Inspiring Women in the Financial Sector

The Bank of England opened its doors yesterday to 120 young women between the ages of 14-17 yesterday in an effort to inspire and encourage girls to consider a career in the financial sector.

Events like yesterday’s ‘career speed networking event’- part of the Inspiring Women Campaign-which London based school girls attended, help to breakdown the glass ceiling at a crucial point in their lives i.e. even before their careers have begun.

It is well known that girls and boys perform just as well in the early part of their careers but something happens after this and the likely reason is that for many women who have had flourishing careers to this point hit a glass ceiling, often following child birth or the presumption that they will take maternity leave at some point in the near future.

Introducing girls to inspiring women who pursue a wide range of careers, many of whom volunteered and attended yesterday’s event, shows that many talented women already have had interesting careers in the financial sector.

I hope events like these show that industries such as the financial sector are not the preserve of men, but are industries where everyone can aspire to join the career ladder regardless of gender or anything else.

The Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) published some startling figures earlier this year in a report that found 41% of British girls believe they are not good at maths; this compares with just 24% of boys. This crisis of confidence at this stage can drag girls overall performance down and stunts their career choices- something highlighted in the OECD report from earlier this year.

I believe tackling issues like gender disparity in the financial sector must start at school. We must give young women and girls the confidence to pursue subjects like maths, for example and encourage them to believe they can pursue careers in industries like the financial sector.

The Inspiring Women campaign is an excellent way to breakdown the glass ceiling and to encourage girls to consider careers they may well have discounted previously.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

The Scottish Labour Party has elected a new leader, Jim Murphy. The Guardian editorial said he was the most experienced and high profile candidate, this is right but he will also be excellent in the role and will be able to meet any challenges head on.

It is true, he will be very good for Scottish Labour, of that there is no doubt, but as the Guardian editorial pointed out, he also has the best chance of both providing a united front from within the party and galvanising the Labour support across Scotland. Murphy’s role couldn’t begin at a more important period than now, just months away from a general election and I wish him very best wishes in his new role.

You can read the Guardian’s editorial here.

In contrast, Parliamentary chaos threatens to ensue in Sweden following the announcement of a snap general election. The last election in Sweden was just three months ago but the Prime Minister has called another one after failing to get the budget passed in the current government.

Worryingly, the dominance of the far right Swedish Democrats is a distinct possibility. The first exit polls in Sweden revealed that the far-right party was expected to end up being the third largest in the Swedish Parliament.

To give you an idea of what they are about, they refuse to engage or have dialogue with, anyone who doesn’t share their view that immigration needs to be slashed. Furthermore, the party was also founded as a white supremacist group in 1988.

The Guardian had an interesting analysis of the results and explored the possibility of the rise of this far-right group. You can read the analysis in full here.

Meanwhile Iceland’s foreign minister made a powerful call for world leaders to open their hearts to gender equality. The country’s foreign minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson said other countries can learn lessons following Iceland’s successful work on combatting sexism. The country’s success is most evident in its first place ranking in a recent global report on gender equality.

Sveinsson’s comments, calling for world leaders to take gender equality more seriously, come ahead of a UN conference he is preparing to host in January.

You can read more on Sveinsson’s comments here.

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Interview with BBC News

Below is my interview with the BBC News Channel broadcast last Saturday where I discuss the need to urgently address the issue human trafficking. In case you missed it you can view it again here:

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‘The poor can’t cook” says Tory Peer

If last week was dominated by offensive comments made by Ukip leader Nigel Farage regarding breast feeding women and the heavy traffic of the M4 being the fault of immigrants, then this week’s offering of offensive and regrettable comments is delivered by the Tory party.

On the day an important report looking at ways to tackle food poverty in the UK was launched, a Tory peer who had been involved with the report was quoted as saying that the poor can’t cook.

Baroness Jenkin was part of a panel that has written a report exploring ways address the problem of the number of Britons who are struggling to feed themselves. Yet this important reports launch was over shadowed by the Baroness’ remarks.

It was a foolish thing to say and hurtful, especially to those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families each night. Indeed for some there might be a trade-off of paying your rent, keeping your house heated and warm or feeding yourself. That’s a really difficult decision some families have to make so comments like that are totally unacceptable, even if they were said off the cuff, it is revealing nevertheless.

Meanwhile the London Mayor made some very peculiar remarks on LBC responding to a caller who asked him what he thought about Nigel Farage blaming the bad traffic jams on Britain’s motorways as being the fault of immigrants.

Although Boris Johnson didn’t condone Farage’s remarks initially he went onto claim that xenophobia was natural. He said xenophobia was a “natural concomitant of the human condition” that came from a suspicion of “the other” and which must be dealt with in a systematic way rather than “freaking out about traffic jams”.

Again, another unhelpful set of remarks made by a senior Tory figure.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Support and interest in preventing human trafficking is growing, a conference of religious leaders, the Metropolitan Police and government officials suggested.

