Plumbing, quotas, piloting


I’ve just  spent most of the day at the Women of the World festival at the Southbank Centre.  It started with Jude Kelly interviewing Annie Lennox (yes!!), with scrolling stats on the global position of women;  the most startling of these is that gender-based violence notches up more deaths and disablement than wars, malaria, cancer and crashes.   It’s worth also remembering that 41 million girls don’t even get primary education.   Kirsty Wark then chaired a discussion on whether things had gone backwards as far as (violent) misogyny is concerned; it led me to her film on Blurred Lines, which deals with the fissile and contentious boundaries between humour and aggression.

The first directly  Paula-relevant session was a high-powered panel on women in business.   Humorous and practical.  The panel split on quotas.  Tessa Jowell MP in favour, Ann Cairns, a senior executive at Mastercard, opposing, and Gail Rebuck, CEO of Random Books, originally anti but moving towards pro.   The fourth panel member, whose name I didn’t get, had moved from banking to set up her own cosmetics business;  she said, and the others agreed, that the most important thing was to make choices on what you want to do – and that needn’t mean putting a conventional career first.

Finally an enjoyable session on Jobs for the Boys, featuring a football journalist, an airline pilot, a plumber and a structural engineer.   Felicity Bush had to pioneer her pathway to piloting in the 1970s;  her first job application was apparently rejected on the grounds that if God had wanted women to fly he would have made the sky pink.  Since then, things have, she said, got a lot easier.  Hattie Hasan stopped teaching to train as a plumber, and has now set up Stopcock plumbers for women plumbers – great branding.  She also wrote The Joy of Plumbing, which is only partly about plumbing.

WOW carries on over the weekend.

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