Turning 19 during COVID-19.

This time last year, I was not quite halfway through sitting my A-Level exams and complaining about how my birthday fell in the middle of 3 back-to-back exams. It was as stressful as it was exciting but most significantly, it was the same thing that happened to people my age every year. This year, however, things are a little different.

Whilst the world rages with a global pandemic and now the addition of #BlackLivesMatter protests throughout America and the World, I’m sat at a small desk in a city now vacant of its students counting down the days to a return to normality. And so, when I sat down to write something as I try to do for every birthday, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to reflect on the year as it’s passed, how I live my life at its present, or my hope for the year that’s too come. Here’s my best attempt at doing this extraordinary year justice.

 

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It seems almost incomprehensible that so much has changed over the past year. “Unprecedented” events aside, a lot has also changed in my own life as I complete my first turn around the sun as an adult. This past year, I finished my life as a school student forever. No more 8:40am-3:50pm 5 days a week. No more high school PE lessons, otherwise known as highly competitive rounders matches. No more being around the same group of 56 people I had been since the age of 6. In that same year, I started at the University of Oxford studying Economics and Management in St Hilda’s College. Though I spent so long worrying about whether I’d make friends, I have had such a brilliant first year. I’ve played for the Women’s Blues Ice Hockey Team, done two student consultancy projects, given myself a routine and a lifestyle I love, and, most importantly, really enjoyed myself with some really great people. Between those two major life events, I spent a brilliant summer planning my school ball, and then off on travel adventures with family and work. I visited Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Norway and Switzerland, not to mention the two trips I went on during my first term of Oxford to the Netherlands (during Freshers’ week!!) and Sweden. In Spain, I did a language course which I had been wanting to do for AGES. And over Christmas, I went skiing not once, but twice – with University (BEST experience ever) and with family (where we stayed at the most wonderful hotel).

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I also achieved a lot of things. I started a new job sometime during that summer with Inspired Minds, who I still work for today running their social media and assisting with their press for events and youth engagement. My brother and I became #iWill Ambassadors, and through them have been able to attend so many incredible events and meet so many inspiring people. I went to the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust event for One Young World, and I met Vee Kativhu (and later Unjaded Jade) who are studytubers I’ve watched for years. I gave back to the STEMettes at their Future Leaders Summit. I was elected this year’s Women’s Officer for my college’s JCR. I reached the final stages of a scholarship, and the Management Undergraduate of the Year Award. I was in a shoot campaign with #iWill which was broadcast in Wembley Arena!! And I won an award I had admired for ages (but can’t talk about yet!).

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So much more has happened over the past year than I could possibly comment on in two paragraphs but the overwhelming sensation for me has been a sense of true contentedness at the place I am in in life. I have the best home friends, who I have loved coming to visit me at Uni, and I have the best uni friends who in just a short space of time have become truly treasured. I can appreciate my family more when I am home, and despite all the negatives of lockdown, it has given me what might perhaps be the last really extended period of time where I’m living with them. I am truly grateful for all the life experiences I have been gifted and for all the successes, and lessons, I have encountered this year.

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Over this next year, I can only hope to mirror the year I’ve had. However, there is also a need for me to reflect on the huge gift I have had so far in my life of being free to live without a second thought – this is not the case now. And so, my vision for next year is as such:

we have found a vaccine or a cure for Coronavirus – It is now an afterthought of “how can we prevent this from happening again”.

We have made tangible moves towards a more equal and fair society for all, and value kindness and collaboration at the forefront of everything.

We have elected a new president of the United States and prime minister of the United Kingdom.

We have dealt with the immediate repercussions of the financial crisis.

I have found fulfillment and excitement in my penultimate year of university. I have really made the most out of my summer term, since I didn’t get to experience my first year one.

I have reinforced friendships, new and old, and continue to find joy and balance between them, family, and myself.

I have grown in my studies, in myself, and in my hobbies and passions – including Ice Hockey, my social enterprise, and my public speaking.

I have travelled with friends and with family, and have searched for BALANCE. I no longer require myself to do absolutely everything, all at 110%.

 

To my future self and to any of you in the present reading this, here’s what I want you to know:

Respect yourself, your people and your world around you, and you can’t go far wrong.

Find peace in the past, joy in the present, and hope for the future.

Be bold. Live brightly. Keep moving.

– Jo Who Blogs xx

p.s. I am so proud of you. The pandemic is not an easy time for anyone, and it is certainly not ideal to be celebrating such an important day in your year in lockdown. But it will be ok, and we will return to normal once more. This is the truest truth.

What I learnt about life (and death) from Robert Greene

Earlier this week I had the immense pleasure of speaking to Robert Greene in an interview for the Inspired Minds Community.

Robert Greene is the New York Times best selling American author known for his books on strategy, power, and seduction. He has written six international bestsellers: The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, The 50th Law, Mastery, and most recently the fabulous The Laws of Human Nature. Some say he is the number one modern-day philosopher of our time with his brilliant works on dissecting the very core of human behaviour.

