#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

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#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

 

Women2Women 2018

5:30 am, July 19th. I woke up to an unwelcome alarm, jolting me awake from the 3 hours sleep I got the night before between a delayed flight back from Portugal, trying to unpack and repack bags, and get ready for a new journey. But it was only minutes before the excitement of the day kicked in – in a few short hours I would be on my way to Boston to participate in the Women2Women Leadership Conference.

Once at the airport, I met up with Priyanka, the other girl coming from the UK, and we indulged in a bit of book shopping before heading off on the 7-hour journey which culminated in girls from Peru, Portugal, Norway and the UK piling into a big yellow school bus and driving off to the Fenway district.

 

 

Simmons Hall, part of Simmons College, was to be the residence of 130 girls from over 30 countries for the next 10 days. However, we weren’t in there long, as after unpacking everything we headed out to target, and I then went to meet some friends from Launch X 2017. The day ended claiming free Ben&Jerry’s from Seaport, and then a very stressful Uber ride back to the residence, arriving just in time for our first day social.

The first official day of the conference, but day 2 on the trip, was mostly about orienteering, learning about everyone and everything to do with the program. We had a lovely lunch at the City Winery, and then ended up heading back to Target for some unknown reason???

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My table at the City Winery with Giuliana from Peru, Rebekka from Germany, and Priyanka.

 

The official second day of the conference was by far one of the best days, but also the one with the earliest start – Martha’s Vineyard! Having visited Cape Cod last summer but not getting to visit the Island, I was super excited to get to go, and it didn’t disappoint. Although, my only regret was not listening to everyone telling me to bring a jumper for the trip, and for accidentally breaking a magnet with my bag.

Having started out as a small group, we soon ended up as a group of 5, with Lia from Massachusetts, USA (and my roommate!) giving us a quick tour of Oak Bluffs, the town we found ourselves in for the day. Despite amusing gingerbread houses, a million different flavours of ice cream and beautiful beaches, after a quick stop at Backdoor Donuts we found ourselves in the local arcade, unsurprisingly. This proved to be the greatest decision of the day, entertaining us for hours with games we’d never seen before, and resulting in taking home a huge collection of prizes after carefully calculating the best way to maximise our points (my maths teachers would be so proud).

Although I didn’t get to eat a lobster roll for lunch, we did get to enjoy great seafood by the ocean, and then enjoyed a quick nap and swim on the beach. However, the highlight of the beach experience was definitely the seagulls stealing both a whole bagel AND Isabel’s Boston Cream Donut (which she hadn’t tried before since she comes from Spain).  I made up for the loss by indulging in yet more food, this time a slice of Pizza, before we head back for the ferry and then whizzed off back to the dorms. This evening, we managed to go without visiting target, but we did venture out for some Greek dinner, and to take photos in the *artistic* circular sculptures.

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Sunday began with Mindfulness and yoga, discovering our inner ‘golden ball’ and learning how to meditate. It was super relaxing, and I’m pretty sure I almost fell asleep a couple times. Then we had Mason West, who spoke about the Leader in You. He has always been a favourite on the program, and many left feeling empowered. After lunch, we had BOUNCE Life skills workshop, where we looked at how we felt about our lives at the moment, and where we wanted to be in the future. Finally, we had a session from George Batah called Your Inner Activist, which was by far my favourite session of all. I loved how he had combined a consulting job at Deloitte with social action through his organisation, which is exactly the kind of path I would like to follow. He was incredibly inspirational and a real success story to look up to.

However, the highlight of the day had to be going to see Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again in the Cinema. ABBA is my favourite band ever and I thoroughly enjoyed the second film, especially since we had reclining, super comfy seats, and I managed to sneak in a Panera Bread Lemonade into the viewing!

New day, new adventures. Today we headed off to Babson College and Harvard Kennedy School of Government. This day was incredibly inspiring, and definitely motivated me to actually get down to business and revise for the SATs! At Babson, we worked on Entrepreneurial Thought and Action, the famous methodology which attracts people to study there, and when we went to Harvard we met the Masom Fellows, who are scholars from all over the world doing a masters. Then, we had time to explore Harvard Square, where we enjoyed street art, shopping and, of course, bubble tea! The highlight of the day was definitely meeting a fellow English person testing American’s on slang such as “fresh creps” and “my whip” (which, I didn’t even acknowledge as English slang), as well as singing High School Musical and The Greatest Showman at full pelt on the bus.

