LibLink: Miriam González Durántez – Why I’m calling on brilliant British women to go back to school

González_DurántezMiriam González Durántez has written for The Telegraph about how to provide good role models for girls.

She writes:

The UK, and Europe in general, is without any doubt one of the best places in the world to be a woman, if not the best. We can vote, we can work, we can travel, we have access to education, we can own and inherit property, we can speak freely, we are the masters of our own emotional lives. It is often easy to take all this for granted.

And yet while men are able to toy with unlimited options, we still face a series of stark choices. If we do not have children, people assume we are “frustrated”. If we stay at home taking care of our children, it is said we are “not working”. If we have a job, we are portrayed as just “part-time mums”, and sometimes even as bad parents. If we succeed in our professional lives, we’re branded “scary”; if we follow fashion, we’re “shallow”; if we like science, we’re “geeks”; if we read women’s magazines, we’re “fluffy”; and if we defend our rights, we’re “hard”.

She points out that “according to research by Girlguiding UK, 55 per cent of girls aged between 11 and 21 say they feel there are not enough female role models.”

She goes on to describe Inspiring the Future, an organisation that provides those much needed role models for girls in schools.

… if you are a woman of any kind with an interesting life story to tell – which means pretty much every single woman in the country – all you have to do is to click onto Inspiring the Future to register to give an hour a year to visit a school near home or work to make a difference to young people’s lives.

I have done just that. Miriam concludes:

The new generation of girls are clever, engaged and curious; they are ambitious, but in a realistic way; they are not afraid of hard work and they are determined to shine. It is our duty to guarantee that all that potential does not go to waste. Those girls should not have to limit their dreams and feel constrained by absurd and demeaning stereotypes. They should rather feel free to aim high – high in their jobs, and high in their lives.

Female role models are there by the legions. You, the woman reading this article, you are one of them.

Irony alert: the BBC covers this story under the headline “Girls need more career help, says Clegg’s wife Miriam“.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Melanie Harvey 8th Oct '13 - 4:07pm

    Although I understand the words use and how it was intended in this piece, I do have a problem with the word *dreams* used in this context. Maybe due to the fact the American *dream* was for many and still is a nightmare for others. Should we not just use aspirations instead of dreams?

  • Martin Lowe 8th Oct '13 - 6:54pm

    What would help the above is if the Coalition could abolish the Labour-introduced ruling on ELQ (equivalent and lower qualifications – where anyone seeking to retrain/reskill has to pay fees equivalent to those charged to foreign students as opposed to capped fees if they already hold a qualification of the same level or greater than that they wish to study.

  • Helen Dudden 9th Oct '13 - 6:59am

    Miriam I did, and I am 65 years of age, I read your law, The Spanish Civil Code. I have worked with one of your top lawyers in the capital on Child Abduction and the Hague Convention. A highly intelligent lawyer, I admire his understanding, and the need to work together. Having translated some law into Spanish. I am the best at Spanish, but again I try, I also have a strong interest in my own law, having input into new law, as it is made in London.

    I also, admire a Judge, Judge Serrano, again, we are talking law at the top, I hope I have written his name correctly.

    As a British subject, I had to study law, because unfortunately your husbands Party does not even have one of his MP’s in the All Party Group on the subject of Child Abduction. They have no interest in the subject.

    I consider Family Law to be important, as with those I have had the privilege to know in Madrid.

    Yes, I agree, education empowers, it also prevents a narrowing of the mind, a need to communicate and see two sides to every situation.

  • Helen Dudden 9th Oct '13 - 7:00am

    It should have read not the best, but again a new language for me to learn.

  • daft ha'p'orth 9th Oct '13 - 11:49am

    Irony alert indeed.

    After a couple of decades in healthcare my mother went back to school, in order to supplement her vocational qualification with an academic degree and change her career direction. Someone in her position today couldn’t take the decision she took, because her vocational qualification has been ranked as an equivalent qualification (degree-level), so she would be an ELQ – and a certain Mr Clegg decided it would be ‘fair’ to raise tuition fees to the sort of level that no ordinary healthcare employee could hope to save. As an ELQ and hence ineligible for those astonishingly-fair massive loans, she would currently need to fund her intended study up front, all 27k of it plus opportunity cost.

    The 2012 NUS report, ‘Never Too Late To Learn’, notes that ‘there were more female than male mature
    students in every age category in 2009–10.’ As Birkbeck’s evidence stated way back in 2007: The [ELQ] policy locks students to their first degree, but 75% of Black African origin graduates are dissatisfied with their first degree choice and women are more likely than men to choose a first degree that channels them into a low paid career. Disadvantaged Graduates/Postgraduates are more likely to need additional qualifications to advance in the workplace, so this ELQ policy reduces diversity in medium and high level jobs undermining the Equality Act. It also undermines targets to reduce Child Poverty by attacking mothers. Many mothers have to re-skill within two years of childbirth. At least 1 in 5 women returners change career and employer, and a huge proportion does not return to the workplace despite wanting to.

    Willetts states that ‘only 31,700 part-time undergraduates out of 154,000 entrants applied successfully for loans in 2012-13’. And of course as Callendar states in that article, ‘Even those who are eligible have to think hard about whether or not it is financially beneficial to study. Some institutions that were charging £300 a module are now charging £1,500. If [part-timers] have a mortgage and children, this is a big consideration and there is no certainty that they will get a highly paid job or higher paid job at the end of their degree.’

    So yeah, it is time to talk about whether England is doing everything it could be doing to support women (or indeed men) in achieving their ambitions – and why we are locking young people into a ‘series of stark choices’ through inflexible and restrictive funding decisions.

  • Helen Dudden 10th Oct '13 - 7:56am

    Yes, my education was funded freely to start with, then it has changed into, my having to repay when I earn lots of money.

    I always have felt education is giving someone the power to have freedom, who knows where it can take you.

  • Is it so different for men? If we do not want to get married and have children we are immature kidults. if we stay at home taking care of our children we are also said to be not working, otherwise we are portrayed as second-ranking, part-time parents. If we succeed in our professional lives we are part of the patriachy and are there because its all fixed in favour of white men, if we follow fashion we are “shallow” and unmanly, if we like science we are geeks, if we read men’s magazines we are perverts, if we defend our rights we are bolshie.

    The answer is not to care how other people classify you as much as this paragraph suggests Miriam Clegg does. Then, the choices are not unlimited but they get a lot wider, both for men and women.

  • Helen Dudden 13th Oct '13 - 5:06pm

    Richard S, you should think what it is like being a woman. If you have opinions you are classed as a bit of pain, life can become difficult, men defensive.

    If you want to stay at home to take care of your children that again, seems to not fit what is wanted today.

    So many opinions, best not to take too much notice, do what you feel is right.

    I would rather have a man who behaved like one, and was his own person.

  • @Helen Dudden “I would rather have a man who behaved like one, and was his own person.”

    Being one’s own person and ignoring other people’s classifications should not be seen as gender-specfic, manly behaviour; women should be doing it too.

  • Helen Dudden 15th Oct '13 - 9:57am

    @Richard S. I can assure you I do.

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