#WE – The Women’s Equality Party 

I went to the second meeting of the Women’s Equality Party today at Conway Hall in London.    

 

After a few rousing speeches we split up into groups to work on 10 different areas of activism or “speed politics” as Sandi Toksvig called it 😃  

I chose campaigning. We then reported back. 

 I’m excited about the opportunity that an equality party may bring to get the UK on track. I’m quite disappointed that there has not been that much change in my lifetime, and as I get older I start feeling frustrated that maybe we won’t see equality in my lifetime. It’s a sobering thought.   

Equality for women isn’t a women’s issue. When women fulfill their potential, everyone benefits. Equality means better politics, a more vibrant economy, a workforce that draws on the talents of the whole population and a society at ease with itself.

The Women’s Equality Party will be a new non-partisan force in British politics bringing together women and men of all ages and backgrounds, united in the campaign for women to enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men so that both sexes can flourish.

The Women’s Equality Party will work towards such a society. We will push for equal representation in politics and business to ensure women’s voices are heard at the same volume as men’s. We will urge an education system that creates opportunities for all girls and boys and an understanding of why this matters. We will press for equal pay and equal parenting rights enabling women and men to share opportunity and responsibility in the workplace and at home. We will seek an end to violence against women.

We will bring about change by winning—support, votes and seats. We will not try to present ourselves as a party with an answer on every issue and a full palette of policies. Our focus will be clear and unambiguous and we will not stop attracting votes from the other political parties until they embrace and adopt our agenda of equality.

Women’s Equality Party on Facebook 

NHS, the economy, jobs, full employment, debts, zero-hours contracts ... but no mention of how the UK might stimulate a tech-savvy, tech-enabled workforce. Photograph: Ken McKay / ITV / REX/EPA

Technology was absent from the leaders’ debate – but it is key to the UK’s success

Last night’s election leaders’ debate was notable for the almost complete absence of technology, bar a hesitant reference to “IT” from Ed Miliband. Not one of the seven candidates spoke about technology as an enabler, as a tool that offers us the capability to completely revitalise our economy.

Instead, each debater focused on the small picture, rather than looking outwards to the massive technology-enabled social and economic changes happening globally.

Where was the leadership? Where was the inspiration? Where was the “yes we can” moment? And why was there no talk of the massive digital revolution happening right now, which offers us so many opportunities to solve or alleviate many of our country’s problems?

The UK has a great tradition of creativity, invention and technology from the industrial revolution to the code breakers of Bletchley Park, to ARM, the BBC Micro and the Raspberry Pi.

We are now competing in a global marketplace, in a world that is increasingly driven by technology. The UK should be leading the world with a strong, tech-savvy, tech-enabled workforce, ready to make the most of the huge opportunities a global marketplace opens up. We should be in pole position. Are we? Are we bugger.

Our schools have only just started teaching computer science properly, and the majority of UK adults have almost no practical tech education at all, which harms our future economic success and competitiveness as a nation. Which political party is taking a lead on ensuring that as a country we are ready with 21st century tech skills?

Last night I saw “pale, stale and male” middle-class white men from privileged backgrounds, all focused on either getting into or staying in power. The only candidates to mention cooperation and collaboration were female — the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett and Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party. Organisations across the UK, including government, education and the NHS, need to collaborate more effectively in order to solve problems more swiftly, and tech can help to facilitate this.

For too long we have had a political system built around competition and short termism. If we want our country to be successful we need more focus on cooperation and collaboration, both nationally and globally. In these areas technology is a great enabler.

Today’s politicians simply do not seem to grasp the positive impact tech could have to the nation’s economy, if we can educate the workforce to understand it. From virtual assistants to web designers, and executive coaches to Etsy’s knitters, technology enables entrepreneurs to go global.

The World Economic Review for 2014 ranked the UK just ninth in the world for networked readiness, or having a workforce that is able to use technology. This puts us behind the US, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries. At first glance, ninth may not seem all that bad. But things move fast in the tech world and governments that prioritise tech education for adults as well as school children will have the clear advantage.

The candidates last night spoke of the NHS, the economy, jobs, full employment, debts, zero-hours contracts, legislation, public sector contracts and security for working families. These are all important, of course, but what was missing was anything truly inspiring and with a real sense of optimism. One candidate did at least speak of a pride in our nation, and mentioned the global economy. What a shame that was Nigel Farage…

Farage might pay lip service to engaging with the world at large, but stricter immigration policies would do the UK tech industry and the economy in general no good at all.

A recent House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report published in 2014 claims that an “unwelcoming UK” has already led to an “unprecedented fall” in Stem student numbers. Keeping people out of our country means missing opportunities to share skills, to enhance knowledge and develop global networks, all of which are important in the modern workplace.

In the UK we have a rich heritage in technology and engineering that should give us the confidence for leadership at a global level, setting the pace and inspiring other nations to follow our great example – not focusing on how many foreigners there are in the UK. It’s embarrassing. How did we end up here?

Now is the time for a new inspiring vision of the future, from a leader who can not only lead but who is not afraid to connect and collaborate. A leader who understands and can leverage the massive opportunities available, someone that our innovative, inventive and creative population can believe in. We need a leader who understands the capabilities inherent in modern technology and has the ability to use them to solve our problems. We need that leader now.

