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Jo Swinson MP: Live webchat, Wednesday 6 November, 1.00 - 2.00PM

(74 Posts)
KateHMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 01-Nov-13 16:08:51

We'll be welcoming Lib Dem MP and Women and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson this Wednesday from 1pm - 2pm for a live webchat on body confidence.

As Minister for Women and Equalities Jo heads up the Government's Body Confidence Campaign. The campaign has been active since 2010 and works with the media, advertising, retail and fashion industries to encourage more diverse and realistic representation of human bodies.

She has campaigned on this issue for many years and is especially interested in your questions on the issue; have you, or your children, experienced low body confidence? What do you think can be done about it?

Come and chat to Jo on Wednesday lunchtime or post a question in advance on this thread.

Thanks,
MNHQ

BoffinMum Fri 01-Nov-13 18:51:03

Hello Jo,

Do you think it's essentially patronising to women, the 21st century existence of posts such as 'Women's Minister'?

Ta,
Boff

NumTumRedRum Sat 02-Nov-13 18:47:18

What is your view on the recent decimation of legal aid availability which has a disproportionate impact on women, and renders large swathes of people unable to access legal advice and representation on divorce and separation, which has a knock on effect on society at large and children in particular?

Want2bSupermum Sat 02-Nov-13 21:40:54

What is your stand on supporting families where both parents wish to work?

Currently there are many women who are pushed into part time or staying home to raise their children as the family can't afford to take the short term hit to the income of the lower income person (which is most often the woman). You then end up with an inequality of the one person staying home through necessity, not choice.

I also think childcare costs should be fully tax deductible for two income families. With the current laws there is double taxation which creates an inefficency and inequality. If the double taxation was removed I am sure many women would continue to work full time after having children. Most woman stop working after the 2nd child arrives.

WithRedWine Sun 03-Nov-13 14:27:57

You are part of a government which is steadily, doggedly and shamelessly appropriating public money for private financial gain. This is top-down class warfare on an epic scale.

How do you sleep at night?

Lovescourgettes Sun 03-Nov-13 15:12:10

Why is Government allowing the decimation of local Trading Standards in terms of horrific budget cuts and now reducing powers of entry for Trading Standards Officers? Surely this is can only result in rogue traders and unscrupulous businesses taking advantage of the most vulnerable consumers in the poorest bargaining position who are probably already financially disadvantaged and trying to make ends meet? What is your solution?

fosterwallace Mon 04-Nov-13 11:36:51

How do you feel, as Equality Minister, about being in a Government who have implemented cuts which have disproportionately affected women?

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Mon 04-Nov-13 11:56:08

"How do you feel, as Equality Minister, about being in a Government who have implemented cuts which have disproportionately affected women?"

This ^

IamInvisible Mon 04-Nov-13 12:03:48

Does it not prick your conscience being part of such a cruel Government? As my 18yo DS says, you are weak when it comes to the strong, yet strong when it comes to the weak!

How can you be part of something that is so cruelly hitting the sick, disabled and poor, when rich people are still gaining, and keep your head held high?

Devora Mon 04-Nov-13 14:25:45

In yesterday's Observer, there was this subheading: "In a world that considers all women physically flawed, we need less angst and more anger". Do you agree that women should be getting angry about the cultural pressures heaped upon us and our daughters? How does the Government intend to help, and what should parents be doing?

scallopsrmissingAnyFucker Mon 04-Nov-13 16:21:50

How do you think that the government can he support new DPP Alison Saunders in classifying violence against women as a hate crime, reducing it and getting prosecutions for FGM?

www.standard.co.uk/news/london/exclusive-ill-treat-attacks-on-women-as-a-hate-crime-says-new-dpp-alison-saunders-8920662.html

bishbashboosh Mon 04-Nov-13 18:41:41

Hello,

As someone who has suffered eating disorders and low body confidence in the past, I really feel what has helped me is exercise, especially for self esteem.

Everything I hear from the government is about food, healthy start, 5 a day...

What do you think about the time given to physical education on the a national Curriculum? Should children be encouraged more to be fit and strong, rather than a specific bmi?

domesticslattern Mon 04-Nov-13 20:03:53

Hello Jo
Thank you for coming to MN. While body confidence is of course a very real issue, I'm a bit disappointed that it is seemingly top of your brief. What about the impact of housing policies, education policies, economic policies, public sector policies (for example) on women. I would much rather you spent your time on those issues than on Heat magazine's circle of shame. Or is it that they are a bit more challenging?

