Tag Archives: news

The Women’s Room – calling female experts!

15 Nov

by Catherine Smith

So it’s Monday morning and I am starting the day with my usual dose of frustration and weary resignation as I listen to John Humphrys on BBC’s Today programme, discussing contraception for underage teenage girls with two men. Admittedly, one was the Headteacher of a school but even so. I’m not convinced that he has any real understanding of what it might feel like to be a teenage girl.

I let some steam off on twitter, sigh and go about my day.

Tuesday morning arrives and I switch on Radio 4. This time a discussion on breast cancer actually includes two women who have experienced it. But wait! What’s this John? Now we turn to the expert? A man?

Cue rage, exploding head and another rant on twitter, fuelled further by the BBC responding with a short statement saying they would like more female experts but can’t find them

‘Right’, I decide, ‘enough is enough. If the BBC can’t find experts, I’ll do it myself’.

Caroline Criado-Perez, a freelance journalist, responded by tweeting out asking for female experts in both of these subject areas and, within ten minutes, had a selection to choose from.  A continued exchange with Caroline resulted in thewomensroom.org.uk being set up on November 1st with the able assistance of Jem & Jax, our long-suffering website team.

The response to the website was simply overwhelming.

Within hours of launching we were inundated with entries  ranging from; lecturers in Film, Media, History and Architecture, to lawyers, zoologists and nurses, to survivors of domestic abuse, women who grew up in care and women who have been in forced marriages.

We simply couldn’t keep up with them and had to put a call out to our twitter followers to ask for assistance. Our twitter account is still gaining approximately 200 – 300 followers a day and we have, as of 7th November, received over 150,000 hits on the website from all over the world. We have clearly captured the imagination of women everywhere, many of whom say they feel silenced or ignored.

The response in the media has also been extremely positive and supportive, and our continued press coverage and sustained presence on twitter has also resulted in some high profile endorsements from such as Clare Balding, Alison Mitchell, Gaby Hinsliff and Chris Addison. We were even re-tweeted by Harriet Harman.

One of the aims of thewomensroom.org.uk is to challenge and re-define the general perception of an ‘expert’. It does appear that when an expert is called upon for their opinion, it tends to be someone who is formally qualified in their particular profession. And more often than not, they are male. We believe that an expert is someone who has experience or expertise in any area.

For example, with regard to the breast cancer debate on the Today programme, the two women who talked about their experiences are, as far as we can see, experts. They are able to give their unique insight into the impact that cancer has had on their lives, the lives of their families and how it feels to be in recovery.

It’s important to recognise that women’s experiences of domestic abuse, mental health, substance misuse, abortion, child care or rape are different from those of men. They may not be ‘qualified’ in the conventional sense, but they are very definitely experts so let’s start treating them as such.

Women have long been vocal about the inequalities, discrimination and, in many cases, institutionalised sexism that they experience. In the media, in politics, in the workplace, in daily life.

It’s the 21st century. It is time for women’s experiences and expertise to be acknowledged, and for them to be viewed as experts.

And Mr Humphrys? If you want to discuss an issue that primarily affects women, or any other issue for that matter; you know where to find us.


Catherine Smith

Co-Founder of The Women’s Room



‘Well I wasn’t expecting that!’ – Miliband’s speech reviewed

6 Oct

by Annajoy David

I wasn’t expecting that, thank you Ed Miliband! Quite apart from an excellent delivery which is not easy by any means, he told a story and he told it emotionally. I loved that fact that  he recognised the need for One Nation in the age of globalization with all that it has brought.

As we did in the post-45 period, it falls to Labour again to articulate the nation’s identity and deliver its hopes. For me, in this century as we grapple to deal with all the mitigating effects of globalization and the loss of our “middle” economy, One Nation will be the glue that holds us all together and above all sets the gold standard to ensure prosperity and opportunity for all.  

I love the fact that Ed said we are the party of the South as well as the North, that he recognised that any interests that were against the best interests of the country  and  its citizens, be it as consumers, tax payers or users would be challenged by Labour.  

His speech had a gritty no pretence, stripped-bare honesty that we need to see more of in politics  and in our other institutions. I admired his sadness and frustration at the level of youth unemployment and with that, his recognition for the need  of a new 21st Century industrial vision for the whole of our country in all our regions.

On a lighter note, , One Nation  is also part of the title from one of the best jazz funk songs,  The 1978 One Nation Under A Groove by George Clinton’s Parliament – Funkadelic. You can watch it here:   

#Lab12 – How was it for you?

4 Oct

Women on the left give their thoughts on Labour Conference 2012

Want to share your thoughts on the week in Manchester? Please get in touch with us via our contact page.

Christine Quigley: Manchester this year hosted a party fired up and beginning its fightback. Ed’s speech had enough policy to keep both Labour members and political journalists happy, combined with a direct and warranted critique of the Tory-led Government designed to appeal to both Labour’s core and key swing voters. While Labour activists leaving Conference won’t quite be going back to their constituencies to prepare for Government, the atmosphere is one of a party ready to fight for our beliefs and in a good place to build for the 2015 election (@c_quigley)

Eleanor Saunders: Frustrated that the most interesting fringe I went to was an all-male all-white panel! But the M4C fringe on Lab Women’s Forums & community organising was interesting – good to have some very practical ideas (rather than just theory & rhetoric, which some fringes are). Interesting approaches to consider. (@Eleanor CS)

Amy Jackson: Really boosted by how positive this year’s conference was. The party seemed united and although there is clearly still a lot to do, we are going in the right direction. Stand out moments for me were Ed M’s speech (obviously), Len McCluskey’s speech on the banks, the Demos fringe on how social media can do more to keep power in check and the Shrewsbury 24 fringe. And very pleased to read that 1200 new members have joined sine the start of the conference – impressive stuff! (@AmyJ_N4)

Kate McKenzie: My conference highlights were meeting these superb women: Frances O’Grady, Jo Brand and Polly Toynbee, joining up with old campaigning sisters: Gaby Weiner, Michele Paule, Bev Clack, and staying up late being women who sort the world with Jenny and Lizzy!

Annie Higgs: One thing made me smile…  Stella Creasey has a male assistant who carries all her stuff round for her. She does move around quickly. He’ll never gain weight with what he has to carry.
One thing made me applaud very loudly…  In a debate at Women’s Conference, a woman councillor from Pontefract described her struggle to stand for Council. Her branch refused to sanction a woman. The CLP had to overturn their decision. She had verbal abuse, her car had acid thrown over it and the former labour MP actively canvassed for the Independent candidate standing against her. (This is now under investigation.) She did get elected and is working very hard for Pontefract. Congratulations to her!! Some women have such a hard time in their Constituencies!! (note from Eds: We have full story on this woman’s experience on Left Out)

Annajoy David: Good Things: Kerry McCarthy MP organised a Free Pussy Riot evening of culture and discussion and it was great to see it being sponsored by the Musicians Union. Common sense prevailed! Labour members voted that women’s officers were reinstated as statutory roles for CLP elections.

Memorable moments: Spending a few hours in the Midland Bar with the MP for Ilford South , Mike Gapes. What a great hardworking MP. Listening to Michael Sandel, Dame Tessa Jowell and the whole Olympic session, missing my daughter.

Could do better: Education and Young people at the end of conference: Young people are our future and we should open with them not close. Not a good symbolic message!

Favourite Fundraiser: Labour List Karaoke Night

Favourite Reception: Labour Business, would have liked to see a few interactive business presentations being championed by us from up and coming UK companies…. perhaps next year?

Surprise of Conference: The best DJ award for Lab 12 goes to Tom Watson. Who knew he was so good? !


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