Four Things I’ve Liked This Week

Four Things I’ve Liked This Week

Here we have a Buzzfeed-esque list of “4 Things” which have caught my eye of late: things which made me laugh, made me (fleetingly, before I remember the weather, #8monthsofsnoweachyear) want to emigrate to Canada, made me mentally crown a member of the British Royal family this week’s #HeforShe champion and made me recall an early brush with a culture very, very different from my own.

Meme riposte to can anyone stop HillaryFirstly,  this meme response to a Time magazine cover from 2014 made me laugh.

“Can Anyone Stop Hillary?”  was the question in a televised debate: and here we have the great reply.

 

Justin Trudeau UN WomenIn my 2015 round up of people and stuff I loved, I referenced the then newly minted Canadian leader Justin Trudeau as a hero for saying, in a very matter of fact way “Because it’s 2015 …” when asked why he had a 50/50 gender split in his cabinet. He’s gone on to consolidate his feminist credentials; Fortune magazine did a nice round up of five times that he’s been a feminist hero and I especially like this quote, from JT’s recent editorial in the Globe and Mail:

“Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for men and women, about everyone having the same choices without facing discrimination based on gender. Equality is not a threat, it is an opportunity.”

So yes please Mr Trudeau, do please keep saying you’re a feminist.

Prince Harry on feminismAnother, perhaps unlikely, bloke was outed as a gender champion last week when Prince Harry visited Nepal and spoke in support of gender equality at the Girl Summit. I would love to see him do more of this type of work – I think he has huge influence and reach and,  removed from the burden of pressure to be a future monarch,  he could really build his own portfolio and platform in support of women, girls and education.

“There are way too many obstacles between girls and the opportunities they deserve,” the 31-year-old prince told the crowd [at the Summit]. “We need to acknowledge that so many countries and cultures are failing to protect the opportunities of young women and girls in the way they do for boys,” he continued.

The royal, who admitted he has not spoken out on the challenges of young girls in the past, embraced the opportunity and encouraged others to do the same.

“We won’t unlock these opportunities for young women and girls unless we can change the mindset of every family and community. To achieve this, it cannot just be women who speak up for girls,” he said.

Finally, a recent story in The Observer took me back in time and reminded me of my first foray into volunteer work when I was still at school. We currently hear so much about refugees from Syria but the paper went to catch up with a number of Vietnamese refugees, who found themselves in the UK in the early 1980s after their rescue from terrifying boat journeys (hence being referred to in tabloid terms as “the boat people”) and subsequent re-homing in Peterborough.  At the time,  the Cambridgeshire city was dubbed a ‘new town’ and was in the throes of expansion and development; businesses were lured there with cut price offices and rates and new housing estates seemed to spring up almost overnight.  The then Mayor made some of these new properties available to a number of Vietnamese families and I came to know them when I spent two afternoons a week with them as part of my volunteer work (in lieu of playing hockey!) at school.

The programme was nominally about teaching the adults English,  but in reality it became much more about learning life skills and how their new life and society actually worked. So whilst we did spend time sitting in their kitchens doing English lessons together (numbers, colours, names, food and drink, and putting stickers up on items around the house – door, chair, TV, sink, fridge) we also went out and about together so that my new friends could learn how to use public transport,  how to use the public library, what to do in a shop (how to queue, for example … I remember this causing much puzzlement), how to sit in a café and order from the waitress.

I did this for nearly two years before I left Peterborough to go away to university and I loved it – and I know that I learned as much from my new friends as they ever learned from me, not least the capacity to look at life through a different lens and see things from another point of view. It was wonderful to read the article and learn about how the families settled and became successful; there is one very successful young woman featured in the article and I wonder if I met her when she was a child.

Weekly round up: anyone for tennis?

Weekly round up: anyone for tennis?

tennis money shutterstockAs Adele would say, hello. Ahead of a long (in the UK, at least) weekend, here’s my round up of gender related news, plus a recommendation for a novel.