Inspired Minds is a global community of 54000 people from an interdisciplinary background in tech and science. We famously campaigned against trump when he banned the all future girl afghan robotics team from participating at the Washington robotics championships because they were Muslim – we tackle the big issues facing humanity like climate, health, education and gender inequality head on using emerging tech. Tminus 30 is our latest project uniting game changers to use philosophy, tech and science to build a better future.

At 10:30pm UK time whilst my friends were watching Netflix, I tuned into a Zoom with Robert Greene expecting to be hit with a sense of “oh my god am I REALLY talking to Robert Greene???” and whilst this did surface for a few short moments, it was soon replaced by enthusiasm and thoughtfulness about what he was saying.

Netflix, he says, can be an indicator of success. If someone finds their satisfaction through watching 10 episodes of Netflix in a row, then the chances are they aren’t going to be very successful in the future because they rely on short term satisfaction. On the other hand, someone who derives satisfaction and achievement from writing a book that takes, say, 5 years to complete is someone much more likely to be successful (who’s going to break the news to my friends watching Netflix whilst I recorded this interview…. ?).

And whilst it’s more than totally okay to not be productive and not feel like you’re thriving, using this time – and indeed, any time – to learn and better ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can give our future selves. Most importantly, we shouldn’t sit passive and let life happen to us. Instead, we must proactively seek to make every day count – be that me taking a course to learn a new programming language that will be useful for my course next year, or a friend reading a book that’s been on their list for years.

Robert Greene is particularly keen on this message because he understands the value of time. In 2018 prior to the release of his book ‘The Laws of Human Nature’, he suffered a serious stroke which left him temporarily without the use of his left arm and leg (and, therefore, unable to swim – his favourite hobby). Since then, all the stories he read and books he wrote hit home with a new meaning which he was keen to convey to me – we’re all going to die. This message is one I’d heard before from my boss, Sarah Porter, who proudly shows us her tattoo ‘memento mori’ whilst she reminds us about the inevitability of death.

Whilst this message applies at all times, it is particularly relevant in the age of coronavirus where, though each of us are suffering greatly, there are so many suffering more or who even may have lost their lives. And that’s not to mention the people who live a degree of this reality everyday of their lives.

There was much I learnt from Robert, but perhaps my favourite thing he said (and, therefore, my parting words to you) was “the mind is like a soil: you have to feed it to make it rich”

If you haven’t already, I’d really recommend you watch the full interview, available here:

And Until Next Time,

-Jo Who Blogs xx

Some Positives From Lockdown: A Lockdown Report

Picture this: It’s Christmas 2019. The world seems at its worst. Brexit is coming, Australia is on fire, the Christmas card with that message from the prisoner is on the news. Your head is filled with the mantra of “new decade new me”. Little do you know in a matter of 90 days, the UK would go into a full on lockdown after the world was hit with a global pandemic that has swept the globe, taken millions of lives, and halted economies worldwide.

For all that has gone cataclysmically wrong, there are some nuggets of hope and optimism and the more we seek, appreciate and share those moments, the more of them there seem to be. So, I thought I’d share some of the positives I’ve taken out of lockdown in the hope it might inspire you to do the same. We could all do with some uplifting and community spirit in a time like this (plus – I can imagine my future self reading back on this and enjoying hearing about my past thoughts).

-> Taking more time to have real conversations with more people

Even before Coronavirus, one of my dad’s most frequent comments was “stop talking to people on social media Joana”. Nonetheless, lockdown has encouraged me to make a real effort in keeping up conversations with friends, and adopt a “what have I got to lose?” attitude in messaging friends I haven’t spoken to in a long time, or new friends I haven’t spoken to yet. I’ve also taken to videochat more, which I just used to hate. It really makes you feel as though you’re back in your regular environment just having a laugh as normal and it’s those moments of relief that you welcome. My favourite conversation to come out of lockdown was getting a pen pal from my University’s Feminist Society. We email most days, sharing details about our life and our thoughts and feelings and just getting to know someone new. I look forward to those emails every time they come through, and if you have the opportunity, I’d definitely try to set up a pen pal scheme!

-> Exploring new (and old!) hobbies

During lockdown I’ve read a lot, baked a lot, watched Netflix and Youtube a lot, and worked just a little. An inversion from usual life, these were all things I loved to do but never had enough time for. As well as old, I’ve welcomed time spent on new activities such as scrapbooking (which I know I’ll love to look back on), keeping a diary, painting, doing puzzles, and making glass art which I used to do as a kid. I’ve kept a bucket list of all the things I’d love to try over lockdown, and it’s refreshing to have time to cross through a lot of them (although – confession – I’ve only completed a few so far!!).

-> Slower pace of life

During the first 2 weeks of lockdown, I did absolutely nothing. I mean, sat in my bed, watched Netflix, and read books. Nothing else. I needed that time both to recover from the busy Oxford term I’d had, and to process what was happening and adjust to the situation. It’s brilliant to see people talking about how ok it is to slow down and take a break from the usual need for work and productivity in this time. During regular life, I’m not sure I’d ever be able to afford that much time to dedicate towards absolutely nothing so I’m grateful to have had that.