 

Tuesday was incredible – we went to Converse! This was the first time that Women2Women went, and it did not disappoint. Of course, initially we were all overexcited at the prospect of getting free Converse, but we soon also got immersed in the content of the day, which including digital marketing, working with Miley Cyrus for PRIDE, and using your business to communicate messages you care about. I really enjoyed meeting all of the staff, and learning more about the stories of a few particular powerhouse females there. I really especially enjoyed Emma Johnson, who started her business at 16. She was doing some super cool stuff and I admired her strong ability to just go for it, as well as the fact that her business was soooo cool.

Converse was also great to take photos with their feminist slogan signs, and in front of the beautiful view. And on top of that, it was my brother’s 11 birthday, so all happy days!

When we got back, we also had a session with Reverend Liz Walker, which was great. I really admire her as a person, how she carries herself, and the work that she does, so I really enjoyed the session.

 

New day, new sessions, same friends. Today we had lots of people come to talk to us from all over the place, from a representative from the Boston Food Bank, to understanding the power of our social network, as well as people from the Girl Scouts, a session on building our personal brand, and then how to get the attention of the media. We then culminated in a session on understanding sexual harassment, which I found super informative and interesting to learn more about what we can do as Bystanders, as well as getting the opportunity to braid people’s hair, which I find incredibly relaxing. I especially liked the session on understanding our personal networks, as its something I’m interested in in the real world too.

On the second to last day of sessions, we went to Harvard Law School, which made me feel like I was in the middle of a movie. With famed (and fictional) alumnae such as Elle Woods, Mike Ross and Harvey Specter, (think, Legally Blonde and Suits) this day was really another motivation to apply to American Universities. However, before Harvard, myself and my roommate Lia made the daring decision to attend a 6:30am gym class, which definitely woke us up, but left me completely exhausted during the day!

We had a panel on the Power of Women, a session on inspirational women in the world, and a session on the art of negotiation, which I LOVED. If that is what all sessions are Harvard would be like, I think I would be in Heaven. We also had a session from the AHA foundation about Forced Marriage and FGM, which I definitely felt was the most impactful session I attended, as I previously was not aware of the extent of the problem. I think everyone was moved by that session, and all a little shocked at some of the statistics.

Waking up, we attended our final session – part 2 of how to use our social networks. But the best part of the session was finding out that my team won the Converse video challenge, which took hours of filming and staying up late into the night to edit. As long as it was all worth it, I’m happy! After that, it was time to present our ‘action plans’, otherwise known as what we planned to do when we arrived back home. It was the whole purpose of the conference, and what we had been working towards for so long. In my room, I heard about issues ranging from Mass Incarceration, Domestic Violence, integrating refugees, educating children in Nigeria, FGM, and so much more. Everyone’s stories were personal and moving, and I definitely felt more connected to everyone in the room. Added to this, we were in the Massachusettes State House, where all the laws in the state were made, which definitely added to the idea that our opinions were valuable and we were being heard and recognised. Upon returning, we were treated to an INCREDIBLE final night party, completed with inflatables, a giant American buffet, and too many artificially flavoured sweets. after hours of dancing to pop songs, Portuguese classics, and sad songs to make us all cry, it was time to say our goodbyes and back all our bags along with the new photobooth photos and neon bracelets we had collected, and on a sugar high from all the cotton candy.

Goodbye day is always the hardest day:( saying goodbye to such incredible girls was hard, but I know that I’ll see many of them in the future. On the plus, I now have an even bigger worldwide network, and plenty of houses to stay in when I visit new countries. This was an experience I’ll never forget, and I’m so grateful to everyone who helped me achieve it.

Firstly, to Empower Peace, Trisha, Kari, Rick, Greta, Feriel and all the interns. You organised such a great conference that I’m lucky to have attended!

Next, to all the girls in my session. You girls are awesome! I’m so glad to have met you all and you really are a sisterhood.

To all the speakers, companies and universities who volunteered time for us, thank you for shaping the experience we received and making it as amazing as possible.

To my family, for sending me off on this fun little trip, and trusting me to look after myself for such a long time. And especially to my brother, who let me miss his birthday to go and follow my dream.

To my school, for always believing in me and for nominating me for the award that started this whole thing off. Oxford High School has always supported me in all my crazy ideas and allowed me to miss more days of school than I can count to pursue the best future I can achieve.

OF COURSE to the United States Embassy in London, UK for funding the whole trip. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to experience any of this, and for that I am eternally grateful.