There’s still lots of noise around the gender pay gap. And I feel that my prediction earlier this year that it’s THE human capital news story of 2016 is very much the case. The Huffington Post askedjust how persistent is the gender pay gap? Apparently, even companies that practice “salary transparency” – making all employees’ salaries publicly available – may end up paying men more than women.  And a report by the UK Women and Equalities Select Committee said the government has failed to close the pay gap and called for action on what it dubbed the ‘motherhood penalty’.

Meanwhile, anyone for tennis? The sporting pay gap story of the week played out in a series of comments, resignations and backtracks. Firstly, Indian Wells Tennis Garden CEO Raymond Moore’s allegation that female tennis players “ride on [the] coattails of the men” hit the tennis world like a bombshell, prompting his subsequent resignation. While Serena Williams called his statements “mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate,” Novak Djokovic firstly took the opposite view, saying he believes there is data to support the notion that men bring in more fans, swiftly followed by HIS backtrack,  claiming he had been misunderstood and that it wasn’t his “intention” to cause offence (thus proving my oft-repeated point that it’s never about intent but always about impact). Game, set and match to Serena Williams and Andy Murray, I think,  who both come out of this debate with dignity and gender equity support intact and consistent.

In US politics, The New York Times reported on how white men are pushing back on supporting Hillary Clinton, whilst Donald Trump’s “problem with women” may cost him the Republican nomination (and that would be a real definition of soft power,  if it happens).

“To win the White House Donald Trump will have to accomplish one of the great political seductions of all time. Having insulted the women of America as bimbos, fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals, he will have to persuade them to vote for him.”

(I can’t actually bear to illustrate this story with a relevant image,  so please use your imagination, if you can stand to do so.)

Thanks to ELLE’s Hannah Swerling sharing the details of it with us at Soho House last week,  I finally caught up with this New York magazine story on why and how young single, female voters hold the power in 2016 – why the shape of marriage and family life is changing and how the practicalities of female life independent of marriage give rise to US demands for pay equity, paid family leave, a higher minimum wage and broadly accessible reproductive rights; many of these are issues that have, for years, been considered too risky to be central to mainstream Democratic conversation, yet they are policies today supported by both Democratic candidates for president.

Last week, Sheryl Sandberg celebrated the two year anniversary of the release of the Lean In Collection on Getty Images, a library of thousands of creative images devoted to changing the portrayal of women and girls in media and advertising. In the past year, searches for “woman entrepreneur” have increased by 402% on Getty’s website — and searches for “empowered women” increased by 772%. As Sandberg shared on Facebook, “We also need to broaden the images we see of men, and there are signs that these depictions are changing. In 2007, the most downloaded image of a father was a dad playing football with his son. In 2015, the most downloaded image showed a dad reading a tablet with his daughter. They say a picture is worth a thousand words — and in an age where visuals are everywhere, it is so important to think about the messages those images are sending.” This link shares what role imagery in advertising can play, so that we can “be what we can see.”

It was reported in the UK that the so-called “tampon tax” (wherein sanitary protection products are taxed as a LUXURY item) is to be abolished and chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver came out swinging in favour of breastfeeding, saying that “we need to support the women of Britain to breastfeed more, anywhere they want to”, although he then ran into a wall of criticism, mostly from women who felt that it wasn’t down to a man to “mansplain” such a female function.

The Pool shared some revised ideas about what dressing for work now looks like and discussed how women’s wear has evolved over the last fifty years. And Lauren Laverne used the site to urge us all to speed up the pace of change.

Finally, books.