Boiing Mon 04-Nov-13 21:30:45

Hello Jo, I am quitting work because my civil service manager salary doesn't cover the cost of childcare for 2 children plus a commute. Most other women I know have the same problem and are also leaving work. A huge number of women are being forced into being housewives because of the imbalance between stagnating/frozen salaries and rising childcare/commute costs. It's also means long term the Government loses out on their income tax.

What are you going to do to address this? For example ending double taxation... making childcare/commute entirely tax deductible... Ending the rule that you have to pay nanny tax and national insurance on top of Nancy's salary...

louise88uk Tue 05-Nov-13 10:40:37

For two income families? I think lone parent families should receive this since there's only one bread winner!

motherinferior Tue 05-Nov-13 12:08:13

I'm interested in whether public health campaigns - which this, in its broadest sense, is - can work in the UK. They've had demonstrable effects in other countries (Finland, I think, is the most notable one) but I think there is a greater distrust of what is perceived as 'nannying' in the culture of the UK. What do you think?

Queenie50 Tue 05-Nov-13 13:24:53

My daughter is 9, happy healthy and plump. She is already aware that she isn't she shape she 'ought to be'. How do we change a culture?

Mmelindor Tue 05-Nov-13 14:39:33

Hello Jo.

To add to MotherInferior's excellent question - how do we promote body confidence in a positive way?

I have an 11yr old daughter who recently chose her pizza based on the calorie count displayed on the menu.

It made me realise how prominently nutritional information is displayed on some products, even those aimed at children.

While I see the need for information, I worry that the message being sent is one of 'good food' and bad food', which then leads to a child feeling guilty for eating the 'bad food'.

Kids have their lunch boxes searched and BAD food pointed out to them - and some schools are very strict with the food that they allow to be brought to school.

How do we promote healthy eating in a way that doesn't demonise selected food groups?

Jeanius Tue 05-Nov-13 16:52:33

I have developed a new advertising platform that will help people find clothes that fit, solves the issue of vanity sizing and promotes body confidence. The website is www.highstreetfitfinder.com.

I would like to get involved with the campaign, and am also interested in obtaining the kitemark mentioned in the APPG report on Body Image.

I have emailed/written/tweeted the APPG on Body Image, Jo Swinson, and Rosie Prescott on numerous occasion but with no response.

Why, when I am so eager to help, and have a real solution to some of the problems, have I not heard anything?

prettybird Tue 05-Nov-13 18:44:15

I agree MmeLindor. My ds (13) is already starting to reuse to eat some meat because it's "fatty" and not understanding how how all food needs to be seen in context and that some fat is good for you (and especially for a highly active child) and even required for brain development.

It is not helped by Glasgow schools sending home advice for packed lunches telling parents to give their children low day yoghurts angry and no cakes - but then starting to sell muffins/cakes, defending it by saying they didn't have sugar only fruit juice to sweeten them angryangry fructose is as bad as sucrose

BoffinMum Tue 05-Nov-13 19:50:43

Children of normal weight for their heights really shouldn't be eating low fat processed food or diet foods. The production process is particularly aggressive and these foods are consequently not sufficiently nutritious compared to their more simply produced, full fat counterparts. THerefore this advice is inappropriate. They would be a lot better off having an anti-sugar offensive, on dental health grounds if nothing else. You can completely remove refined sugar from a child's diet with no adverse outcome, but arbitrarily reducing or removing fat has all sorts of unintended consequences, as has been pointed out on this thread and elsewhere on MN.

IamInvisible Tue 05-Nov-13 20:09:10

I agree with MmeLindor too. When Jamie Oliver was doing his thing with school dinners and 'bad foods' were being pointed out in lunch boxes, my very tall DS1 almost developed an eating disorder, because he was too scared to eat X because it was fat and Y because of sugar. Fortunately we could address it and deal with it, but I dread to think what could have happened.

prettybird Tue 05-Nov-13 20:09:44

For "low day" read "low fat " blush - blame predictive text. grin

Still pissed off at the crappy "advice" we got - dietary advice aimed at adults rather than active and growing kids hmm

Education Department even made the schools stop the kids' Tuck Shop, which was run by the P7s and only had carefully sourced "healthy" snacks (nuts, rice crackers etc) because Cordia wanted to sell its own cakes and yoghurt icecreams. hmmangry

Dencest Wed 06-Nov-13 04:27:39

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

muddyschoolshoes Wed 06-Nov-13 09:27:58

Once this discussion is over, can you please come back and talk about the lack of part-time jobs in STEM industries and what you're planning to do about it?

Hey there, thanks for coming on.