Where is she?

This article written by me was published in The Guardian on Friday 3 April 2015

Technology was absent from the leaders’ debate – but it is key to the UK’s success

Osteo arthritis – can I stop it from getting worse? 

I’ve had stiffness in my fingers, hands and feet for some time now, and my right index finger has a swollen joint. My doctor diagnosed osteo arthritis and said there’s nothing I can do to stop it, it is caused by “over-use”. Looking at my fingers I can see that my right index finger is the worst and my right middle finger looks like it is starting to swell.  

My left hand

  

My right hand

I find this very depressing. I’m 52, healthy, if slightly overweight, is there really nothing I can do? 

I don’t like the way it looks but much worse than that is the thought that I will gradually lose the use of my hands for typing, knitting and everything else. 

I’m interested in anything that might stop or at least slow down what appears to be a slow degenerative process. Does diet have an effect? I would love to hear from anyone who has an opinion or any ideas on anything I can do about this. Please tell me your experience and stories. Thanks 😃

Easter visit to Scotney Castle,  Bodiam Castle and Knole House

We had a lovely visit to the National Trust’s Scotney CastleBodiam Castle and Knole House in Kent, this Easter weekend. Scotney also has a really interesting house given over to the National Trust in 2006 when the owner Betty Hussey died aged 99 in 2006. Her cat Puss still lives there.    

   

Bodiam Castle is much older and a proper castle.  

  

Knole House hosts an incredible collection of art and beds from the 17th century. There are many bedrooms containing beds that had been passed down, second hand, from  English Kings. An incredible place. 

We had a great Easter weekend visiting these 3 National Trust properties and look forward to discovering more over the next year with our annual membership 😃 

More pics of Scotney Castle, House and gardens below along with other pics from the weekend. 

   

  

  

  

 

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Happy Mother’s Day

When I was twelve my mother died suddenly. I can’t remember if it was a Saturday or a Sunday, but I remember it was at the weekend. My mum had complained of a headache around late morning and had gone to bed to lie down. After a bit I went in to see if she wanted anything and saw that she was obviously in a lot of pain. She either couldn’t hear or couldn’t respond to whatever it was that I said to her when I went in to see her. I went downstairs and said to my dad

“I think mum’s had a brain haemorrhage”

I’m not really sure how I knew that, but I had spent many hours reading my parents medical textbooks (my parents were both nurses). We had a chat about it and my dad decided to call an ambulance.

Being a weekend it took a while for the ambulance to arrive. When it did my dad took the two ambulance men upstairs to my mum. They examined her and then told us that they couldn’t take her into hospital as they thought my mum just had a migraine, it wasn’t anything more serious than that. My dad told them that he thought it was a brain haemorrhage, but they disagreed. They told us that we would need to call our doctor to get the sanction for them to take my mum into hospital. They were not allowed to take someone with a migraine to hospital. The ambulance men left and my dad called the doctor. As it was a weekend it took some time for a doctor to arrive. In the meantime I sat on a chair by my parents bed keeping an eye on my mum while my dad looked after my brother and sister downstairs. My mum was quiet most of the time, but now and again she would say

“My head hurts so much, please let me die, please god let me die”

I sat there, deeply traumatised, saying nothing until after some time the doctor arrived, a locum named Dr Patel.

Dr Patel tried speaking to my mum, I don’t remember exactly what she did or said, but she concluded that my mum had had a migraine and shouldn’t be taken into hospital.

I carried on sitting by my mum’s bed after the doctor had gone. It was now probably early afternoon. My dad went to fetch my mum’s best friend Jean Banks from up the road. Jean came and sat in the bedroom with me, she sat next to the bed and I sat on a chair a few feet away. We both sat mainly in silence, staring at my mum.

My dad came in from time to time to see how everything was.

My mum was gradually getting less restless and quieter, only occasionally saying that she wanted to die. I remember thinking to myself that in my opinion she was slipping into unconsciousness and that as she had had a brain haemorrhage that probably meant that it was too late for any intervention, and that she was going to die. I was horrified at that realisation and spent the time sitting there in silence trying to persuade myself that I was actually incorrect, and that of course she would be fine.

My dad came in again to see how my mum was. When he saw that her condition was deteriorating he called the doctor again. We waited another couple of hours for the doctor to come back. When Dr Patel finally did return, she examined my mum and said that she was going to call an ambulance. I knew that it was too late. My mum was unconscious.

Finally an ambulance did arrive to take mum away to hospital. The ambulance men carried her downstairs and out of the front door. I walked down the garden path following the ambulance men and my mum on a stretcher, holding hands with my sister Sarah who was seven. We watched mum being put into the ambulance, the doors shutting and the ambulance driving away down the road, it was just starting to get dark. My mum had been laying in bed for probably 6 hours in excruciating physical pain. I had been sitting in the bedroom with her for 6 hours in dreadful mental pain. That day, that long and traumatic afternoon is indelibly etched on my memory forever. As we held hands at the end of the garden path we looked down the road towards the ambulance which got smaller and smaller and then disappeared out of sight.

