The Disappearing Women

The Disappearing Women

Did they fall or were they pushed?

The debate on quotas for women on boards seems to be over as quickly as it began, in the main media. Teresa Rees of Cardiff University, adviser on Gender Equality to the European Commission, believes that there are quotas in place. They’re for men. “Quotas, in effect, is what we currently have, an unofficial quota system for men. If  brains, skills and competencies are evenly distributed then why are places on boards and top jobs disproportionately awarded to men?”

Everyone has an everyday sexism moment.   Of the 20 odd prominent women I’ve interviewed, each one has a glass ceiling moment, if not a casting couch one. From Betty Boothroyd, trying to buy a TV on hire purchase as a single woman, to the Chief Inspector of Prisons being greeted as  her junior, who was male. Continue reading

Women-in-Crime Alison Saunders

Alison Saunders

Heads up the Crown Prosecution Service

Alison Saunders         Perhaps we are looking in the wrong place looking at women on boards, or  “everyday sexism”, women with power, may be more relevant.

Cherie Blaire is backing female talent. Women of the Future Awards takes place on 13 November in London.   The largest national search for exceptionally talented women.
As Patron Cherie Blair has said:  Young women are “vital” in the quest for equality.
“Celebrating these women will encourage others to follow in their footsteps, to pursue their dreams, and help inspire female leaders of the future.”

At the Wired conference, last month, an interesting proposition, and a question.
“It’s time to find an app for gender equality”  Natasha McElhone speaking. Actress , writer and mother of 3 boys; she is also an inspiration, to women, mothers, and all generations.
“Why have we allowed Brazilians and vajazzling to become the new Chinese foot binding?”
We should be pouring the same energy into hacking gender stereotypes as we do when disrupting any other sector.”

Finally Alison Saunders DPP makes clear her intentions:

“I’m very excited about the next five years. The focus is going to be on issues such as violence against women where the work I’ve done in London is really going to help.”


Here is an  extract from the Press Release from her office, Continue reading

Women-in-Crime Sian West


 Sian West ex-Prison Governor

Sian West would go well with our other power woman the Lord Mayor. Full of energy and charisma, you are immediately aware of her presence

Having left the prison service she is now involved in Restorative Justice, she’s a volunteer for domestic violence, and music is her life.  “I breathe it, I live it, I eat it. “.    Not one to let the grass grow under her feet.

Choosing to be in the prison service as a Prison Governor was not typical for a woman 1978.

As a woman I wasn’t aware of women being treated differently, at school or university, then I joined one of the most macho institutions that you could ever imagine. The prison service, by definition, has to be quite male in that 95% of prisoners then, and now, are male.   You enter a male world.

Rather than a female, I am a just a Prison governor or an Operator, because those are the skills and abilities that people are relating to.

The most important thing I achieved was to have been in charge of 3 prisons and come out the other end alive. (  But I had the responsibility of life and death on my shoulders.)

Sian West when she was Prison Governor

now interested in Resotorative Justice and Domestic Abuse

I would  call myself a feminist, with a very, very small “f”.    I believe in equality.  But equality is a tenant of feminism, as opposed to female dominance.

My most important achievement was too have been in charge of 3 prisons and come out the other end alive.    But I had the responsibility of life and death on my shoulders.

Prison is different for women, Continue reading

Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers

Chief Inspector of Prisons

Anne Owers

Now head of IPCC, Anne gave this interview, in 2009 before she was made a Dame.

My first unannounced inspection was one of the most memorable of my career.

Dartmoor has an impressive presence even before arriving. It is on the open moor. Built of grey granite  A relic from the Napoleonic wars in more ways than one. Inside a wire ‘cage’ for potential suicides. Some of the ’vermin’ as the prisoners have been referred to. Thought of as a hard place for hard men.

I arrived at the prison gate with two of my inspectors, a man and a woman. There came a cheery greeting from the gate: Good morning sir! Hello girls…

I thought there’s a bit to be done here. But it was an iconic moment.  I was proud of my report. It was open and honest. Telling it like it was.    When the report came out it was front page news.

But the greatest satisfaction was to have the prison service put their hands up and admit that things needed to change. It established me, and the report was spot on. So I was fortunate that my first report was of such a bad prison. I called it the prison time forgot.

Chief Inspector of Prisons

When she was Chilef inspector of prisons

The  difference of being the first woman to hold this office, is mixed.  You are the totality of what you are including gender. But of course it affects the way people relate to you.  But, you work with what you’ve got. It doesn’t affect my approach to the job. Interestingly though there are many women in the voluntary sector.

Prison is different for women in several ways

Women have a big sense of responsibility for home and family. Women react very badly to inactivity, and to having no responsibility for themselves and others. Women generally need social networks, and the lack of social networks, affects them badly.

Also when a woman goes into prison, mostly she loses her children, she may be moved miles from home. She probably loses her partner, she often loses her home.

As  the first woman to hold the office of Chief Inspector of Prisons of course it affects the way people relate to you.  In terms of this job, a woman is seen as non threatening.

When I speak to prisoners or staff  I’m often seen as a non threatening woman and I’m not threatening their masculinity. So they sometimes feel that they can talk to me and tell me things, they would otherwise not say.   You are the totality of what you are including gender.




Tomorrow will be the day that I get found out!

As Dame Anne Owers said in her interview with me:

“My most surprising event was when I realized that actually people thought of me as a role model, when I felt I was chuntering along, getting it not quite right. What I wish I’d known earlier is that we (women) never think that we get it quite right.  I have a friend, a quite senior legal figure, highly thought of, and she said, “I always think that tomorrow will be the day that they find me out”. I have never heard a senior male legal figure say that. I am sure they think it but they never say it.”

When she was Chielf Inspector of Prisons. Now she heads up the IPPC


Chief Inspector of Prisons

When she was Chilef inspector of prisons

This week see yourself as a person of worth, good enough to hold the highest position you ever aim for. Believe it and share it. Austerity has apparently lead to more and more women setting  up in business.

©2013 ionthecity