I wondered if you'd like to talk a bit about the news today that Debenhams is going to be using size 16 mannequins in its displays. I was listening to the report on the Today programme this morning, and it mentioned both your endorsement and the fact that "the average UK dress size has increased from a 12 to a 16 in a decade". (here's the Telegraph's coverage of the story)

While I absolutely applaud the move to reflect normal body shapes and sizes/not create an environment in which young girls are taught to aspire to unrealistic physical models, I've got to admit that I was pretty shocked at the change to our average size in a decade. Surely a shift of this magnitude across the population will have knock on health effects? How do you accommodate that possibility, while still trying to make sure that women don't feel anguished/depressed/failures for looking normal? Genuinely asking: it feels to me like an astonishingly tricky circle to square.

BigEmma Wed 06-Nov-13 11:20:52

Hi Jo,
In your capacity as Consumer Affairs Minister, can you tell me if you're planning any action re payday loan companies. I saw the head of Wonga the other night say that he would warn people that their chances of getting a mortgage might be damaged by taking out a payday loan only if the regulator made him. So will the government get involved?

Crumblemum Wed 06-Nov-13 11:23:42

Hi there Jo

Good luck on the impending birth. I'd be interested to know what you think about Bounty sales reps being given access to maternity wards. Most of us are just in hospital for a couple of hours/ 1 night after giving birth. But despite that, Bounty are allowed in and try to get personal details and pressurise you into expensive photos. Mumsnet has got a campaign against.

It would be interesting to hear your own experience and whether you think the government/ Trading Standards should get involved (I do!!)

horseshoe123 Wed 06-Nov-13 11:55:10

There was a good post in the Guardian this morning about the Government's failure to implement the Equality Act within the education system.
www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/06/gove-running-department-for-inequality
My own experience as mother of a special needs daughter adopted from India adds weight to this. Her GCSE paper was lost by the school, as a result of the school's inability to operate the agreed access arrangements. The exam board (AQA) have failed to comply with Ofqual's Code of Practice in resolving this. They are also ignoring the Equality Act 2010 which is referred to in the JCQ's document "Adjustments for Candidates with Special Disabilities and Learning Difficulties and Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments" as follows:

"The duty for an awarding body to make a reasonable adjustment will apply where assessment arrangements would put a disabled candidate at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with a candidate who is not disabled. In such circumstances, the awarding body is required to take reasonable steps to avoid that disadvantage."

In this case, it is clear to us that the AQA are ignoring the Equality Act, so I would be interested to know how the Equalities Minister can get the exam boards - and indeed schools - to comply with the Act. And from a personal viewpoint, how can I take action against an Exam Board which is in breach of the Equality Act?

Halexlo Wed 06-Nov-13 12:02:48

Hi Jo,

It was reported you said it could be considered sexist to offer a pregnant woman a seat when she is standing up (after the fuss at PMQs) is that really how you feel? I find old-fashioned acts of chivalry sometimes quite cringe, like men making a show of opening the door for me etc. and would agree with you there, but I do think when being pregnant and tired, its just polite and useful to be given the chance to sit down. Parliament is one thing, but what about bus and tube politics? I think more people could be encouraged to be thoughtful on transport, so giving people another excuse not be isn't helpful! Would you agree?
thanks!

TorchesTorches Wed 06-Nov-13 12:03:10

Hi jo, who do you think is a good role model for young women and why.

eggsandham Wed 06-Nov-13 12:41:53

Hi Jo. Thanks for coming on here. I think it's true that you're the Minister responsible for Payday loans?

My question is - why aren't the Government doing anything about these? The only politician I seem to see making any headway on the issue is Stella Creasy. Shouldn't the Government be doing more?

Thank you.

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 12:54:06

Test

KatieMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Nov-13 12:59:10

Hi everyone. Jo is here (or more accurately we're with Jo at the BIS HQ in Westminster), fresh from PMQs and itching to get started, so do ask away!

Best

Katie

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:03:53

BoffinMum

Hello Jo,

Do you think it's essentially patronising to women, the 21st century existence of posts such as 'Women's Minister'?

Ta,
Boff

Hi everyone - delighted to be here and taking part in this Mumsnet webchat.

I don't think it is patronising to have a women's minister in the 21st century - sadly women still face many disadvantages from the enduring pay gap, to violence against women, to outdated sexist attitudes in the media and elsewhere.

But I'll be celebrating when we get to a stage of equality where we no longer need to have the position of minister for women.

Jo

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:08:40

domesticslattern

Hello Jo
Thank you for coming to MN. While body confidence is of course a very real issue, I'm a bit disappointed that it is seemingly top of your brief. What about the impact of housing policies, education policies, economic policies, public sector policies (for example) on women. I would much rather you spent your time on those issues than on Heat magazine's circle of shame. Or is it that they are a bit more challenging?