And Finally, to Women of the Future and in particular Pinky Lilani. You are the centre of this whole trip. Without you, none of this would have happened. Your eternal kindness, sincerity and gracefulness is a force for good on this Earth. This opportunity has helped shape my life and I’m so grateful for everything you have done for me. A million times thank you.

 

If you’re reading this and thinking about applying, do it! It’s a great opportunity that you won’t find in many other, if any, places. Plus, the people you meet are just unforgettable.

And if you’re reading this as part of the Women2Women Family, keep slaying girls!

How Video Games taught my brother about the stock market

Image result for roblox

While in the kitchen, I overheard the following conversation between my brother and a friend –

Friend: I just made 200Robucks selling this cape I bought for 20Robucks

Brother: oh yeah I remember you mentioning it

Friend: I’m not sure if I should sell this, the valuation has gone up but I really like it and it might increase more next week

Brother: I think you should sell it

Friend: I’m going to keep it

Brother: Ok,  I’m going to buy this hat, it’s only 5Robucks and I think its value is going to increase.

Their conversation intrigued me, for several reasons. I’d never heard of a game before where you could buy things and sell things on for more. Then again, I’m not really an expert on the whole video games field, so maybe it’s quite a common thing.

Despite this, what interested me most was the economics my brother and his friend were unknowingly utilising, and learning about, while playing a game that looks like nothing more than a knock-off version of lego.

Their buying and selling of items within their game replicated that of buying and selling shares in the stock market. By buying a hat, which could be equated to that of buying a share, they invested in an asset they later intended to sell on at a higher price. This meant that they weren’t buying the good for its utility (= satisfaction the good brings), but rather for the potential long-run profit that could be made.

Different goods had different potential prices which they could rise to, depending on the appeal of the product, and they were more likely to sell for more if they were in higher demand, rarer to find, or in conjunction with a particular public event going on at the same time.

Although I don’t know how exactly this trading came about, the scarcity of the RoBucks is likely to play some part. RoBucks are hard to earn, and can only be bought using real money, which provides some sort of incentive for gamers to get creative. Purchasing ‘stock’ seems to provide a nifty solution to the problem, and gives the most tactical players a way to thrive in the game.

And so it makes me wonder, was this effect intentionally sought after by the game? Or was it a complete side occurrence? And are there any other games like this?

 

Women of the Future Ambassadors Programme @ US Embassy

On Thursday the 10th May, I had the privilege of being invited as both an award winner, and student, to the Women of the Future Ambassadors Programme in partnership with Lloyds Banking Group. This years event was held at the New US embassy on Elms Road, one of the most spectacular buildings I’ve ever seen (not lousy, sorry Mr President). Among the Embassy gardens, you are first greeted with the sound of cascading water, accompanied by a big glass building with the funkiest designs on the outside. Inside, it is no different. With giant marble walls, (extremely!) heavy doors and the entire American Constitution written in over 50 panels across one wall in the interior, the building is a sight for sore eyes. One might think such an impressive building would give those inside a run for their money when trying to out-do the architecture, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I was inspired by every student, ambassador and attendee in the building, with highlights including Antonia Romeo, Fatima Zaman and Jackie Scully, extremely successful women in all aspects of their lives, who embody the type of person I try to be every day. Despite each speaker representing a different background, they all spoke about the common theme of kindness, and its importance in the world. This is one of the most important qualities to Women of the Future, and in particular, Pinky Lilani (CBE DL), founder of the program. Her incredible work and constant kindness and generosity sparks an atmosphere of collaboration in every event she runs, and Thursday was no different.

I enjoyed networking with lots of ambassadors, including a presenter on BBC1, two Women from Coca Cola Enterprises and many, many cool women from Lloyds Banking Group, among many others, as well as a long lost friend from a summer business incubator, and a new friend whom I will attend a summer leadership program in July.  We spoke about all sorts of things, but perhaps the most invaluable piece of advice I received was “Strength comes from knowing when and who to ask for help”.

The event certainly made me reflect a lot on what I’ve done in the past and where I see myself going forward. The battle is never over, it has only just begun. Attending the event allowed me to meet so many inspiring women with amazing journeys, and provided a lot of food for thought that I know I will take with me as I progress. It is a privilege to be a part of such a talented network and to have the opportunity to meet and connect with women who I could only dream of replicating in my adult life. The only honest negative from the whole event was the lack of service in the building, meaning I couldn’t spend every minute tweeting about how cool it was to be at such an event!

Now to follow up on all those emails…

Until next time,

-Jo who blogs x