Girls in ICT Day – Geneva April 2014

I’m in Geneva for a couple of days to celebrate Girls in ICT day 2014 #girlsinICT with the ITU the International Telecommunication Union, the part of the United Nations that specialises in technology. I’m on a panel later on today. We arrived yesterday afternoon and after a short British Airways flight from London which took just over an hour.

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After a 15 min train ride from the airport we were in the centre of Geneva

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After checking in at our hotel we went to be interviewed at ITU and met some of the fabulous women who work there :) We just had to take a #selfie…

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Then my daughter Leah and I went to have a look around and hang out.

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Here we are outside the UN HQ building

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This is Baby Plage, a fabulous mana made beach with play equipment made from recycled car tyres etc.

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At the #girlsinICT conference Super Awesome Sylvia demonstrates her WatercolorBot

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Leah looking forward to the digital music making workshop

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Super Awesome Sylvia again :)

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ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Toure welcomes us all to #girlsinICT day

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The wonderful Doreen Bogdan Chief of Strategic Planning at ITU, a great role model for the girls here and for us all

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Sylvia gets lots of interest from the gilrs and tells everyone about when she met President Obama at the White House. Go Sylvia!

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Sylvia interviewed again about what she has done and what she is interested in. Check her out at The Sylvia Show.

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What an awesome day! …and it has only just begun, looking forward to more exciting stuff this afternoon.

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From Tower Hamlets to the House of Lords…

Originally posted on Savvify: Engage Enlighten Inspire:

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Today was a busy #techmums day, and a day of contradictions. Mary and I ran our week 5 #techmums class with Bishop Challoner school mums in Tower Hamlets in the morning. We were happy to see our fab mums, but sad because it was the last class for this wonderful group. I’m going to miss seeing them every week.

#techmums graduation

#techmums graduation

After graduation with certificates and “I’m a #techmum” tshirts Mary and I went off to talk to a primary school down the road about running #techmums there. They were keen :)

Then it was back into London and a walk from Waterloo to the House of Lords where I had a really great chat with our fab patron Baroness Martha Lane Fox about #techmums, women in tech and Bletchley Park.

Such a massive contrast from morning to afternoon. The morning spent with mums in Tower Hamlets where the average…

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The revolution will not be televised….but it will be brought to you by #techmums

Originally posted on Savvify: Engage Enlighten Inspire:

Techmums T3

Guest blog post from Jemima Gibbons, Social Media Strategist.

I just got back from two amazing days at Google Campus – training to be a #Techmums trainer.

In case you haven’t heard or read about it yet, #Techmums is a new initiative from Dr Sue Black (the mum of 4, computer scientist and self-proclaimed “cheeky geek” whose become a bit of a household name after campaigning to save Bletchley Park a couple of years ago).

Sue wanted to do something to help change the image of computer science in the UK, and she decided to start with mums – because they’re key to children’s safe and savvy use of technology, but all too often know little about computing.

After running a successful pilot in Tower Hamlets last summer, Sue and her team raised enough funding to roll out the #Techmums programme to other schools in the South East.

To…

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Bletchley Park debate – me and #techmums mentions in the House of Lords

Wow!

I’ve just been pointed at the Hansard for the House of Lords debate on Bletchley Park yesterday. I feel so honoured to have been mentioned not once but twice by firstly Lord Sharkey and then Baroness Martha Lane Fox in the debate about Bletchley Park’s future.

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Great that #techmums, Code Club and YRS are mentioned too. Go Martha and thanks Lord Sharkey :)

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Happy Days :)

Guardian incorrect, misogynistic headline – “First Brit in space…”

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 14.15.06 The Guardian has a piece today about Tim Peake, the second Briton in space. Tim is quoted as saying ” Helen Sharman was the first Brit in space back in ’91, but they’re calling me the first official Brit in space because I’m the first UK government astronaut, if you like. Helen’s was a kind of private, commercial-sponsored flight.Helen Sharman was the first Briton in space in 1991 when she was just 27. She beat 13,000 other Brits to become the first Brit in space and spent 18 months training in Star City, before her 7 days in space. What a remarkable woman! Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 14.19.25 I read and loved Helen’s book “Seize the moment” and read it when it came out. It is a really straightforward, modest and genuine account of Helen’s life and the whole story thru training and selection to actually being in space. I find it offensive and mysogynist that The Guardian article on Tim Peake has the misleading headline “First Brit in space Tim Peake…”. We should be proud that early on in the space game we selected a woman from 13,000 applicants, shouldn’t we? We do cool, radical things in the UK occasionally, choosing a woman to be Britons first person in space is one of those things. Can any other country boast the same? Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 15.53.12 Helen Sharman should be a well known British icon, but most people have never heard of her. A fabulous woman in STEM. Let’s change that, please do whatever you can to promote Helen and her achievements. #1stbritinspace