I do lots of webchats on the wide range of issues in my brief - this one happens to be focused on body confidence though happy to answer on a range of issues.

Yesterday I was busy promoting the action we're taking to clampdown on payday lending, and as consumer minister this week (National Consumer Week) is busy with announcements on used cars, rogue companies and new initiatives to help consumers. Tomorrow we're also announcing the goverrnment's action plan in response to the Women's Business Council report and I've also been highlighting the need for more girls and women to consider engineering as a career.

So I tackle a wide variety of issues - but it's sadly not up to me what the media chooses to focus on, and it's often much more difficult to get them to take seriously stories on some of the issues I am most keen to promote, whereas they love writing about body image.

Of course it is an important issue too - for women and girls (and men and boys) dealing with self esteem issues, the impact on public health and eating disorders, and people realising their potential - so I'm glad it is one part of my brief.

Jo

Binkybix Wed 06-Nov-13 13:08:40

Hi Jo

Please could you let me know whether you think the post office will be affected by the recent sale of a Royal Mail - do you think their relationship will be affected?

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:12:50

LoveAndSqualor

Hey there, thanks for coming on.

I wondered if you'd like to talk a bit about the news today that Debenhams is going to be using size 16 mannequins in its displays. I was listening to the report on the Today programme this morning, and it mentioned both your endorsement and the fact that "the average UK dress size has increased from a 12 to a 16 in a decade". (here's the Telegraph's coverage of the story)

While I absolutely applaud the move to reflect normal body shapes and sizes/not create an environment in which young girls are taught to aspire to unrealistic physical models, I've got to admit that I was pretty shocked at the change to our average size in a decade. Surely a shift of this magnitude across the population will have knock on health effects? How do you accommodate that possibility, while still trying to make sure that women don't feel anguished/depressed/failures for looking normal? Genuinely asking: it feels to me like an astonishingly tricky circle to square.

It was great this morning to launch Debenhams' new mannequins which are size 16, to be displayed alongside their current ones. Women come in all shapes and sizes so there's no reason why fashion and retail imagery shouldn't reflect this.

I'm not actually convinced by the "fact" that the average size has gone from 12 to 16 in ten years - a good caution always not to believe everything you read in the newspapers!

We want to promote health and fitness, and that can't easily be judged by size. BMI does have significant drawbacks as a proxy for health - while clearly obesity is a public health concern, that's not to say that everyone who is classed as overweight is therefore unfit. And there are plenty of thinner people who don't exercise and are not actually living very healthy lifestyles.

Finally there is a connection between how people feel about their bodies and how likely they are to exercise - so feeling bad about your size or body can actually prevent people from getting active

Jo

Hi Jo, I think the way to increase women's body confidence is to take the focus away from women's looks, not to make sure we objectify 'celebrate' a wider range of women's bodies.

We definitely need a greater range of women in the media (and lots more older women, especially), but we need them not to be there primarily for their youth, looks and willingness to show flesh.

While women are only valued for their looks, they are always going to worry about what they look like.

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:16:10

bishbashboosh

Hello,

As someone who has suffered eating disorders and low body confidence in the past, I really feel what has helped me is exercise, especially for self esteem.

Everything I hear from the government is about food, healthy start, 5 a day...

What do you think about the time given to physical education on the a national Curriculum? Should children be encouraged more to be fit and strong, rather than a specific bmi?

Firstly, congratulations on tackling your own body confidence issues and dealing with your eating disorders - delighted to hear you are feeling better.

I share your love for exercise myself, and always feel better after going out for a run (though not at the moment at 7.5 months pregnant!). We do need to encourage people to exercise and enjoy it, and PE is compulsory under the new national curriculum. Personally, I think encouraging activity and health is more important than fixating on a BMI figure.

Jo

OmNom Wed 06-Nov-13 13:17:54

Interesting that the media love to write stories about body image - I wonder why that is (genuine question, if rhetorical)

Do you have anything you'd like to say to Terry Wogan over his remarks this week about women 'using' their looks to get work on TV (and therefore that they shouldn't moan when they're subject to ageist discrimination)?

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:21:09

Halexlo

Hi Jo,

It was reported you said it could be considered sexist to offer a pregnant woman a seat when she is standing up (after the fuss at PMQs) is that really how you feel? I find old-fashioned acts of chivalry sometimes quite cringe, like men making a show of opening the door for me etc. and would agree with you there, but I do think when being pregnant and tired, its just polite and useful to be given the chance to sit down. Parliament is one thing, but what about bus and tube politics? I think more people could be encouraged to be thoughtful on transport, so giving people another excuse not be isn't helpful! Would you agree?
thanks!