-> Normalising mental health struggles

Coronavirus has taken its toll on all of us. In different ways and severities, sure, but all of us. And with that has come a newfound understanding and support for the struggles that so many of us face everyday. Whether it’s something you’ve struggled with for a long time and has now been worsened, or whether it’s something new you’ve never experienced before, we are all worthy and valid of support and love. It’s not an easy time, and I love that we’ve all come together to help each other cope.

-> Appreciation for the outdoors

Before Coronavirus, I was resistant to ever go on walks, I spent most of my time very happily inside, and I HATED RUNNING. I am happy to report that I have now run almost 2 marathons-worth of kilometres which sounds like nothing to most, but for me is something I wouldn’t do two months ago even if someone paid me. I now look forward to taking a daily walk and I think that’s a habit I’ll keep even when we resume normal life.

-> Increased gratitude 

This pandemic has taught us a lot about the value we place on the workers that have become so vital to us in these times. Supermarket workers, bin (wo)men, delivery drivers, care workers, our teachers and of course our NHS alongside so many more are some of the most undervalued yet SO essential workers not just in current times but all the time. Seeing everyone come together to support these people is really humbling, not to mention our newfound appreciation for the simple things like a hug or a picnic or being able to travel which we have taken for granted for so long.

 

There are so many more incredibly positive things that have been happening across the world, and I’m sure as soon as I finish writing this I’ll think of something new and essential to include, but the point remains that if we look past all the awful in the world, there is some good to be found too. I would love to hear some of the things that have been keeping you afloat when everything seems like such a lost cause! The year might not have gotten off to the most brilliant start, and it does seem like we’re living in some alternate reality, but I firmly believe everything happens for a reason. And as ever: stay safe, stay sane, and see you on the other side:)

– Jo Who Blogs xx

#IWD19 Day4 – Women in STEM

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Happy International Women’s Day! Really, I think it’s time to admit that I’m completely running a day behind, but I’m going to embrace that and move on. Keeping up with daily posts among school work and a lot of exciting projects has been a super big strain, which comes straight after finishing mocks when everyone else has been relaxing! None the less, I always believe in working hard for the things you care about.

 

Today, I wanted to touch on and expand on an interview I did for Empiric following speaking on a panel for the Women In Tech UK Chapter Launch looking into why women choose not to pursue STEM careers and what we can do about it. Below are 3 of the questions I was asked, refined and amended, as well as some recommendations I have for increasing gender diversity in the STEM space. I’ve also added in some resources I think you should check out if you want to do more. I think it’s important to also remember that women should feel comfortable going into any sector they choose, meaning that although we want to encourage them into STEM careers, they shouldn’t feel pressured to choose either way.

 

1. Was there anything in particular that motivated you to choose STEM subjects?

For me, STEM has always satisficed by intense curiosity, helping me to understand more about the fundamental building blocks of how this world works. I’ve also always loved the satisfaction that comes with discovering new concepts and then applying them to problems I never thought I’d be able to solve, which is always something we’re encouraged to do in subjects like maths. The diversity within STEM is also particularly appealing, there is always so much to learn and in so many different ways; in Computer Science, we cover a huge spectrum of topics ranging from understanding the fundamental logic and computational thinking in a computer’s hardware, right to coding programs or learning about the ethical implications of technology. That diversity is something I love. Finally, I guess there is a certain appeal to subjects which open up so many possibilities. You can go anywhere with STEM subjects and that can only ever be a positive thing.

2. What do you think some of the reasons are for young girls in school not choosing STEM subjects?

I think the answer to this lies in how we approach the subject. When I first started senior school, we built Pacman in scratch in year 7, only to revert back to learning how to use excel in year 8 (and I was in a school which probably did a lot more than other schools). Post GCSE, I spoke to my friends about why they decided not to take it as a subject, and was surprised to hear that a lot of them regretted not taking it – citing its importance in the future and for careers as reasons. It seemed like they weren’t fully aware of what GCSE Computer Science actually involved, which is why it’s so important that we’re making computer science fun and exciting, especially for girls who are less likely to have been involved at a younger age. For subjects like Maths and Science, I think we sometimes make it worse for ourselves; these subjects often risk coming across as boring and many people truly only study them because they are “building blocks for our future” which although is not wrong, does not incentivise many people to study them. How about we instead show people how exciting it is to study STEM and incite a passion for these subjects in young people?

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3. If you were to carry out your career in tech, how you feel about the industry being perceived as a male-orientated sector?