“Will she be coming back?” my little sister Sarah asked me.

“No, I don’t think so.” I replied.

We slowly walked back into the house together, and there my memory fades.

My mum never regained consciousness, we agreed for her life support machine to be switched off a couple of days after she was taken to hospital, on 11th February 1975. I was just twelve years old and my twin brother Stephen and sister Sarah were seven.

Mum

My Mum – Sally Valerie Diane Ambury 1940-1975

40 years on, I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember much of my mum, especially considering that we were together for 12 whole years. I just have a few fragments of conscious memory. The day she died is my largest memory of her.

What I do have however, inside me, is a feeling of strength and love that has kept me going through some times of dreadful adversity. It has enabled me to love my children and give them everything I can. It has meant that despite all the difficulties I have faced, I’ve had a happy life full of so many fun and interesting times. I cannot put into words how grateful I am for that. That strength, that happiness and relentlessness in the face of adversity, that, to me, is my mum, inside of me. My mum may have died very young, but she made me the strong and happy person I am today. Thanks Mum.

Mum, Sue, Sarah, Stephen

Massive thanks also to the many people who have mothered me when I needed it over the years:

Elsie Leah Reynolds, Kate Deans, Joyce Leforgeais, Denise Bell, Ha Thi Minh Tam, Hazel Lapierre, Sarah Pearson, Emma Black, Leah Black, and Paul Boca. I cannot thank you enough.

This mothers’ day I give grateful thanks to my mum, my surrogate mothers and to all mothers across the world who are doing their best to raise the next generation, the future success of our planet depends on you. Mothering, loving and nurturing someone is the most important gift you can give another person.

Happy Mothers’ Day! :)

** This morning I decided to start writing my autobiography, working title “If I can do it, so can you” based on my blogpost and talk of the same name. This post is what came out first…..

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Communities 2.0, Wales, Digital Inclusion

I had a truly awesome day yesterday keynoting the Communities 2.0 conference at the Cardiff Swalec stadium. I gave my talk “If I can do it, so can you” which is all about how technology and education have changed my life, helping me to bring my family out of poverty and into prosperity. I had so much fabulous feedback and met some really lovely people. The digital inclusion people in Wales are an absolutely wonderful bunch.

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Communities 2.0 are just having their funding cut at a time when getting people online and tech savvy is becoming critical to lead an everyday life. It’s such a shame that all the good digital inclusion work, which has put Wales in a leading position in Europe, is now being scaled down.

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Being in Cardiff was also a great opportunity to meet up with my fab new friend Aimee Bateman. We met when we both gave a talk at TedxClapham recently. I expect really great things from Aimee, what a superstar 😃

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I don’t think I’ve ever had so many lovely tweets from one event. Incedible support. Thank you Communities 2.0 and everyone at the #c2conf for all your interest and questions.

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Reid Hoffman, Simon Greenish, Megan Smith, Julie Hanna and Sue Black Bletchley Park, November 2011

US CTO on Representation of Women in The Imitation Game

It’s so great to see the awesome US CTO Megan Smith speak about representation of women in the film “The Imitation Game” as not being representative of what actually happened at Bletchley Park during WW2.

White House CTO calls for open source APIs, visibility for women

“Smith pointed out that Joan Clarke, the code-breaker depicted in the recent film The Imitation Game, was just one of numerous female mathematicians who worked at the U.K.’s World War II lab known as Bletchley Park. Likewise, Smith observed that women’s contributions to the development of the Mac were been scrubbed from the movie Jobs, and from the space mission in Apollo.

The upshot, Smith suggested, is that a perceived dearth of women in STEM professions can be partly addressed by ensuring the proper depiction of those who are already working in them.”

Go Megan! :)

In November 2011 I was honoured to take Megan, along with Reid Hoffman, Julie Hanna and DJ Patil around Bletchley Park with then Bletchley Park CEO Simon Greenish. I met Megan when I approached her after she spoke on a panel at NESTA in 2010 and asked her to help Bletchley Park to buy the Turing papers which were then up for auction.

Megan Smith, Reid Hoffman, Julie Hanna and DJ Patil checking out the Turing exhibition at Bletchley Park

Megan Smith, Reid Hoffman, Julie Hanna and DJ Patil checking out the Turing exhibition at Bletchley Park

We had a wonderful day together, Google stepped in to help save the Turing papers for Bletchley Park, and went on to support Bletchley Park and The National Museum of Computing in many ways  :)  #serendipity

All in a day’s work

I had a great day today. Thanks to lots of wonderful people I had a really awesome day. 2 great meetings, I gave a talk at Twitter HQ and organised and spoke at an event at BCS Central London branch. Yesterday I spent the day in bed with awful cold/flu feeling absolutely dreadful.

What a difference a day makes. Incredible. Just got home at 1am feeling shattered but happy. Thanks to everyone who made today special: Julia Shalet, Mazi, Andy Piper and all at Twitter, Bryan Glyck and Kayleigh Bateman, Funmi Adeusi, Lucy Rogers, Anke Holst, Alan O’Donohue, Wendy Woo and Joan Lockwood.

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