As I said, don't believe everything you read in the newspapers. If I had a pound for every time they'd written something inaccurate about me...

I never said that, and absolutely don't think it is sexist. It's lovely to be offered a seat - I don't always want one though. On the Tube with heavy bags, often I say yes, though that day at pmqs I knew I could only be there for 15 minutes and was standing with my back against a wooden pillar very comfortably. It was a little frustrating that the media seemed not to care whether I actually thought it was a problem or not, and deemed that if I was standing it must obviously have been because I had been "forced" to, as they put it!

I just think it's great for people to offer, and part of life's little courtesies. Though when I was incredibly fatigued at about 10 weeks but of course didn't look pregnant was when it has been most difficult so far!

Jo

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:24:01

TorchesTorches

Hi jo, who do you think is a good role model for young women and why.

There's lots - but sadly too few celebrated in our mainstream media. Wasn't last summer fab with all the Olympians and Paralympians? Especially Katherine Grainger - who comes from my constituency - showing the value of perseverance.

Outside of sport, how about hearing more from our women engineers and scientists (like Roma who designed the spire of the Shard, who I met on Monday) and businesswomen like the fantastic entrepreneurs I meet regularly when out and about as a Business Minister. But they're too invisible in a press that wants to write about celebrity and little else!

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Wed 06-Nov-13 13:28:30

Hi Jo, do you think maybe we should be focusing more on how to get girls and women to aspire to more than just something for other people to look at? I find all the focus on body image worrying, when we look a the % of girls and women in certain industries, in employment in general and society's attitudes to gender roles. I don't want my daughter worrying if she is fat or what her hair should look like, I want her to worry about having too much choice in what she feels she can do with her life!

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:28:38

Mmelindor

Hello Jo.

To add to MotherInferior's excellent question - how do we promote body confidence in a positive way?

I have an 11yr old daughter who recently chose her pizza based on the calorie count displayed on the menu.

While I see the need for information, I worry that the message being sent is one of 'good food' and bad food', which then leads to a child feeling guilty for eating the 'bad food'.

How do we promote healthy eating in a way that doesn't demonise selected food groups?

Society increasingly has a pretty dysfunctional relationship with food, and it is worrying when that gets passed on to the next generation. Children's diets are different from adults' diets for a start, in terms of what nutrition they need - but in any case the demonising of certain food groups is not helpful.

I'll be back on here for tips I'm sure, as having watched my sister try to get my 3 year old niece to eat healthily I know it is not always easy, especially when they start eating everything and then go through a fussy phase and you just want to ensure they're eating something.

So I don't have the magic answer, but part of it I think is the wider cultural issue of addressing some of the hang-ups that adults have about food.

Jo

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:32:31

BigEmma

Hi Jo,
In your capacity as Consumer Affairs Minister, can you tell me if you're planning any action re payday loan companies. I saw the head of Wonga the other night say that he would warn people that their chances of getting a mortgage might be damaged by taking out a payday loan only if the regulator made him. So will the government get involved?

Yes certainly - and we have already taken lots of action! I know eggsandham (great book!) has also asked about this.

So the current regulator, the OFT have done a thorough review of the industry and taken enforcement action - they wrote to the top 50 payday lenders with detailed analysis of how they were failing to abide by the guidance and that they had 12 weeks to shape up or risk losing their licence. 19 of these 50 decided to leave the market entirely as a result. A further 3 firms had their licences revoked.

But we recognise more needs to be done and the OFT powers aren't wide enough, so we are giving the new regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, more robust powers to ban products, impose unlimited fines and order firms to pay money back to consumers. They have proposed tough new rules to come into force next year - to limit rollovers to 2, heavily restrict the use of continuous payment authority (when the lenders dip into your bank account to take the money - one of the major problems) and impose advertising changes, so ads will have to carry risk warnings and info on where you can get free debt advice.

The Competition Commission is also now investigating the entire industry.

Jo

Mmelindor Wed 06-Nov-13 13:34:25

Yes, I agree that it is worrying that we are passing on our issues.

A friend of mine gives her kids fruit with the words, 'Shall we have something nice and fresh'.

I like the use of 'fresh' rather than 'healthy'.

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Wed 06-Nov-13 13:35:25

<off topic> If MNHQ are with you, does that mean that they are on the receiving end of The Great Biscuit Indicator?

MNHQ spill, are we talking fancy M&S or plain old rich teas?

