Women Of The World Festival 2012: Day 1

Today I went to (and live tweeted from) WOW: Women of the World Festival 2012. It is a three day event with a range of talks, debates and activities about women and feminism.

For each time slot you have a range of talks to chose from, so here is my short summary of the discussions I heard.

'It's The Economy, Stupid'

I only caught the end of this discussion.

  • Do we need to teach financial education from the age of 5? My personal opinion, as an ex-teacher, is no, but was interesting to hear their argument for.
  • Are childcare options the core element that holds women back from making the career choices they may want to make? Does society in the UK place enough value on how we provide childcare options to mothers and families? Can we learn from places like Denmark?
  • The role and need for actual apprenticeships. Many of the current ones offered, are not sufficient, or even really apprenticeships. 
  • How do we tackle the tax avoidance by the massive businesses who offset/offshore their incomes?


'Selling Us Short'

I had hoped this would focus more on the advert images, rather than just the industry and agencies, but it was still interesting.

  • We used to be more concerned with how women were presented in their role/place in life in adverts (housewives etc) but currently the more pressing issues seem to relate to how impossibly thin, sexy and young the women are in adverts.
  • 85% of ads are targetted to women, while only 20% of creative ad teams are women.
  • Advertising grew massively when supermarkets meant that shop keepers no longer assisted women with their shopping. They suddenly had to discover new brands for themselves.
  • Mad Men, the tv series, was an accurate portrayal of the time, apart from the fact drinking was banned on the premises.
  • There were real examples of the Peggy story happening (secretaries rising up to creative teams).
  • Stereotypes have to exist in adverts - they only have 3 seconds to tell a story.
  • 'Everything's changed and nothing's changed.'
  • Fairy Liquid adverts haven't changed much since the 1960s. However, perhaps they just reflect that women often play the housewife role in a family?
  • Quotas - should we force them on industry?
  • How do we stop women being judged more than men for what shoes they're wearing, or how pretty they are.


'Battering Down The Door: The Truth About Domestic Violence'

This one got a tad too self-promoting in parts, but still a worth while session, of course with such an important message.

  • There is currently more slavery in the world than ever before.
  • 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 6 men in the UK will suffer some form of Domestic Violence.
  • Domestic Violence takes us to the darkest places of relationships.
  • 15-44 year old women are more at risk of domestic violence and rape than cancer, war, malaria and motor accidents.
  • 30% of domestic violence starts or gets worse during pregnancy.
  • Domestic Violence costs the economy £23 billion a year.
  • 56% of women who suffer from domestic violence are late for work at least 5 times a month.
  • 75% of victims are targetted in some way at their place of work.
  • 230 women, on average, every day last year, were turned away from shelters and safe houses.

'That Old Chesnut - Having It All'

I was keen to attend this one, having blogged about something vaguely connected recently - So when will you have a baby?

  • Having a work/life balance isn't just about women with children. Child-free women also have families and lives.
  • Is there a third way? The generation of women who couldn't have children and careers, to the generation of women who seem to be trying to do it all and feeling like they fail at most of it.
  • We seem to judge mothers more than we judge fathers.
  • The need for quality part time work. Women who are vastly skilled and qualified find it very hard to find work that matches their previous career point. Men would also benefit from being offered quality part time work - equality more achievable for families.
  • It isn't just about women being able to work, but it is about women being able to continue with their career if they want to.
  • Women are often beset with guilt - whether they work, or stay at home.
  • Children just need to feel confident, happy and loved. You don't need to be with them 24 hours a day to achieve this.
  • Working mothers provide crucial role models for our sons and daughters. Two of the panel also referenced how they believed the fact that their children had to accompany them at work sometimes helped them become well rounded and articulate.
  • One panelist said you could have it all, but not without sacrifice.
  • One argument was that you were the best parent when you were fulfilled yourself.
  • Women often have to trade their skills and talent for flexibility in ways that men do not.
  • Kathy Lette said we can have it all, just not all at once. She talked about the problem that despite often both equally working, women still have to do the majority of childcare and housework.
  • 'Men have to start pulling their weight'.
  • Men are not expected to 'juggle' a career and their family. Women are. It is the mother who has to figure out how she can return to work, not the man.
  • The childcare bill shouldn't be directly compared to the woman's salary (to work out whether it is financially worth returning). The childcare cost is coming from the joint salary. If they both want to work, they are both contributing towards childcare.


Obviously I am paraphrasing, but I hope I gave a small flavour of some of the discussions I saw today!