The Observer ran a nice piece on Caitlin Moran talking about her new book, Moranifesto and the same paper’s This Much I Know column featured feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

After the Last Dance by Sarra ManningI read and enjoyed After the Last Dance by Sarra Manning; it tells the story of Rose (set in 1940s’ wartime London) and the (initially unlikeable) current day Jane, slowly unfolding their connection. A beautiful woman in a wedding dress walks into a seedy bar in Las Vegas and asks the first man she sees to marry her; in 1943, Rose runs away from home and ends up in London where she volunteers at Rainbow Corner, a nightclub for American GIs. It’s a slow burning read but I enjoyed it – perfect for a rainy afternoon and a hot cross bun.

 

Thanks to Sphere and NetGalley for the chance to read After the Last Dance.

 

The #WE Party on the gender pay gap

The #WE Party on the gender pay gap

Gender pay gap_coin stackThere are currently so many new stories and angles relating to the gender  pay gap that I think I’m going to have to use a #PowerofThree approach of my own and just cover three at a time.

So, in the week that the Women’s Equality Party launch a gender pay gap shaped campaign (details and video link below),  here are the three (and a bit) main stories on this ever evolving topic which have caught my eye in the global media in the last few days.

Straight in at Number One with a bullet,  we have the New York Times reporting that as women take over a male-dominated field, the pay drops, indicating that work, when done by women, is less valued and therefore less well paid. Historically,  this may not be new news; I seem to recall that clerical and secretarial work was, in the 1900s, always done by men and was considered of high status – until the First World War brought women out of the home and into offices and hey presto, the “just a secretary” movement was born.

“A striking example is to be found in the field of recreation — working in parks or leading camps — which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percentage points, accounting for the change in the value of the dollar. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percentage points. The same thing happened when women in large numbers became designers (wages fell 34 percentage points), housekeepers (wages fell 21 percentage points) and biologists (wages fell 18 percentage points). The reverse was true when a job attracted more men. Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women. But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.”

Next, we have two areas of the gender pay gap topic covered in the Harvard Business Review, who share the real reason why 30-something women are leaving their employers – and guess what,  it’s nothing to do with “family reasons” and everything to do with cold, hard cash. So,  where women can vote with their feet and leave the much-lauded talent pipeline for more money elsewhere: they will. And also in the HBR is a feature which indicates that our new (UK) pay gap legislation will also increase employee performance. Pay transparency empowers workers and enhances fairness. “When people know where they stand and know what it will take to move up, they’re more motivated to work to improve both their performance and their standing.”

Finally, the CIPD reports that short men and overweight women appear to suffer from unconscious bias affecting their pay, according to a study from the University of Exeter. The results showed that men who were shorter than the national average and women who were heavier earned about £1,500 less annually than colleagues. It’s suggested that leaders should acknowledge the unconscious bias that leads to this pay discrepancy and work to remedy it. Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: “We have known for a long time that both [quoted forms of discrimination] are truisms. If you are a shorter man, with the same qualifications as a taller man, the tall man will get the job. By the same token, an overweight woman will earn less. It is awful but true.” Fry said he believed employers were acting on unconscious biases, rather than outwardly discriminating: “We are brought up to think that if you are fat you are less than perfect and that it is really tall men who are commanding. It is discrimination and, from an employment point of view, there is no reason for it. If you can do the job, you can do the job, and you should get paid equally.”

(I’ll reference the still-evolving story about gender pay gaps on the tennis court – and the charmless comments made therein – in this week’s end of week round up).

So now to the Women’s Equality Party, who are celebrating March – the first month of the year women actually get paid – with a new campaign and video.

“Forty-five years after the Equal Pay Act, women still earn 20% less than men. This means that, in effect, women have to work until March before they start getting paid for the jobs that they do. Women earn less per hour, less per job and less overall. This is not only hugely unfair on half of the population, but it also has a detrimental effect on the country as a whole. If we unleashed the potential of women, the economy could grow by an extra £180 billion. That’s £2,850 for each and every one of us. If you want a party for equal pay, support the Women’s Equality Party.”