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:36:14

Crumblemum

Hi there Jo

Good luck on the impending birth. I'd be interested to know what you think about Bounty sales reps being given access to maternity wards. Most of us are just in hospital for a couple of hours/ 1 night after giving birth. But despite that, Bounty are allowed in and try to get personal details and pressurise you into expensive photos. Mumsnet has got a campaign against.

It would be interesting to hear your own experience and whether you think the government/ Trading Standards should get involved (I do!!)

My own experience so far is I got handed a pack of flyers and info early on in the pregnancy which was vaguely helpful in some ways, but thankfully have not been subject to the kind of worryingly aggressive tactics that I've read about - and may seem to be more centred around contact at the time of the birth.

Clearly that kind of behaviour is unacceptable at a time that is about families bonding with their new arrival. I know the Health Minister has been looking at the behaviour of Bounty and how NHS Trusts are monitoring the way they behave. I'd encourage anyone who has had a bad experience to make sure you complain so the NHS can't say there isn't a problem.

Jo

KatieMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Nov-13 13:38:06

HopALongOn

<off topic> If MNHQ are with you, does that mean that they are on the receiving end of The Great Biscuit Indicator?

MNHQ spill, are we talking fancy M&S or plain old rich teas?

We were very kindly offered hot and cold beverages, but there is as yet [ahem] no sign of any biscuitage.

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:38:43

motherinferior

I'm interested in whether public health campaigns - which this, in its broadest sense, is - can work in the UK. They've had demonstrable effects in other countries (Finland, I think, is the most notable one) but I think there is a greater distrust of what is perceived as 'nannying' in the culture of the UK. What do you think?

They can work, but it doesn't mean every campaign will work. Recently I actually held a seminar with academics from around the world about body confidence - and the govt's Change for Life public health campaign was mentioned as an example of a successful campaign that also promoted positive images for body confidence.

I also think a huge amount of change can be created by working with industry (like the Debenhams stuff today) and campaigners to creat ea groundswell of cultural change. It's not easy and doesn't happen overnight but I think we are making progress.

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:42:23

Devora

In yesterday's Observer, there was this subheading: "In a world that considers all women physically flawed, we need less angst and more anger". Do you agree that women should be getting angry about the cultural pressures heaped upon us and our daughters? How does the Government intend to help, and what should parents be doing?

Yes, we should be angry, as you say, not just for ourselves but also for our daughters.

Our body confidence campaign in govt is trying to address some of these cultural pressures - there are also huge issues around media sexism, which I've met campaigners about recently. Parents - and all of us - have a role to play too - both in challenging stereotypes in conversation and in our purchasing decisions, and encouraging companies and media outlets to act differently.

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:44:18

Binkybix

Hi Jo

Please could you let me know whether you think the post office will be affected by the recent sale of a Royal Mail - do you think their relationship will be affected?

The Post Office and Royal Mail recently entered into a 10 year business arrangement, and further to that, ther CEO of RM is on the record saying it would be "unthinkable" that they would not continue to have a strong commercial relationship as they are such obvious partners.

So the sale of RM will not negatively affect the PO - in fact, by RM being able to access private capital to invest in more modern technology they will become more competitive in the growing parcel industry and this will be positive for PO where many of those parcels are of course posted!

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Wed 06-Nov-13 13:44:30

Sorry for the two questions, but have you heard of the Let Toys Be Toys campaign? Do you support it?

clicky linky here

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:47:06

Boiing

Hello Jo, I am quitting work because my civil service manager salary doesn't cover the cost of childcare for 2 children plus a commute. Most other women I know have the same problem and are also leaving work. A huge number of women are being forced into being housewives because of the imbalance between stagnating/frozen salaries and rising childcare/commute costs. It's also means long term the Government loses out on their income tax.

What are you going to do to address this? For example ending double taxation... making childcare/commute entirely tax deductible... Ending the rule that you have to pay nanny tax and national insurance on top of Nancy's salary...

The cost of childcare is a huge issue for working parents, and we recognise this - that's why we're introducing a tax break worth £1200 per child per year from 2015. I know many people would want us to go even further but it is a good start. Through our new childminder agencies, we're also trying to increase the number of childminders out there as the numbers fell sharply - and this type of childcare can be so vital for people working shifts or in any job that isn't 9 - 5 where a nursery place may not be the answer.

Jo

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:49:26

PlentyOfPubeGardens

Hi Jo, I think the way to increase women's body confidence is to take the focus away from women's looks, not to make sure we objectify 'celebrate' a wider range of women's bodies.

We definitely need a greater range of women in the media (and lots more older women, especially), but we need them not to be there primarily for their youth, looks and willingness to show flesh.