I’ve always felt that it takes a certain set of characteristics to be able to brave the weather of a male-oriented sector. Despite this, no woman should be put off joining an industry with higher male numbers than female. Looking at it objectively, I don’t think it’s ever been a concern for me because I think I have a strong voice and don’t lack confidence in a room of men, though having grown up in a nurtured environment and an all-girls school, my biggest worry would be whether I can maintain that in ‘the real world’. Also, I personally thrive in an environment where I feel like I’m proving people wrong. However it’s important that everyone feels valued and that they hold an equal voice in any room – not just in the tech space. In any male-led industry, I’d need to know that I can bring my opinions forward without fear of judgement and in the knowledge that my views are respected and taken on board no matter the sex, race, cultural background, and so on.

Where can we go from here?

  • The type of toys we give children
    • One of the key reasons I think we start to notice a difference so young comes from the disparity in toys we give boys and girls. Though I loved my kitchen set, my life-size babies who cried or my glitter glue collection, I know that young me also thrived off of building lego, creating my own world in my playmobile and figuring out how to make slime in science kits. Cognitively educational tools are a great way to stimulate learning at a young age, and get kids excited about subjects long before they encounter them on a serious level at school. Try the exploding coca cola experiment, using scratch to make cool projects or reading a new book each week.
  • The Argument for single-sex schooling
    • Whilst speaking on the Women in Tech Panel I mentioned earlier, one woman raised the thought of whether it was the type of school that a girl went to that affected her self-confidence and willingness to explore STEM as a career. I’m not sure I know the definite answer to this, but I do know that I have greatly benefited from being in a single-sex school all my life. Originally, I was put in all-girls school because I was (and still am) extremely shy. I’ve definitely felt my confidence grow over the years, and I do feel as though being in an environment where we are all encouraged to be our best selves despite boundaries has pushed me to achieve more in whatever field I want. There have been multiple studies on whether mixed or single gender schools are better, but I wouldn’t hesitate in thinking that a girls school can help foster creativity, encourage confidence and develop knowledge beyond borders. And there are plenty of both paid and free single-sex schooling options if it’s something you think might be worth trying. There’s nothing to say you can’t switch back if it doesn’t work for you.
  • Discourage unhelpful perfectionism
    • I think that most of us, but young girls especially, tend to fall into this trap of being afraid of failure, and making mistakes. It is well known that men can tend to apply for jobs underqualified, whereas a woman can choose not to even when overqualified. Although I have no real idea, my best guess is that some of this unhelpful perfectionism comes from the long-standing need for women to work harder to prove themselves as equal to men, although there are definitely other factors at play such as a fear of making mistakes, being made to look dumb, and so on.

 

And though it is now Friday, and this post is pushing 1300 words, don’t forget to tune back in tomorrow to conclude a week of posts for International Women’s Day. I hope you’re all having a brilliant day celebrating!

-Jo who blogs xx

#IWD2019 Day3 – The Feminist Paradox

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As we near International Women’s Day, I spend more and more time thinking about the need for Women’s day in the first place, and more importantly what it means to celebrate it and what it means to be a feminist.  3 years ago, I wrote a Facebook post in which I ended it with “I’m not a feminist but…”

I remember some friends commenting underneath that maybe I’d not properly looked into the word, and although I was still hesitant to label myself anything at first, the term grew on me and I soon realised it’s importance. Despite that, there are still many, many people who don’t define themselves as feminist – female or otherwise.  The paradox here comes in the form of realising that many of the people who choose not to define themselves as feminist are, by definition, feminists. These are people who truly believe in equal rights, and recognise the lack thereof, but yet choose not to define themselves under the feminist term. But why is this? I spoke to some of the people I know to learn more about the various reasons they chose not to call themselves a ‘feminist’:

1. The Negative Connotations associated with feminism and it’s ‘new’ meaning

I spoke about both these concepts in a prior post when I looked at some of the problems with the word ‘feminist’ itself. Whilst the origins of feminism and what it stands for are entirely commendable, there have been instances in history where it has gained a bad reputation for promoting something it’s not, or for being associated with unnecessary voilence or otherwise. This misrepresentation of the feminist movement has often led people to choose not to associate with the term as they do not stand for the negative connotations of the word. As well as this, some argue that feminism and its ideals have morphed from what it additionally stood for – so although they would call themselves a feminist by their dictionary definition, it’s meaning in today’s society is no longer the same in their eyes. And it is true that there are both ‘extreme’ feminists and also people who claim to be feminist but actually do not believe in equal rights at all. The question here seems to boil down to – is it constructive to call yourself a feminist if there is potential for the word to be misinterpreted? And should we be challenging these alternate meanings and connotations that drag the feminist name down?

2. The inclusion of ‘femme’ in feminism

Again, like the reasons above, I discussed this in an earlier post, yet the more I speak to males, in particular, the more I realise that sometimes this can be the defining reason they either choose not to label themselves a feminist, or fundamentally misunderstand the meaning of feminism and therefore don’t want to associate themselves with it. It is definitely a common misunderstanding that because feminism has the presence of ‘feminine’ or ‘femme’ (French for women) within the word itself, it therefore means that the meaning of the word is to do with the superiority of women, or the belief that women are better than men. If this is what you think is true – now’s the time to learn it’s not! And for your benefit, here’s the dictionary definition of feminism:

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However, as mentioned, I really do believe that many men (and of course also women) don’t want to call themselves a feminist because they can’t properly identify with a word. For a man who believes in equal opportunities, it can be hard for them to identify with a word that seems to, in the word itself, exclude them even if it really is searching for equality. So even though it appears counterintuitive, it is understandable to recognise that being labelled under a term you find hard to associate with can be difficult.