What I find absolutely staggering about the gender pay gap issue is the chorus of disagreement which it provokes every time it gets mentioned on social media or in an article.  The internet is awash with comments like: “Every job that I have worked my female colleagues have earned exactly the same pay as me, so where are these places that pay less for the same work?” and “But there isn’t REALLY a 20% pay gap is there … it’s all just rhetoric and manipulation….”.

So not only are we faced with fighting for parity,  we’re also having to challenge people who seemingly haven’t heard  of the concept that the plural of anecdote isn’t evidence, who were fortunate enough to ACTUALLY KNOW the full details of their colleagues’ salaries or who are clearly in utter denial as to the validity of the evidence.  Do they really think that any Government would have created new legislation to tackle this if the gender pay gap wasn’t a very real, known, documented issue?

 

End of week round up – mostly celebrating #IWD2016

End of week round up – mostly celebrating #IWD2016

Overthrowing the patriarchyThis week,  it was pretty much all about International Women’s Day  on March 8th,  with lots of organisations using the event as a launch pad for their initiatives and announcements.  Here’s some of what caught my eye.

Back in 2008, I made a film called Closing the Gender Gap which featured the then deputy President of South Africa, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. She is now the executive director of UN Women and discusses in this Fortune interview  what International Women’s Day is all about. She had one very specific recommendation for how businesses of all sizes can help promote gender equality – clue: it involves money. And gaps. And here’s UN Women’s look at how IWD is celebrated around the world.

The ScotsWOMAN paper IWD 2016My absolute favourite story of the week (possibly the year, or maybe ever) was about newspaper The Scotsman becoming The ScotsWOMAN for the day, complete with an editorial mix which celebrated as well as analysed the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.

IWD quotationsNewly launched newspaper the New Day (which also happens to have a female editor, Alison Phillips) shared a graphic featuring some great quotes and also published (yet another) tool to cheer us all up by allowing us to calculate where we fall on the gender pay gap. Meanwhile, The Guardian suggested that we stop asking for parity with men and instead ask for progress – which, given that the International Labour Organization reported that women have seen only “marginal improvements” in the world of work in the past 20 years, is a very valid point.

The mostly female team behind the hit BBC  show ‘Call the Midwife’ reminded us that the show:

“… places women at the very centre of every episode, and women’s stories at the central part of our world. The role of women in the birthing room – and the positive aspect of female relationships seen more widely – has too often been invisible in popular culture. Yet the immense worldwide popularity of our programme demonstrates that our viewers, male and female, see this as a positive and natural thing for a drama to show. We hope there will come a time when it is so natural to drama that it does not require special mention – or indeed a special day in the calendar.”

The BBC also shared three stories as part of their IWD coverage: five pictures that revealed how women are treated around the world; England cricket vice-captain Heather Knight looked back at how far the women’s game has come; and here’s an interesting series of images of women making technology work for them.

However,  it wasn’t all good news; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who has already enraged many by urging Turkish women to have at least three children and for calling efforts to promote birth control “treason”- said in his speech to celebrate IWD that he believes that “a woman is above all else a mother.”

Unesco reported, complete with some rather scary illustrations, that sexism and stereotyped language is rife in textbooks, whilst football club Wellingborough Town banned its chairman for making sexist remarks; perhaps he thought it was ‘banter’?

Nicholas Kristof (the ultimate champion of HeforShe, to my mind) commented on his Facebook page that:

“The group ONE has a new report noting that “poverty is sexist”–it absolutely is–and concluding that the worst places in the world to be born female are Niger, Somalia, Mali, CAR and Yemen. To me, the best index of global gender inequity is that there are still more males than females worldwide. Women live longer, so there should be more females. But because in so many places female foetuses are selectively aborted, or girls aren’t fed or vaccinated or taken to the doctor when sick, there are actually more males than females worldwide. And this can’t just be a women’s issue, but should be a men’s and women’s issue together!”