While women are only valued for their looks, they are always going to worry about what they look like.

Really good point, PoPG (interesting username...) - and I do agree. The obession with appearance generally is an issue, when this is just one of many things in people's lives - yes we all want to look smart for an interview and pay some attention, but it has ended up taking up a place in our culture out of all proportion with its actual importance.

That's why promoting role models who are there for what they do, rather than what they look like, is so vital - and why much of the media is so frustrating.

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:52:33

OmNom

Interesting that the media love to write stories about body image - I wonder why that is (genuine question, if rhetorical)

Do you have anything you'd like to say to Terry Wogan over his remarks this week about women 'using' their looks to get work on TV (and therefore that they shouldn't moan when they're subject to ageist discrimination)?

Why do the media love such stories? Call me a cynic, but I think one reason is they can often illustrate them with pictures or glamorous young women...

Hadn't heard actually of TW's remarks until this Q, but have been filled in. How appalling frankly, he should know better! There is a huge amount of sexism still in the media - why are women suddenly "past it" at 40ish but Bruce Forsyth, Jeremy Paxman, the Dimblebys etc continuing without their age making a difference. And even at the younger ages, when did we last see an ordinary looking female newsreader? Somehow women don't just have to be great journalists to get these jobs, there is a "look" they have to have as well - a double standard that doesn't apply to men in the same way.

Jo

Hi

What are your thoughts on 'that' Russell Brand/ Paxman interview?

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:57:43

muddyschoolshoes

Once this discussion is over, can you please come back and talk about the lack of part-time jobs in STEM industries and what you're planning to do about it?

Hugely important issue! This week is Tomorrow's Engineers Week and one of the big issues is the lack of women in the profession - and of course a lack of flexible or part-time working in the industry is unlikely to help this.

The govt published the Perkins Review this week which includes action we are taking. From next April all employees will have the right to request flexible working which should also help.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKtLjB6xs88&feature=c4-overview&list=UU0E1bAQ-LnaCsGqnwWBJotg Here's a bit more

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 14:00:25

HopALongOn

Hi Jo, do you think maybe we should be focusing more on how to get girls and women to aspire to more than just something for other people to look at? I find all the focus on body image worrying, when we look a the % of girls and women in certain industries, in employment in general and society's attitudes to gender roles. I don't want my daughter worrying if she is fat or what her hair should look like, I want her to worry about having too much choice in what she feels she can do with her life!

HopALongOn

Sorry for the two questions, but have you heard of the Let Toys Be Toys campaign? Do you support it?

clicky linky here

Yes, I have heard of it and think it is brilliant - it does my head in buying gifts for my niece that suggest all she might ever want to do is dress up as a princess. She is sadly getting drawn in a little to all that now, but still loves dinosaurs I am delighted to say. I was very proud to teach her to say Brachiosaurus as one of her first words. Maybe not the most useful though...

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 14:03:28

NumTumRedRum

What is your view on the recent decimation of legal aid availability which has a disproportionate impact on women, and renders large swathes of people unable to access legal advice and representation on divorce and separation, which has a knock on effect on society at large and children in particular?

There's no doubt some of the legal aid cuts have been very difficult decisions. Being in Government is great in many ways, but when the country has been spending £156billion more than we have coming in in revenue, and a key part of the task is trying to get that deficit down so we can all benefit from a stronger economy, it does mean some really tough choices.

We do recognise that in some divorce cases, especially where there is abuse for example, it is vital that legal aid still applies, and we have ensured that is the case. Though of course we also encourage in most instances people to use mediation before resorting to court. and we have made changes to ensure that women who are victims of abuse can still access the legal protection they need.

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 14:06:08

Lovescourgettes

Why is Government allowing the decimation of local Trading Standards in terms of horrific budget cuts and now reducing powers of entry for Trading Standards Officers? Surely this is can only result in rogue traders and unscrupulous businesses taking advantage of the most vulnerable consumers in the poorest bargaining position who are probably already financially disadvantaged and trying to make ends meet? What is your solution?

Most decisions about Trading Standards budgets are taken by local Councils, though in govt we fund national activity for things like illegal money-lending crackdowns and scams. But in fact TS officers will continue to have significant powers of entry (greater than the police in fact). We are saying that they should generally try to arrange a good time to go and see businesses, not least so the right people they need to speak to are there at the time, and this is mcuh easier especially for small businesses. But they retain the power to make unannounced visits and inspections in any instance where giving notice in advance would defeat the purpose of the visit - a very widely drawn definition!