3. The idea of separatism, doing it for attention, and pursuance of less life-changing problems whilst neglecting problems of the sort in the developing world

When I raised the question of why people choose to not define themselves as feminists, my friend Meliha shared a different perspective. Though, she says, she does (obviously) believe in equal rights, feminism has some problems which she shares below:

I think the term “feminist” is outdated and forms a separatism of people based on gender and ideals. To me, any decent person wants equal rights for men and women and by putting a label on it you are making it a brand as opposed to a belief for equality of the genders. The supporters of the Civil Rights Movement in America did not have a “brand” they were simply people who believed in equality. The term was to get voting rights for women and has now become an advocation for more trivial things in Western society when so many women in developing countries are struggling with monumental issues. Equality is what a decent person believes and shouldn’t be made into a brand to identify with, it’s simply a belief to hold.

Meliha writes much better and more concise than I will ever be able to, and I’m so proud to say that she has an offer to read Law at New College, Oxford starting October 2019 (go you Meliha!). If you want to hear more of her opinion, you can follow her on her Twitter or Instagram.

 

Of course, all this goes without saying that some people choose not to call themselves feminists because they just, well, don’t believe in equality. In this case, I guess all we can say is I hope this number decreases more and more. And maybe, these posts can help. So until tomorrow,

-Jo who blogs xx

#IWD2019 Day 2 – Women who inspire

It’s Tuesday! On the second day of week of women, I wanted to share some of the women who have truly changed my life, and whom I’m forever grateful for. Though there are so many women in my life who shape me as a person every day, whenever anyone asks me “how does your story begin?” I can always trace it back to these three women. And what better time to celebrate them than on week of women?

 

WONDER WOMAN 1 – Emma Mulqueeny

As far as catalysts go, Emma is definitely the defining moment where my life really went from being about as ordinary as ordinary gets, to a life that I’m so fortunate to live every day. Emma Mulqueeny, among many things, was/is the founder of Young Rewired State, an organisation that encouraged young people to develop their coding skills and develop projects for social good. I first took part in this code club at 11 years old (see picture) but I went back to it most years until the age of 15. It was here I met some really great friends, learnt the basis of all the programming I now know, and was really the platform for which every opportunity since then has spiralled from. I’m forever grateful to my dad for finding and signing me up to this program now 6 years ago (this is the only mention he will ever get – so I hope he’s sat here appreciating his moment of glory), and to Emma for taking me under her wing so quickly later on in the YRS years, and to all the mentors and centres who helped make this opportunity possible for me. IMG_2199.jpg

 

WONDER WOMAN 2 – Anne-Marie Imafidon

If there ever was a cooler, cleverer, more down to earth woman on this earth, it would still not be able to beat Anne-Marie. Aside from just being downright inspirational through all her educational accomplishments (do you know anyone who earned a masters degree from Oxford aged 20? or someone who passed their A-Level Computer Science at 11 whilst I’m here struggling through it at 17?) she’s also the founder, CEO and Head Stemette at STEMettes, an organisation that helps get young girls excited about STEM subjects. I first had the privilege of meeting Anne-Marie aged 14 at a hackathon the STEMettes were organising, and straight from the beginning it was opportunity followed by opportunity. A few months later I was on the stage at the EveryWoman Forum (pictured below), taking place again in a few days time, and bringing up the first mentions of Outbox Incubator – an all-girls STEM business incubator run for six weeks for free in the summer of 2015.

The moment in which I realised Anne-Marie would be a staple figure in my future was the moment I realised that the key message of STEMettes was bringing together (lots of) great food, great people, and inspiring ideas into one space. Free food. Did you hear that? Free food. After that summer my life was not the same again, and I’m so so grateful for all the wonderful friendships I’ve made with women who I’ve met through STEMettes (many of which I still keep in regular contact with) and for the wealth of experiences and opportunities I’ve had the privilege of sharing as a result of Anne-Marie, including collaborating with the Institute for the Future of Work at the House of Commons, meeting and presenting to HRH Princess Anne, and allowing me to meet girls who later inspired me to attend the LaunchX Entrepreneurship program – spending a month on MIT campus pushing the limits of what it means to be a young person in business.IMG_9771.jpg

 