And the TUC issued a report which claims that women who have children before they are 35 take a 15% pay hit, compared with childless women. Other cheering data points include the fact that 20% of women under 25 were dismissed or forced out over pregnancy or maternity leave, compared to 10% of all mothers.

It’s the custom in many countries to present women with flowers on IWD – I was often given an individual rose on March 8th  when I worked in an office which had a large population of Russians, where IWD is also a public holiday. Perhaps it’s a shame that a bloke in Romania failed to remember the tradition, given his wife’s enraged reaction.

And finally,  for anyone in the mood for a Friday evening glass of wine,  The Guardian brought us the story of Italy’s first all-woman vineyard.  Saluti, cheers, sláinte, à votre santé, etc.

Did I miss anything? Please share stories or links in the comments below.

Have a great weekend – look out next week for a new #powerofthree interview with a woman who decided aged 11 that she wanted  to be a lawyer (spoiler alert: she made it!)

On #WomenandPower

On #WomenandPower

Hillary Clinton and PowerHillary Clinton is probably one of the most high profile and powerful women in the world at the moment, and is moving towards becoming America’s first ever female Presidential nominee. It is not, however,  the smooth path to the White House that she might (not unreasonably) have expected. Bernie Sanders crushed her in the recent New Hampshire primary—thanks in large part to female voters, 55% of whom say they voted for Sanders. The loss was undoubtedly a tough one for Clinton; she won the state in the 2008 race and it put her husband on the path to the White House in 1992. In her concession speech, Clinton looked forward, saying, “It is not whether you get knocked down that matters, it is whether you get back up.”

She subsequently won  major victories on ‘Super Tuesday’ in seven out of eleven Democratic primaries and caucuses, including Texas and Massachusetts. Her wins are credited to her popularity with minority voters and her kinship with Southern Democrats from the two decades she spent in Arkansas. There’s more on her campaign trail in this interesting piece from the BBC.

Elsewhere in the world, a new report suggests that women continue to face a double hurdle to gaining political power. While there has been an increase in women’s participation in politics across the globe, it has not necessarily resulted in an increase in their power and influence, a study by the Overseas Development Institute has found.

Although participation in political systems is a prerequisite for influence, women’s presence alone does not mean they have actual power or are able to make advances in gender equality. Women elected to public office are often seen as “troublemakers” and not “like other women”, are judged more harshly and can face violent backlashes for being politically active. The performance of individual women leaders can also affect public perceptions of the abilities of women in general.

Through interviews and observations in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malawi and Kenya researchers found numerous examples of where women have brought about positive changes through their involvement in male-dominated political and judicial systems. The report concludes that the major factors in women achieving real political power are (my italics) advances in education and technical knowledge, economic independence, feminist organisations and political skills, combined with changes in social structures and rules.

ODI research fellow Tam O’Neil said:

“Women have more rights and representation than ever before, with democracy and quotas as key drivers. But women leaders must be credible in the eyes of their, mostly male, peers to have real power – and this means having higher education, technical competence, and economic independence. Increased representation is a shallow gain unless women also have access to resources, and unless widespread beliefs about women’s role and capabilities change. Policy-makers need to pay more attention to these issues.”

Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • Village courts in Bangladesh now have at least one woman on all cases involving women and minors in project areas. However, social norms and structures prevent women from engaging in what are seen as male issues, such as land and property disputes.
  • In 2010, the women’s movement in Kenya succeeded in negotiating a constitution that was so progressive on gender issues that it was known as the ‘Women’s Constitution’. One of the key changes was a requirement that the Kenyan parliament include at least one third female representation.
  • Much of the backlash against increasing numbers of female Kenyan politicians is expressed through bullying, which is often sexual in nature. And even with increased representation in parliament, women remain a minority so must work hard to lobby male politicians to support legislation that treats men and women as equal.
  • An indication of the uphill struggle Kenyan female MPs face is the passing of a controversial marriage bill in 2014 which legalised polygamy.
  • A new survey of women MPs in Malawi shows that female candidates often face prejudice and gendered abuse during election campaigns. Once elected, women MPs can find it difficult to progress their own career or women’s rights in general. To be accepted by voters and keep their seat, MPs need to conform to expectations of a “good woman” in dress and behaviour. Women MPs however have worked in politically smart ways, using restrictive gender norms strategically to achieve rights and benefits for other women.
  • Women MPs made the case for a new Divorce, Marriage and Family Relations Act (2015) by appealing to male MPs as fathers, stressing the dangers of child marriage to girls. At the same time they did not draw attention to some of the more controversial provisions in the bill, such as those relating to marriage by repute, custody of children and marital rape.
  • Most Malawians have socially conservative views about women and gender relations. However, around half of the women MPs said they share domestic responsibilities, such as childcare and cooking, equally with their husband – showing the importance to women’s leadership of both women and men being prepared to challenge gender stereotypes.
  • In Afghanistan, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, women activists and international actors lobbied for the law (2013) on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which criminalised violence against women for the first time.

As the week of International Women’s Day draws to a close,  this report is a timely reminder of the gender based work still to be done and the power based progress still to be made in many countries around the world.

Hillary has (just) triumphed in Iowa – but who remembers Shirley?

Hillary has (just) triumphed in Iowa – but who remembers Shirley?

2016-01-04 09.51.27On our recent USA road trip holiday, we drove nearly 2,000 miles across four states – but I only saw ONE Vote for Hillary car bumper sticker (just about pictured here – and no, I wasn’t driving when I took this photo). Due to the curiously American habit of using one’s vehicle as a mobile billboard to proclaim various relationships, allegiances or preferences (“I Brake for a Double Latte” being a great example of the latter) I was able to monitor the growing tide of public support for assorted potential Presidential candidates as we drove around – and can say that, based on what we saw, Ted Cruz was doing pretty well amongst SUV drivers, shortly followed by Donald Trump.

(As an aside, I think it’s an interesting metric-cum-weather-vane as to how a state’s voters think when you look at their bumper stickers – so I wonder which US state is currently leading the pack with regard to Hillary support on cars? Has anyone ever measured this?!)

I’m a huge fan of the work of journalist and author Nicholas Kristof, co-author with his wife Sheryl WuDunn of books “Half the Sky” and “A Path Appears” as well as a roving op-ed columnist for the New York Times. He sends out a regular e-newsletter related to his columns and a recent edition referred to Hillary Clinton’s changed approach to referencing her feminism, commenting that:

“It’s a measure of how much the country has changed that these days Clinton is running as a feminist, after decades of skirting the issue. In 2008 she barely mentioned her gender; now it’s a refrain.

“This really comes down to whether I can encourage and mobilize women to vote for the first woman president,” Time quoted her as saying. She even said she’d be open to choosing a woman as her running mate.

Kristof expanded on this in the newsletter, opening up with:

“One gauge of this election’s weirdness: It may result in a female president, or in a president (Trump) who has been a champion of sexism. And on the sidelines, President Obama has weighed in with a call for a tax break for tampons. Women increasingly are affecting the national conversation, and change is afoot.

“I didn’t have space to get into it in the column, but there’s interesting research on the extent to which women leaders matter. For “Half the Sky,” Sheryl WuDunn and I examined female presidents and prime ministers around the world, and we found no impact on such metrics as maternal mortality, girls’ education or access to family planning. But there’s also an argument that the first woman leader in a country (think Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir) is often particularly tough and less focused on women’s issues, but that later women will be. There’s also evidence, particularly from India, that women leaders matter at the grassroots: Female village leaders are less corrupt and more focused on women’s concerns than male village leaders. And there’s some evidence that women in power create role models who change expectations about what leadership can be.”

Kristof also notes that:

“Conversely, maybe it’s also a sign of progress that young women aren’t particularly inclined to support Clinton: They’re less likely to see their space defined by glass ceilings.”

