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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.


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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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!

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.... :-)


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


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 14:03:28


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 14:00:25


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!


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 13:57:43


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. Here's a bit more

smearedinfood Wed 06-Nov-13 13:56:30


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

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


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.


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


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 13:47:06


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.


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 13:44:18


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!

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


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 13:38:43


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.

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


<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.

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