WONDER WOMAN 3 – Pinky Lilani

I really do believe in the saying that the strongest women are the ones who lift each other up, not tear each other down, and that is embodied perfectly in the kindest, most selfless, gentle person I know – Pinky Lilani. Pinky is a true jack of all trades, but I in particular met her through the Women of the Future Program. After my school encouraged me to apply for the 2017 Women of the Future Awards, I was fortunate enough to be shortlisted and eventually go on to win the Young Star award in the 2017 awards as their youngest winner. Let me tell you – Pinky is a force of nature like none other. I’ve since been involved with their Ambassador’s program, first as a participant and then as an ambassador, I’ve met John Bercow in the House of Commons, and even been funded by the US Embassy to partake in a women’s leadership program – all thanks to Pinky. She has this power of always knowing everything about everyone, connecting everyone to the right people, and never leaving people out. She is also possibly the kindest person I know – a true powerhouse of a woman that I try to model myself by. Pinky has been pivotal to my life my really changing the way I see my purpose; teaching me to strive for my own (academic and otherwise) success, as well as helping others succeed and to do so with purpose, dignity and kindness. I’m so, so grateful and humbled to have met Pinky and be able to benefit from all the fabulous things she does.IMG_2377.jpg

 

And so again, a day late, I conclude day 2 of a week of blog posts for Women’s week. Celebrating and recognising the women around us is so important, so hopefully just sharing three of the many, many women who have shaped my life will encourage you to think about the women who influence your life.

Until tomorrow,

-Jo who blogs xx

#IWD2019 Day 1 – “Send Pics”

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Monday 4th March – 2019, T-4 days to international women’s day 2019.

Last year for International Women’s Day, I had the pleasure of chairing a Panel At Facebook’s London Headquarters (which I’ll admit was pretty damn cool and a major life achievement for me). This year, when I sat down to think what I wanted to do for International Women’s day, and for that matter the whole week, I decided that this was the year when I wanted to highlight some of the biggest challenges women face, as well as some of their greatest successes. For the 5 weekdays leading up to International Women’s Day, I’ll be sharing some of the issues myself and the people around me face day to day.

Today, I wanted to talk about an article that I saw by The Mighty Woman on Facebook a few days ago. Titled <<“Send Nudes”: A new study shows how often boys pressure girls for explicit photos>> it immediately grabbed my attention as a theme I find so prevalent in my generation. With the already significant issues of rape and sexual assault cases, I truly find the immense pressure on young women to respond to the culture of sending images online. The article, linked here highlights the extent at which young boys almost threaten girls into sending images online, where 2/3 of 500 accounts of girls aged between 12-18 had been asked to send images, and where they didn’t comply, attitudes switched from affection to “harassment and threats”.

What most shocked me reading the article was that only 8% of those 500 accounts surveyed actually sent a photo because they actually wanted to, only 8%. If that truly doesn’t shock you, then I don’t know what else. 92% of girls who sent photos upon request did so because they felt the desire to please or avoid conflict with a boy. And though it is certaintly the case that the reverse can be true where it is girls requesting explicit images from boys, it is 4 times more likely for it to be the male asking the female.

When I saw this article publicised on my facebook, I immediately felt the need to share it somehow, but that was quickly replaced by a fear of talking about it. Firstly, people I know will read this and might start questioning me and my actions – why is she writing this? Is there more to this than just raising awareness for the issue? In truth, what I want most from this article is simply to share a little more about a real issue that I see around me every day. Secondly, I have several male friends who, despite being some of the loveliest people I know, definitely struggle with this idea of what is and isn’t okay to ask say and think. I do think there is a huge education gap in the way men are taught about appropriate behaviours, and I still find myself in situations regularly where people will laugh at me for being a ‘feminist’, or are angry at me when I try to be ‘good’ at something that they believe is their strength. Thirdly, I’m afraid to not do enough justice to an important conversation, or bore people when they really should be engaging in the discussion. But I guess at this point it’s too late to take back anything, so here are my constructive suggestions for building a less pressured environment for young girls and boys when attempting to navigate the challenging world that is growing up in an era of over-sharing and hyper-connectivity.

1. Can we please begin to properly educate on what is deemed acceptable behaviour??

Now, I do believe that despite the culture of pressuring the sending of inappropriate pictures being entirely wrong, there is a time and a place for that kind of exchange. If both parties are understanding of the agreement, it’s safe, legal and consensual, then by all means – floor is yours. However, what is not okay is for the casualness and frequency of requests that are sent to girls every day, and by many boys. They are often pressurised, with the connotations of “if you don’t comply, there will be consequences”. And with all the best meaning in the world, oh my days seriously is it that hard to show a little respect and decency?? There is a serious gap in education boys receive about appropriate behaviour and more fundamentally, attitudes towards women. We will never achieve gender equality if a generation of boys are being raised who a) do not respect women and b) think feminism and equality is a big joke

2. Teach girls to say no

It’s all well and good saying we need to educate one half of the population, but the same can be said the other way round. We should be teaching girls that they equal, and they should feel empowered to say no in any situation. For a brilliant video on consent, watch this video produced by Thames Valley Police. I think realistically it is much more attainable to empower women then encourage a shift in opinion for all boys. Though both need to shift, working towards one doesn’t mean we can’t also seek the other. Where women feel in control of a situation, even if there is a huge culture of asking for photos, I’m sure more girls will be in the position to say no.

