Welcome to our blog! This is a platform where the rich diversity of women's voices can be heard and where we can come together to turn attention on the myriad of issues that affect a variety of women. We celebrate where things are good, and focus a spotlight on areas where they aren't. If you want to write something for this space please just get in touch!

Before sending us your blog, please note: We publish articles that are written by women, pro all women & not for profit in their intention. We welcome lighter pieces as well as articles on more serious issues. There is no specific word count, but most pieces are around the 700 word mark.

Our latest post is by Karla McLaren, Campaign Manager: Women’s Rights in Afghanistan for Amnesty International UK who are campaigning for women in Afghanistan.

[ Items 10 - 12 of 38 ]

Leaning in to Public Speaking?

I wanted to write a post on public speaking for some time, and Sheryl Sandberg’s recent advice that women lean in to their careers and abolish all thoughts of so-called Imposter Syndrome has finally spurred me into action.

My relationship with public speaking forms a long and contradictory road. Like many people I love to be at the centre of things, planning, doing and generally attempting to contribute in some small way to my professional and personal surroundings. I suppose you would also call me an extrovert, loud at times, enthusiastic, gregarious. Which is why it seems to jar that I have always had such a problem with public speaking. It’s the usual stuff - the sweating, the rushing of words so you end up eating them, the random and entirely unstoppable facial flush. Weirdly, and to trot out an old cliché, I do end up enjoying myself once I’m up there. But by that time I’ve worked myself up to such an extent that it is almost an hour after my presentation that I begin to feel the impact of this.

Part of the reason for such irrational behaviour is no doubt innate and personality-based, but I strongly believe that another part of it is that public speaking is bloody nerve-wracking, especially if you only do it sporadically. I read an article recently which stated that in a broad survey of the nation’s most angst-inducing moments public speaking came out on top. This doesn’t surprise me; nor should we underestimate that, like other niche pastimes, it is as much a skill as anything - one to constantly nurture, practise and improve. But the truth is that in general we don’t get nearly enough opportunity to flex this muscle and until we do a lot of us (myself included) will continue our vicious cycle of fret and embarrassment until the next time we need to open the Pandora’s Box of paranoia.

To load the dice further, as women move through education and into a professional environment most attainable speaking slots are increasingly filled by men. Not much of a coincidence given that men are by and large more vocal in group situations than women - at school, in social groups and at work. The stats show that they are generally more open to offering their opinion and sharing their ideas because they have more conviction in what they are saying and thinking, regardless of whether it’s right or not. In addition - and this is an oft-repeated argument for another day - men can afford to be, and therefore are, more forceful and assertive in a group environment on both a professional and social level. In contrast women who demonstrate the equivalent behaviour are often construed as aggressive or overbearing, or a recent personal favorite, forceful. It can be pretty demoralising trying to strike the right balance between not becoming a doormat and not ‘being’ a banshee.

So what can we do about this? A couple of months ago I went to a great 300 seconds Digital Teacamp event during which someone mooted the excellent idea of a type of ‘Shadowing Scheme’ for younger and/or junior women to accompany more seasoned women in a public speaking environment such as a conference or seminar. There was talk of setting up a central hub for this as well as the potential inclusion of a forum which will allow mentors to tout their public speaking mentor roles and enable participants to access knowledge around pitch presentation, content and performance. Should the process be successful, it would be great if this hub could be ultimately used as a means of channelling speaking opportunities from more experienced women on the circuit to those women who desperately need and want the experience.

I write to ask and implore whether there is anyone reading this who would be interested in setting up such a forum - at minimal time and effort. As the definitive forum for female expertise The Women’s Room seemed the best place to kick-start the idea. Over time our aim would be to create a groundswell of female 'experts' in this field and significantly increase the talent pool for those women available for the conference 'circuit'. It would also provide a bit of leeway for the go-to group of women who are usually called upon for these events. Those women providing the 'shadowing' could be incentivised by possible assistance on research for example, which would benefit both parties.

I want to leave you with a discovery that was made in an academic study commissioned by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology earlier this year. An image of Hilary Clinton was hung at the back of a virtual auditorium and a number of men and women were tasked with giving a persuasive political speech against a theoretical rise in tuition fees. The speeches were then repeated when the image was taken away. Both the women themselves and external judges rated the speeches - in their content, mannerisms - much higher when Hilary’s photo was present. The presence of such a powerful female role model inspired the women and ultimately enabled them to perform better in the situation. The report authors conclusion was stark: "We believe these findings are important because although a wealth of research has studied the effects of role models on academic and math performance, there is no research that investigates the effect of female political role models on successful leadership behaviour. Yet, exactly such behaviour is crucial because not only is an increase in female politicians the goal of equality, it can also be (as our results show) the engine that drives it.”