The three organisations joined forces to hold a global conference which highlighted the severity and extent to this truly awful crime.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said that over the last four years awareness had grown and there had been a significant increase in the number of victims coming forward, reaching nearly 400. Although this is a significant improvement its’ merely a fraction of the number (estimated at 13,000) thought to have been trafficked into prostitution or domestic servitude according to a report published by the Home Office.

The conference shared stories of those who have been enticed, sold a dream, a promise of becoming a footballer or other glamorous positions only to be trafficked and enslaved.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said it is essential to build relationships with other countries to achieve the group’s two main objectives: how to deal with victims and how to deal with offenders. You can read more on this here.

Meanwhile, I attended a conference in Munich last week to discuss the report I published last year regarding the Nordic Model of prostitution. The conference included a member of the Bundestarg, academics and women who had been prostitutes. I found the conference both insightful and interesting. It also indicated that that there is growing concern across Europe over the issue of prostitution and like the trafficking conference showed in London these problems are indivisible as victims of trafficking are often forced into prostitution.

In other news, Nigel Farage has upset mothers with comments he made on LBC last week regarding breastfeeding. He suggested that breastfeeding mothers should feed their babies discreetly and sit in a corner of a room to do so.

This obviously led to a barrage of angry mothers criticising his words which he made after the London hotel Claridges asked a mother who was in the hotel’s restaurant to cover up while breastfeeding her baby.

Farage added that a lot of people felt uncomfortable about women breastfeeding and mothers should be discreet.

NHS guidelines however are unambiguous. It states clearly that mothers should be free to breastfeed wherever they feel most comfortable and should not be made to feel embarrassed about doing so.

You can read more on Farage’s comments on breastfeeding here.

In another blunder, Nigel Farage said the heavy traffic of the M4 is as a result of Britain open door immigration policy.

Absurd isn’t it? But it’s true. Nigel Farage blamed immigrants for heavy motorway traffic, claiming it’s what caused him to miss his own ‘meet he leader’ event, because the journey took him six hours instead of four.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Politics Wales, Farage said: “That is nothing to do with professionalism, what it does have to do with is a population that is going through the roof chiefly because of open-door immigration and the fact that the M4 is not as navigable as it used to be.”

It’s an absurd statement and suggests Farage is clutching at straws. Making offensive statements and blaming others for his inability to arrive at his own event on time shows the lengths he is prepared to go to. Read the full story here.

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New Shared Parental Leave Rights Come into Force

Blink and you’ll miss it. That’s how quickly paternity leave passes for most men. The standard one-two weeks leave is hardly enough time to help settle your new baby into a routine, or to get to know him or her. However, new laws extending paternity leave are now in place. It should be great news for new families but, a study found that fast approaching half (42%) of men are against the idea of shared parental leave.

Shared parental leave will mean that parents of all babies born on or after April 5 next year can apply to share maternity leave. Couples can mix the arrangements in whatever way they like for up to 12 months including alternating or overlapping leave.

It may be the case that some men are not able to care for their offspring in those early months in the same way they believe their wives can (if they are breastfeeding for example). It might seem overwhelming to men, but it could be that the mother feels exactly the same way and so sharing the responsibility could remove some of that pressure.

The point is that this sort of arrangement gives flexibility to the new family, it opens up options that would not have been available before now. It means that if women chose to they can start work with reassurance and safe in the knowledge their child is in the comfort of home being cared for by the father.

Of course for many families the traditional arrangement might work better, but having the option to discuss different possibilities surely goes some way to relieving certain pressures for new parents, especially mother, who can make flexible arrangements without the pressure and responsibility for care giving sitting solely with the mother.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Dr Denis Mukwege, gave a powerful and engaging speech when he addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week.

He has dedicated his life to campaigning and caring for women who have endured and been victims of terrible sexual crimes and sexual crimes of war. Dr Mukwege, a world expert in his field, is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and specialised as a gynaecologist after he witnessed the poor post birth care many Congolese women received.

He was at the European Parliament to receive the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. And his speech left us all feeling humbled and confirmed him to be a most deserving recipient of this accolade.

You can read more on my blog here and this news report here.

Media giant Bloomberg has announced that all news stories published by Bloomberg journalists must include at least one woman’s voice and preferably a balance of both men and women. In his weekly email to staff, Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg’s News editor in chief said that the company’s news stories must ensure that ‘women are engage in every topic we cover. Our journalism should reflect that variety.”

It’s thought to be the first time any such ‘quota for quotes’ has been requested by a news chief and no doubt some will be concerned about how they will be able to find a female quote for every story. Of course, it will be a drag to begin with. But its bold declarations like these which require people to take action-even if initially it’s reluctantly-that will slowly change how people view the world.

It was a brave statement but a clever and shrewd move, which will keep Bloomberg’s news at the cutting edge.

I hope  this may force other publishing houses to consider making similar noises or even make them  consider following suit. You can read more on the story here.

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