3. Open up the conversation

I can’t say these sorts of issues are ones I talk regularly so openly about, but the more it is spoken about, the less stigma surrounds it and the more debate is brought to the subject. Recently, Upskirting has been made a criminal offence – proving that with enough passion, persistence and purpose, we can begin to tackle some of these longstanding issues which we as women (and everyone else too, they’re not forgotten this is truly an issue that affects everyone) face on a daily basis. Let’s open up the conversation.

And so, though this admittedly is now being posted on Tuesday March 5th instead of Monday March 4th – the message remains just as clear: something needs to change for those 92% of girls who unwillingly make themselves vulnerable without proper education of the potential consequences, the support to deal with the situation and the power to say no.

I hope everyone is having a fantastic Women’s Week!

-Jo who blogs xx

 

Veganuary, Eco-friendly and how not to kill the planet (and, inevitably, us)

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Hey there, gosh it’s been a long time. The reality is, I’ve been really busy with University applications, homework, sports, travelling, speaking, living a normal teenage life…. etc. that I just haven’t had the time to sit down and write. I’ve had tons of ideas of things I’ve wanted to write, but no execution – to be improved! I also have a tendency to write excessively long posts, which doesn’t help the situation.

Nevertheless, I am embracing the short-lived “new year, new me” attitude to speak about something that seems to have boomed in popularity recently: our impact on the planet.

We learned near the end of 2018 that we have until 2030 to reverse the effects of climate change before we reach a point of no return, in which we will likely experience mass extinction. We have already seen increases in the occurrence of deadly natural disasters, and more, but at the same time we have also seen an increase in the popularity of reducing our environmental footprint. In honour of trying to keep this post concise, I won’t bore you with all the details.

Having seen the escalation of some of these campaigns, it made me want to reflect on my own impact on the environment and see what difference I could make. Years earlier, I had already tried the ‘environmental footprint calculator’ and seen people change their lifestyles, but had never really changed mine unless it was for health, rather than environment. At the end of last year, I decided to try not eating beef, with cows being one of the largest contributors to greenhouses gas emissions, and I had already begun to cycle to school during the summer months – instead of by car.

Using the footprint calculator, I found out my current footprint level, and where I could improve (oops):

Taking out beef from my diet was really nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be. There are so many other meats available that you hardly notice the loss until it’s one of your favourite meals on offer. I have deeply missed Lasagne, burgers, a good steak, bolognese and more, of course, but have found substitutes are not hard to come by and we won’t all die from not having a juicy steak. I also made sure not to strictly cut it out completely. If it’s the only option available to be at the time, then I will take it. If I began to think that it was becoming restrictive, it would make me less likely to sustain. This way, if I allowed myself to have a burger once, I would be happier to continue cutting it out most of the time.

This year I wanted to more to help the planet, whilst maintaining realistic about myself, my free time, and sustainability. I’m sharing with you some of the things that I’ve thought of so far to help, in the hopes you might have some new suggestions, or perhaps take on some of these yourself, with me.

January marks the start of Veganuary, a month where hundreds of thousands of participants from hundreds of countries pledge to go vegan for a month. This marks a great opportunity to try cutting out more meat and fish products from my diet, with full support, without committing to anything long term. However, I also know in myself that I could never sustain a full month of this; I have a family of meat eaters, school meals to deal with, and wouldn’t feel great cutting out so much of what I love. Food is meant to be enjoyed, whilst also sustainable, so I decided a halfway commitment of one vegan day a week was a good start. I’m also going to try make more vegan switches during the week, such as milk, meat for veg, less cheese (damn…) and so on.

I’m also going to try reducing plastic consumption, something all our family really cares about. No to plastic straws, plastic bags, and excessive plastic packaging. Even if it means cooking more meals at home instead of ordering that amazing Indian takeaway, or refusing to accept plastic packaging for products, or perhaps just asking for a ceramic mug instead of a plastic one at Starbucks, all changes are positive ones – and all help:)

Finally (so far), I’m also going to try and avoid fast fashion. I am definitely a big sinner in this area, I can’t resist a good deal on an outfit I’ll buy individually with next day delivery from a fast fashion website only for it to rip the next week and have to buy another. Aside from huge plastic consumption, there are big fuel costs involved, and the production of the clothes themselves often require materials that suck up water reserves and deplete other natural resources. Maybe I can buy less clothes, buy some from charity shops, or source them from more ethical companies. I’m also going to try and clear out the things I don’t use anymore, so that someone else can benefit from them, helping the environment AND the charity.

These are just some small switches I’m considering, to help the world in which we live in survive way longer than current rates suggest, and leave our beautiful planet for more people to prosper from. I have never been the biggest ethical considerer, and mostly choose convenience over conscious, but that only means that if I can do it, you can do it too.