Bletchley Park’s bitter dispute – mediation is the solution

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The relationship between The Bletchley Park Trust (BPT) and The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) both based at Bletchley Park has been in the press recently. A piece published by the BBC in January this year Bletchley Park’s bitter dispute over its future showed a Bletchley Park volunteer crying after being sacked by the current CEO of Bletchley Park Iain Standen. There was a public outcry after the BBC report was shown on the news, with people complaining about the way that volunteers are being treated and asking what is going on.

Lots of people have asked me to comment since the report. I first got involved with Bletchley Park in 2003 and  started a campaign to save it in 2008 when I found out that they were having financial difficulties. I’m currently writing a book Saving Bletchley Park about the campaign, the people involved, what we did, what worked and what didn’t.

During the time that I was campaigning to save Bletchley Park and now during writing of my book I have spoken to quite a few people that have been involved with Bletchley over the years. It has all been very interesting.

One of the things that has disturbed and dismayed me from the start has been the fact that despite seeming to want, at a high level, the same thing, the two trusts BPT and TNMOC have never seemed to be able to work well together. I have never quite understood this. Practically everyone that I have ever spoken to, involved in either trust, has been a good person who obviously wants the right thing to happen. They have all seemed to have the long term interest of Bletchley Park’s future in mind and to want the best for the whole site. Why then are we in the situation we find ourselves in today where the two trusts seem to be at loggerheads?

I’ve stressed about this for years, I’ve tried talking to people on both sides, almost all of whom I respect. I was invited to join BPT in 2012 by Sir John Scarlett and became a trustee for 18 months. My main goal in becoming a trustee was to try to ensure Bletchley Park as a whole’s future success, with a fundamental part of that being trying to help both trusts work together with a view to at some point becoming a single trust. I sought to get BPT to agree to ask TNMOC to go to external mediation together to get them talking to each other and working on a way of moving forward together. Unfortunately I was not able to persuade the board to take that route.

When it became apparent to me late last year that I could not achieve my goal, I resigned. I had failed.

I failed to make happen what I still think is a critical factor in the future success of Bletchley Park as a whole. If the two trusts cannot work together, the future success of Bletchley Park as a fundamental, international heritage site is under threat.

I believe that mediation and getting both trusts talking to each other is the best way forward in ensuring a safe and successful future for Bletchley Park. I may not have been able to make that happen, but I think that there will be someone who will be able to. I’ve spent the last couple of months trying to work who that might be. Who would be the person, or organisation that would be able to strongly “encourage” this solution to happen?

It has often occurred to me that maybe it would have helped to have more women involved at a high level. BPT and TNMOC are not exclusively male, but they are mainly male. Would having a few more women involved to encourage communication and collaboration rather than competition been a good idea? I think so. Having a gender balance can make a difference in these types of situations.

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It would have to be someone that both trusts will listen to and work with. My first thought was Baroness Trumpington. She worked at Bletchley Park during the war, is formidable and reasonable, along with a great sense of humour. Other ideas have been Ed Vaizey at DCMS and the Heritage Lottery Fund who are currently funding BPT. I have discussed this with several friends who also care deeply about Bletchley Park and have deep knowledge of the situation. Brian Randell from University of Newcastle who has done so much for Bletchley Park and TNMOC over the years, Bill Thompson from the BBC and Lucian Hudson, Head of Communications at the Open University. We all agree that the two trusts must work together and that mediation is key to making that happen (please correct me if I am wrong gentlemen and I will amend this).

In an interview with The Guardian yesterday I said that I thought mediation, getting the two trusts around a table talking together absolutely what is needed, and that I believe it will happen. We need to get them both discussing their issues with an external, objective mediator, only then can we move this situation forward. One of the problems is that everything is not on the table, no real time, full and frank discussions around all of the issues that exist have happened (to my knowledge). Like any situation where there is a breakdown in a relationship, a chain of reactions going from one side to the other is not useful. We need the equivalent of Relate, relationship counselling, but for organisations rather than individuals. Does that exist? I thought of ACAS but they unfortunately are not appropriate.