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 14:07:42

Thanks very much for all your questions - I've really enjoyed the sesssion and the variety of issues raised. And I hope you will alll return the favour, when I'm back on the site as a frazzled new mum desparate for tips and advice in a couple of months' time! (very excited.... :-)

Jo

KatieMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Nov-13 14:08:12

Thanks to Jo for staying that little bit longer to get through all the questions. And GOOD LUCK with the birth and beyond - we'll keep the Mumsnet log in warm for you!

domesticslattern Wed 06-Nov-13 14:23:05

Thank you Jo for going beyond the brief and having a stab at the trading standards, engineering, legal aid, childcare and payday loan etc. questions. Lesser guests would have ignored them to stick to the brief, so that's appreciated (even if I don't agree with all the answers!- but that's what makes these webchats interesting).

Want2bSupermum Wed 06-Nov-13 17:57:52

Very disappointing to read the replies because I don't think she listens to the concerns women have and face regarding childcare costs. This is a very important issue and addressing this will help close the pay gap.

Jo please listen to women like Boiing who are leaving full time paid employment to care for their children due to the cost being so high. If your objective as Womens' Minister is to help bridge the pay gap this is a great place to start. A GBP1200 tax credit doesn't cover one month of 'full time' care (8am-6pm) for two children anywhere in London or the North West.

I am very fortunate that DH earns enough to enable me to work for a pittance after childcare costs but he isn't about to subsidize me working. If you are here to represent women please work to push through changes so childcare is fully deductible. If I lived in the UK it would cost us for me to work. I am sure there are thousands of other women in the UK who, just like me, are educated, qualifed but care for their children because it doesn't pay to work while the children are young. Please make the UK a leader in equality rather than a poor excuse.

muddyschoolshoes Wed 06-Nov-13 18:43:01

Jo, thanks for the reply. I know you've left now, but just in case you check back in, I hope that as well as extending the right to "ask for flexible working", measures will be put in place to encourage STEM employers to routinely advertise part time jobs. I have a background in science and technology, and had no problem reducing my hours with my existing employer. The issue came when I was ready to move on from that job; I felt very trapped because I didn't want to increase my hours. High quality part-time jobs are rarely advertised to external applicants in physical sciences, engineering and IT. Life Sciences are better at it, presumably because they have more female employers! It's very much a cultural issue.

Highlander Wed 06-Nov-13 20:44:41

Muddyscholmshoes - that is EXACTLY the problem that I face trying to move up the greasy pole in STEM academia.

Highlander Wed 06-Nov-13 20:46:33

Life sciences/medical sciences is terrible due to the unpredictable nature of how cells grow/when patient samples come in. I can be very flexible with my time to accomodate this, but it seems academia will not entertain the idea that I can job share or domthis part-time.

fossil971 Thu 07-Nov-13 13:28:51

Muddyschoolshoes - your question is exactly mine (and how brilliantly succint).
I have one of those rare part time jobs in engineering but I didn't apply for it, I was permitted flex working on return from mat leave after about 15 years of loyal full time employment. I've looked for other jobs but never managed to get an offer at hours I am prepared to do (3.5 days so not especially minimal). I missed the webchat because I was working overtime on my day off!

The whole management tier of the STEM industries is riddled with white 50+ males who can't imagine promoting anybody who doesn't look, and work, exactly like they do.

I am going to email Jo now because I was trying to find out which MP was championing women into engineering, relating to the threatened closure of our local science and engineering museum/discovery centre. (Since the report on BBC breakfast a few weeks ago). So I'm glad you mentioned it.

Musidn Thu 07-Nov-13 16:35:04

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Musidn Thu 07-Nov-13 16:35:43

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muddyschoolshoes Thu 07-Nov-13 18:54:24

Highlander - I'm just basing my Life Sciences comment on my experience with a large London Uni. I've got an email alert set up for all their part-time jobs, and I probably get at least one high quality (i.e. research/analytical) Life Sciences or Psychology job coming through every week or two, but don't think I've ever seen one from physical sciences or IT (and I've had the alert set up for several months now). (There are part-time administration jobs across all departments, but I want to use my PhD and so-called-valuable STEM work experience a bit more strategically than that). I don't know if this reflects the national picture or not - it might just be that uni. They're ahead of the game by even allowing people to filter jobs postings by full/part time. Most search engines don't bother. Some do bother but may as well not - I haven't found a single part-time job advert via New Scientist since I signed up to their alerts about 10 months ago. Reed Scientific allow you to filter by full/part-time, but the p/t numbers are pitifully low and tend to be for relatively low paid jobs.

fossil - good luck. Let us know if you get an answer.

BrianBScott Fri 08-Nov-13 18:25:23

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