– and I wonder if that’s because, if you’re of a certain age,  the idea that a woman could be Secretary of State, or a CEO, just doesn’t seem so impossible?  I’m certain that this is a measure of a progress and a good thing,  but this recent article on the BBC about Shirley Chisholm,  who ran for the Democratic Presidential ticket in 1972 and is now somehow almost forgotten in American history,  was a reminder about how far we’ve come, but how far we still have to go.

“She was a pioneer for her generation, a woman of many firsts – the first African American congresswoman. The first African American to run for president. The first woman to run for president.” Shirley Chisholm_1972

Back to today: I’m glad to see that Kristof’s paper, the New York Times, has come out and endorsed Hillary for the Democratic nomination and I look forward to seeing how she does in the campaign.

(This link will allow you to sign up for Kristof’s newsletter, if you’re interested).

Women (and men) who mattered most in 2015

Women (and men) who mattered most in 2015

Happy New Year!

Welcome to my very (very) personal list of the women (and a few men) who made a difference to me,  and maybe to you, in 2015.

Who else would you add?

In the wider world:

  • Laura Barnett: for writing my novel of 2015 and depicting fifty slightly alternative years over three slightly different women’s lives, all named Eva, in The Versions of Us.

    The Versions of Us
    (c) Amazon
  • Tea Leoni: as both Actress and Executive Producer in Madam Secretary, my binge watching choice of the year, with an honorary mention to Tim Daly for playing the trailing spouse and lead parent role with humour and grace;
  • Catherine Mayer, Sandi Toksvig and Sophie Walker: for founding the Women’s Equality Party in March 2015, crowdfunding their war chest and showing us that single issue politics can mean more than just bigots in blazers in UKIP. As an aside, I wasn’t able to attend the recent WEP event in central London but barrister Max Hardy went along and wrote a very interesting blog piece of his own about it and how it feels to be one of the few men in the room;
  • Viola Davis: for reminding us, as part of the ongoing discussion about diversity in showbiz, at the 2015 Emmys that “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity” and that “Talent and opportunity are two different things”  – not just true in Hollywood,  but in the wider world too – particularly when anyone in the corporate world insists that merit trumps opportunity in the workplace;
  • The gender pay gap has been much on my mind of late and clearly on Patricia Arquette’s too: she makes this list for calling it out at the 2015 Oscars;
  • Similarly, props to Jennifer Lawrence for her Lenny essay – a timely reminder to us all about asking for what you want, deserve and are worth;
  • My film of 2015 was the superb (and mysteriously overlooked in Oscar nomination terms) “Suffragette” – see my review here. In acting terms – Carey Mulligan is just incredible, but the whole production is a very female-centric one, and that’s still so rare as to be comment worthy.  If you need to wonder why I’m gushing like this, then you haven’t seen the film and so need to do so, immediately (the DVD is out in the UK on 29th February);
  • t-pirelli-calendar-2016-amy-schumer
    (c) Vanity Fair/Pirelli

    Amy Schumer: for making me laugh, very hard, during “Trainwreck” and for participating in the Pirelli calendar with a fantastic, vanity free shot which shows that modern beauty does indeed come in many forms;

  • And finally – Justin Trudeau, new man in Canada: for the best soundbite of the year:

And in my world:

  • Foluke Akinlose: for never pausing in her attempts to showcase the achievements of so many brilliant women of colour with the annual Precious Awards;
  • My friends: L and A, for always being there for me during what has often been a challenging year. And Kayleigh: my hairdresser, for working with me to sort out someone else’s horrible hair don’t (as executed upon my innocent head on 8th July 2014);
  • All the mostly, but not exclusively women, who follow my cooking, weight loss and eating photos on Instagram  (@lowcarbcleo) and who support me every day in my new low carb, healthier life.

Thank you all.  And here’s to an amazing, uplifting 2016.