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I believe that the fact that this dispute is now in the public eye is a good thing. It has opened up to the public a situation that has festered long enough. The UK public and many people around the world absolutely LOVE Bletchley Park. It is an awesome place. The place where more than 10,000 people, mainly young women, worked to save *millions* of lives during World War 2. The birthplace of computer science, the place where Alan Turing and others like him worked tirelessly for us. So that we and millions of others around the world like us could live in peace. We owe it to these people, and to the site itself, to now help these two organisations work together. To make Bletchley Park the successful, international heritage site that we can all be proud of. We CAN do that. It MUST happen.

The infighting has gone on long enough. Now is the time for BPT and TNMOC to work together. Let’s help them to do that by not taking sides, but by encouraging them to work together and by supporting them both. They need our help. Let’s give it to them. Lest we forget.

I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Techmums on BBC Breakfast Time!

Today has been a great day, and it’s not 1pm yet.

After a lovely family meal at Mai Sushi near Euston station to celebrate my youngest daughter’s 10th birthday, I travelled up to Manchester last night arriving around 11pm at the Holiday Inn Media City.

I was a bit nervous about being on Breakfast Time in the morning, but after chatting to friends online and prepping fo the morning managed to get to sleep around 1am.

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I woke up at 6am, got ready and walked over to the studios. Aimee Pye and Will Gardener were also guests this morning, so we all got taken up to the green room together.

I was on first so went straight into makeup and then down to the studio.

Today is Safer Internet Day 2014, I followed a video about sexting. I was asked something like how to control childrens’ behaviour online.

I think that “control” is completely the wrong attitude. The best way to approach kids being safe online is to think about it like teaching your child to be streetwise. You don’t tell your children that they will never be allowed out alone. Its all about building up a dialogue and relationship with your kids where you can discuss any issues openly. Communication and education are key.

That’s one of the reasons I set up #techmums. #techmums is all about getting mums tech savvy, from app and web design to social media and online security to coding in Python on Raspberry Pis. Getting mums up to speed with technology ultimately helps not just them but everyone around them too. Mums who are confident and excited about tech will produce kids who are savvier and safer.

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Safer Internet Day is a great initiative, great to focus eveyone’s minds on keeping safe online. Mums have a great role to play in that and savvy #techmums can play an important role in giving our kids a safer future.

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Is this what a feminist looks like?

Frida Kahlo

With an exhibition title like “Big Swinging Ovaries” it’s probably obvious that artist Jess de Wahls is a feminist. What’s less obvious is that “Big Swinging Ovaries” brings together art, feminism and recycling to create portraits of diverse female role models.

Jess says “The aim is to start a dialogue around what it means to be a feminist and show that something valuable can be created from things that others think are worthless, whilst also conveying the importance of female role models, in our current society and for future generations.”

Jess de Wahls

The exhibition features hand-sewn 3D portraits of inspiring female role models, including Beyonce, Vivienne Westwood and Frida Kahlo. I have to admit some bias here as I’m honoured to be featured in one of the portraits (I’ve not seen it yet).

Jess has spent the last year working hard creating the RE TEX sculptures, RE TEX standing for REcycled TEXtile sculpting, the material for the sculptures coming from friends and family’s unwanted clothes.

“Big Swinging Ovaries” the exhibition will run for 11 days, with the opening night on 8 March 2014: International Women’s Day at 13 Whitcomb Street, London WC2H 7HA.

For more information contact Jess De Wahls

DAVOS – Where are the women??

2 years ago Davos who say they are “committed to improving the state of the world” knew there was a problem with having so few women participating. Two years later in 2014 the figure is 15% female participation. That doesn’t sound like committment to me…..

Davos and WEF you are in a unique position of really being able to do something about this situation. You say you are committed to improving the state of the world. Having only 15% women participating means you will NOT achieve your aim.

Please be SERIOUS about your committment. Take bold, brave and dramatic steps to increase female participation. You CAN do it. If you need help I and many others will help you. You know where to find me…..

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Which man am I?

When I saw a link on my friend Alison Leary’s Facebook to a BCS quiz called “What computer am I?” I got all excited (yes, I know, very sad) wondering which computer I would turn out to be. I am after all a geek and what geeks love are computers and everything to do with them, right? So I clicked the link and started the quiz…

What computer am I?

What computer am I?

The first screen told me some of the options, ooh which one will I be? I clicked “start test”.

The first question asked me “Where are you most comfortable?” I vacillated between options B and C, decided on B, clicked select and got the next question.

Where are you most comfortable?

Where are you most comfortable?

Who would you most like to be? Hmmmm, a choice of four men. Well I’d rather be Ada Lovelace, Steve Shirley, Dina St Johnston or some other woman in computing thanks very much.

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So, I’m stuck, if I don’t choose one of the four men on offer I can’t progress through the quiz.

Ah well, I should be tucked up in bed anyway….good night.