So what are we waiting for? Let’s go!

Sarah Rowley runs SwiftKey - a successful app company actively seeking more women! 

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Starting a new business following redundancy

In 2008 I found myself redundant whilst on maternity leave. I went on to get a new job, but struggled in a full time role that was not what I had imagined and leaving my one year old after a precious year at home with him, I decided to launch my own business following an idea for a discreet and supportive breastfeeding scarf I had had whilst feeding him. I had no experience in this area and have since had a rollercoaster of a journey as an entrepreneur and a mum (having a second baby along the way). I used my redundancy payout to fund the business. Four and a half years on I now run Mama Designs Ltd from home, around my family (my children are now 6 and 3) and I love the flexibility it provides me. I have introduced more products and have more that I am working on, all created as a result of the everyday problems experienced by parents. I sell to major UK retailers and have recently started to export. I started by doing everything myself and have learnt as I have gone along, sometimes making mistakes, sometimes not.

With a start up budget that left little room for expensive and often ineffective advertising, I have managed to get a lot of media coverage both for myself and my products and have won awards for my products, business and even Alumni of the Year for Innovation from my old university.

I have learnt that I don't have to do everything myself and that I can manage my time better by delegating and only doing the things that I am good at and enjoy. I have a great network of supportive women around me, both inside and outside of work (and a very supportive husband!). I have been on a high growth business course, a member of a Women's Mastermind group, and have an informal network of women within my industry with whom we share advice and support each other. These things have been key in keeping me sane and helping me to make good business decisions. As a woman in business I do think that things are different, people seem to have different expectations of us. I struggle with the term "mumpreneur" although that is what I am often referred to, although it describes what I am and do, I feel that somehow it doesn't feel like I am running a serious business.

For me, being made redundant was the best thing that could have happened to me and I love running my own business and doing something that I am passionate about.

Keira O'Mara, Director of Mama Designs Ltd


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Blank Media Collective is pleased to announce details of a major new exhibition and events programme; equals – exploring feminism through art & conversation.

What is equals?

equals is an exploration of the structures and systems that thread through our culture and language with regards to gender and feminism. Through the joint prisms of art and conversation, equals will provide a variety of platforms for all people of all genders to participate in the discussions and debates surrounding feminism and gender equality.

The equals programme takes place throughout July and includes an exhibition, ‘speed debate’, artists’ talk and live event.

The exhibition:

Through the work of nine emerging artists, including Sarah Maple, best known for her strikingly subversive self-portraits and Goldfinger star Margaret Nolan, now a collage artist, the exhibition is an attempt to consider afresh where and how feminism could shape society.

Exhibition artists: Sarah Maple, Margaret Nolan, Ana Cigon, Rachel Finney, Marlene Haring, Helen Jones, Rosanne Robertson, Debbie Sharp, Mary Stark.

The exhibition launches on 11th July 2013 between 6-9pm at BLANKSPACE, 43 Hulme Street Manchester) and runs until 28th July 2013.


The speed debate and artists talk:

On Saturday 13th July 2013, Blank Media Collective will be hosting an equals 'speed debate' where participants can engage in conversation and debate directly with high profile voices in UK feminism. 

Speakers include Ally Fogg (Guardian) and Lucy-Anne Holmes (No More Page 3) and many others.

Following the speed debate, the speakers will be in discussion with the artists from the equals exhibition, followed by an artist Q&A .

The event begins at 11am on 13th July 2013 at 2022NQ, 20 Dale Street, Manchester, M1 1EZ. A limited number of tickets are available and cost £5 (£3 concessions).



The live event:

On the evening of Saturday 13th July 2013, an amazing line-up of artists will utilise sound, image and language to re-explore gender identity through live performance, film and readings.

This event begins at 7pm at BLANKSPACE (43 Hulme Street, Manchester) and is free of charge.


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News Index


2) The Unsung Heroes of Afghanistan

3) Overdue: a plan of action to tackle pregnancy discrimination now

4) Just how accessible are the UK's free, universal Health Service?

5) Why We Need Female Role Models

6) Discovering the First Female English Playwright; or, Why We Should Care About Cary

7) Black women, feminism and the view from the outside: #solidarityisforwhitewomen

8) Why hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen went viral in 24h

9) From Sexist Exclusion to Feminist Inclusion: the Art of Pauline Boty

10) Lean In Public Speaking

11) Starting a new business following redundancy

12) equals - Blank Media Collective

13) The Wench Front Interviews Churchill On This, His Fiver Hour

14) Comedy and Continence

15) EverydaySexism

16) Check out our latest storify, by @bluecowmoo

17) Sound Women Festival

18) An invitation to Sky News

19) Why it is Time for a Criminal Offence of Domestic Abuse