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October 2019
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female role models

Building Bridges for Female Social Mobility

Posted by: Nicky Garcea

 

I am the first person in my family to attend university. I also attended a then ‘newer’ university, the University of the West of England, Bristol. According to government terminology, I am a ‘first generation’ university student. I know amongst my colleagues at Capp and our clients that I am not alone.

 

If I were to apply for a graduate programme now, in 2013, my ‘first generation’ status along with my ‘non red brick’ university makes me a quirky applicant. Quite probably, for some graduate programmes I would be overlooked on this basis alone.

 

For some years, I might have hid the fact I went to an old polytechnic, but these days I am starting to fully appreciate the role that it has played in offering me an education for life and a stepping stone into employment. I would also hope that I, together with many of my colleagues and peers, will also be able to show younger generations that you don’t have to have had a privileged background in order to get on.

 

As we approach International Women’s Day on the 8th March, we will no doubt be presented with many lists of inspirational women. Whilst I applaud almost anything that raises the profile of women, the compliation of these lists fascinates me. I am particularly interested in the subliminal messages that they send out to younger women and emerging female talent.

 

This year Radio 4 published for the first time, the Woman’s Hour Power List. Much was made of this list, which was generated from audience nominations and vetted by an expert panel.

 

Now, I am not suggesting that, aged 16 and attending Beacon Community College, that Radio 4 was my station of choice. Even so, had I stumbled across this list, it would have said to me, albeit implicitly and subliminally, ‘If you are not from a rich family, or if you haven’t attended the most elite universities in the US or England, you won’t become a woman of power’.

 

Please check out the educational and family backgrounds of these unquestionably accomplished women. While in no way is it my intention to detract from what they have achieved, I want to flag simply the implicit, subliminal message that their selection conveys: ‘If you’re not one of us, you won’t be able to make it.’

 

I’m absolutely sure this is the last thing that Woman’s Hour wanted to convey, but such is the implicit, often unnoticed impact of subliminal messaging like this.

 

At Capp, we recently asked over 200 women to share examples of their female and male role models. As you might have predicted, responses such as Hillary Clinton and Nelson Mandela were often included.

 

However, what is possibly most interesting is the number of women who list their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, managers, work colleagues and friends as their most impactful and inspirational role models. Several women noted how their role model had been their first manager, or a leader who took a chance on them, helping them into their first corporate role.

 

It is clear that the women are most influenced not just by the accolades of the accomplished few, but even more by the actions and behaviour of those with whom they have direct contact. This should be our focus as we approach International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day this year.

 

How can we collectively create cultures, homes, businesses and societies of people who seek to be role models for our youth?

 

With both International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day later this week, we’ll be turning our attention on The Capp Blog to how we can make this happen.

 

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Where Should We Find the Women? Overcoming the Unwitting Sexism that Surrounds Us (Part 4)

Posted by: Nicky Garcea and Alex Linley, as part of Capp’s Female Leaders Month (June 2012)

 

In our blog posts over the course of this week, we have explored the role of subliminal messaging and unconscious bias in creating the impression of the social roles that women should take in society.

 

These subliminal messages and unconscious biases are all the more pernicious for this very reason – because they are subliminal and unconscious. But the real opportunity is to harness their power, turning it to our advantage through acknowledging and celebrating the role of women in our society.

 

While we can’t re-write history, we can ensure that our future female generations are not so overtly subjected to the absence of celebrated and successful women in the environments in which they grow up.

 

Here are a handful of ideas for how this could happen.

 

1. The media should be challenged with ensuring that women are appropriately represented across their content. When no sportswomen are put forward for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, it sends the message that no woman was worthy. Are we really saying that half of our sporting population simply wasn’t good enough – and the entire female half at that?

 

2. Public platforms and other profile events should be encouraged to take on the mantle of championing female achievement and success, as a counterweight to rebalance the weight of the subliminal messages that otherwise exist. Can we work that bit harder to acknowledge, celebrate and remember the work of female role models in everyday life? This can happen in the media, in schools, by parents, in communities and within the world of business. Who are the successful women in your family, in your community, in your network? Take active steps to celebrate them, share their names and achievements, and recognise their successes as a first step to inspiring other women to do the same. After all, men have had the benefit of this subliminal inspiration for generations.

 

3. Companies and organisations should recognise that there is an explicit need specifically to support and develop women. Women should be offered more opportunities to develop early in their careers. They should be helped to understand how they can equip themselves to influence with power and impact, recognising the challenges they might face, but also embracing the opportunities to develop, to change and to make a positive difference.

 

4. Calling all town planners and building developers. What would it take for a few of our future streets to celebrate more women, for example, ‘Dame Kelly Holmes Drive’,  ‘Tessa Sanderson Street’, ‘Rebecca Adlington Way’, ‘Jessica Ennis Avenue’? Will we see this in our lifetime? With the further re-development of east London following the London 2012 Olympics, what a great opportunity we have for an Olympic legacy that goes beyond sport, building a legacy to great British women as well.

 

5. Women should be champions of helping other women. There is the well-recognised ‘Old Boys’ Network’ that makes things happen for men. In the 21st Century, isn’t it time that we started to develop the ‘Young Women’s Network’ to support making things happen for women? Unfortunately, women being champions of other women doesn’t happen enough. But now, with the leadership of female figureheads including Karren Brady, the momentum for change is building…

 

With these five ideas, our aim was to get your thinking started. What else would you add to this list? Let us know by sharing your Comments on The Capp Blog, and watch out for future posts as we build more on this hugely important topic.

 

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