Veganuary website: https://veganuary.com/

The video the meat industry doesn’t want you to see (WARNING: contains graphic content and upsetting scenes): https://www.meat.org/

And as per usual, we’re back at 1000 words a post, but all for a good cause right? Until next time,

– Jo who blogs xx

Why I like Snapchat streaks

In a month of ‘scroll free September’, I stopped to think about my own social media use, and whether I could give up for a month. While I’d be inclined to say of course, the truth is that I’d probably struggle. Though I think there are some social media’s I could live without: Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook… and I’d struggle to part with Instagram, the real one I don’t think I could live without is Snapchat.

Although Snapchat’s employees in charge of retention definitely is to play for the reason I can’t seem to put the app down, really, for me, I thrive off the human communication – even though the communication, ironically, isn’t actually human. Since downloading the app in year 8, I am pretty confident in saying I haven’t gone without using the app for more than one day at a time. It has revolutionised the way people communicate and has kept people inticed day in and day out to stay connected. How? Through streaks.

And while the world is becoming more aware of the health risks associated with overuse of social media, and teenagers are fed up with the toxic nature of maintaining streaks – I say, I like them. Though I do think it is tedious and pointless to literally send “streaks” instead of maintaining a conversation with someone, I fundamentally believe that without having had those streaks, I wouldn’t have maintained as many connections as I did. Having met so many people from outside the friends I speak to at school, it’s hard to keep up with them all. However, as soon as you combine this need to maintain a number on a screen with the want to stay in contact, it becomes a great way to speak to people you haven’t seen in years.

More than that, if I’m speaking to someone every day, I’m so much more likely to organise a time to meet up with them also, which only strengthens a relationship – all because of a gamification of the art of communication.

Not only does it allow me to keep in contact with people I might otherwise neglect, I also get to speak to people I’ve never even met before. In fact, my greatest streak is actually with someone who I spoke to for two years before I met in person. Had I never ‘started’ or maintained that streak, I don’t think I would have heard of her name or ever properly met her and made a new friend.

Once you start to think about all the connections you have and how hard they are to maintain, streaks become such a trivial yet useful tool for maintaining easy contact with those around you. It’s convenient and quick, yet allows you to keep working on friendships longer than if you could only see each other in person. Since the days of sending letters to pen pals, society has completely shifted into a new, dynamic version of its old self, and fast-paced process can only be matched with that of fast-paced communication, incentivised by the ever prominent and hated snapchat streaks.

So should we be keeping snapchat streaks?

I guess the answer really depends on the user, and while I wish I was better and switching off from my mobile phone and just being free without having to think about the apps that seem to control our lives, I do have Snapchat to thank for many of the connections i’ve managed to keep and create as a result of their addicting nature. So all in all? Sensible, positive use of these channels is the key to unlocking a wider network, however misuse it and you’ll find yourself worse off than before. There will always be a fine line between use and overuse, and as ever in the volatile digital world, this line is extra fine.

How Facebook Memes relate to Physics

Imagine this… casually scrolling through Facebook, and then you stumble across this:

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At first, I laughed, it was funny after all. Then, I felt like I should comment something reassuring “no you’ll do great don’t worry!”. But then, being the ever nerd I am, I spotted something much more interesting.

This, my friends, is a classic case of Schrödinger’s Cat. Now, you might be wondering, who is Schrödinger and what’s so special about his cat? Austrian Physicist Erwin Schrödinger discovered this paradox/thought experiment in 1935, which saw a problem in the conventionally accepted method of interpretation of Quantum Mechanics in Copenhagen at the time. Imagine this; a cat, in a box.

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Before we get distracted by how cute the cat is, or the likely difficulties involved in getting said cat out of the box, let’s go back to the physics.

So let’s imagine this cat, in a more accurately sized, aluminium sealed box. In this box is also a hammer. If the hammer hits the cat, the cat dies (I know, devastating). In order forthe hammer to be released, it has to be triggered by the decaying of an atom within a radioactive substance. In simpler terms, a random timer is set, and if the timer goes off, then the hammer is triggered and the cat dies.

HOWEVER, since the timer is random, there is no way of telling how long it will be until it goes off, or if it goes off at all. Therefore, once you close the box, you have no way of knowing if the cat is alive, or dead. In a paradoxical sort of way, the cat is both dead, and alive.

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Some even say that by opening the box and discovering the cat is indeed dead, you yourself have killed it since before it was a 50/50 chance. Of course, this is an overly simplified version of the experiment, but it works to relate back to the Facebook meme. And while on the subject of memes, maybe this one will also make you giggle:

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So now let’s say you have your results envelope in your hand. While closed, you have NO idea what your results are, just the knowledge of how well you think you have performed. You have, in that moment (hypothetically), both passed and failed. Once you open the envelope, you have definitive results and a conclusion to the question, but until then, you lie in a paradox.

In the meantime, perhaps reading this has taken your mind off your impending results, and has helped you to enjoy the serendipity of how humour, science and social media can come together in a strange sort of way – something I’m sure Schrödinger would love to experiment with now. Poor cat….

Written by Joana Baptista, August 2018