge of doing a Fully Monty routine for us all. Interesting that a cat walk is not a suitable territory for men. I can’t really be bothered to do any analysis of all this. But the last thing I fancy seeing while I eat my tea is A Full Monty routine. So I bid a hasty retreat. At which point I found Girls and Boys Alone on Channel 4. 

I’m uncomfortable with this programme, I really am. It feels so intrusive. And I feel so sad seeing the children struggle to cope with the situations that they are flung into – so artificial and so unnatural. Especially last night when the girls ‘arrived’ and the boys went into an hysterical panic. I hated the way that the background music gave the impression that the girls’ arrival was comparable to a dangerous enemy arriving on the battle field. It’s all SO false and patronising. Children would never be in this situation normally. So what is the point of forcing them to do this on camera. I don’t like it. 

Finally, I watched 30 seconds (all I could stomach) of Coleen Rooney looking for a model to star in a new wonder bra ad. Every one of the women who turned up to audition was a 34B (useful to know) and was allegedly not your ‘normal’ model material. I think by this they meant not 8 feet tall. And also a couple of them had ginger hair (shock horror). But to me all I could see was a huge bunch of Coleen wanabees. More of the same. Nothing unusual at all! I was briefly reminded of the wonderful film Little Miss Sunshine. If only someone that unusual really did turn up and make people stop in their tracks.

Oh well. We are obsessed at the moment with TV programming which delves into our psyches and aims to make us more whole and fulfilled. While on the other hand we take away individuality, self-esteem and confidence by promoting a mono-culture of blandness.

I’ll leave it there!