Changing the world by being themselves

Unknown Science - Genki Gear
Unknown Science – Genki Gear T-Shirts

It’s not easy being a woman in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

I love technology and I love working in this field. When you’re in a great role, you’re part of a team doing wonderful things. You’re respected, included, fairly critiqued and expected to give as good as you get. When you’re not, well, it’s not so great. From the expectations of being the mothering figure in the team (keeping those unruly men in line) to being demure, with great “soft skills” (shouldn’t everyone have those) to being excluded, jeered, looked down on or told to pipe down and be less aggressive. Life in a box determined by your gender out and out sucks.

That’s not to say only women make great role models. My best boss ever was a lovely man named Alistair. He was kind, fair, inspirational and loyal. When I worked with him, I loved getting out of bed to go to work. Every day was a welcome challenge, knowing my boss had my back but I was expected to produce exceptional work. Contrast this to my worst boss who shall remain unnamed: not only did he micro-manage the hell out of my day (recording every minute of work? really?), he “blue sky” thought me into “singing from the same hymn sheet” management-speak fatigue. Quelle horreur!

So, it isn’t easy being a woman in STEM. It isn’t easy finding mentors, role models and a crew of women you can talk to, who understand because they’ve walked the walk. So, where does a nary-a-demure-bone-in-her-body, self-confessed data geek with a penchant for bluntness and a straight-shooting attitude go when she needs a little inspiration?

If she’s me, (and in this case, she is!), she looks to her first love. I was three (allegedly), when I first fell in love with books. I lost myself in their pages, lived in their fictional worlds and was transported by their prose. These days, I’m lucky to have found a crew – more than one in fact. Groups of people who get me and never request I change who I am. However, its to books I return when I need a fix of inspiration at the witching hour or when things are just too raw to talk them out.

When I first began compiling this list, I asked my friends who inspired them. I didn’t want a one-note list, littered with only those recent loves. I was pleased to discover women I hadn’t encountered previously. I was enchanted by their stories and to be honest, had far too many for my list. Here are four in no particular order. Their stories, actions and lives have inspired me and my friends because they live that simple motto: they change the world by being themselves.

Kerry Greenwood - image by Monty Coles
Kerry Greenwood – image by Monty Coles

1. Kerry Greenwood (Author, Folk Singer, Factory Hand, Director, Producer, Translator, Costume-Maker, Cook, Solicitor)

When my Aussie friend mailed me a copy of Phryne Fisher, I had no idea what to expect: a 1920’s, aristocratic, female James Bond certainly wasn’t it! Kerry Greenwood cuts an even more impressive figure: she’s funny, bold and has had a bewildering number of fun, serious, down-right creative careers. When I think I’m too scared to try something new, I remind myself that Kerry both writes amazing fiction and volunteers for legal aid work once a week.

The lesson: A woman’s place is wherever the hell she wants it to be. 

2. Amy Poehler (Author, Actor, Comedian, Voice Artist, Director, Producer, Writer)

Amy Poehler at the 71st Annual Peabody Awards Luncheon 2012
Amy Poehler at the 71st Annual Peabody Awards Luncheon 2012

I first stumbled across Amy when a post by amysmartgirls.com popped up on my Facebook feed. Their motto is: Change the World by Being Yourself – this had a profound effect on me. If there’s one thing I’ve battled for, it is to continue being myself against all odds. Meredith Walker, Amy Miles, and Amy Poehler created a community to inspire girls and women everywhere to accept themselves and not conform to who others expect us to be. Of course, I had to find out more about this smart, funny, bold woman and when I read an anecdote about her in “Saturday Night Live” in Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I adored her message even more.

The lesson: When you’re told you’re “bossy”, “I don’t care if you like it” is a perfect response. 

3. Rosie Garland (Author, Performer)

Rosie Garland [credit Jonathan Bean]
Rosie Garland [credit Jonathan Bean]
My Kiwi friend got rather excited about Rosie, which made me curious. She suggested I add her to my list of inspirational women and I finally checked her out.

Rosie is compelling as her alter-ego, Rosie Lugosi and in The March Violets, but it is to her writing I’m drawn. Her books are richly drawn, compelling and dark. I’ve always adored prose that draws you in and keeps hold of you till you’re left holding your breath at the climax: book addicts will know what I mean. Why else do I admire her? She isn’t one-note: she writes poetry, non-fiction, fiction and short stories. Rosie’s writing has it and her books have been added to my TBR (To Be Read) pile with immediate effect.

The lesson: Yes, you too can be eclectic, don’t put yourself in a straitjacket.

4. Deryn Cullen (Author, Cellist, Composer)

Deryn Cullen
Deryn Cullen

Women like Deryn are exactly the reason I did a shout out before I wrote this. A cellist by calling and a Leeds resident to boot, I’d never knowingly encountered her work. Once I began to delve, well, I only wish I’d discovered her sooner. She plays with passion and feeling. I admit, I’d have completed this writing much sooner if I hadn’t spent so long enthralled by her videos. One thing that inspires me above all else is passion. My love, my friends, my work all have one thing in common: passion. That’s why so many of my friends are quintessential geeks: people so enamoured of their paths, they fairly vibrate with passion. Deryn has this to spare.

The lesson: If it doesn’t leave you breathless, on top of the world and bursting with pride, why are you doing it?

These four are just the tippy top of the iceberg. There are inspirational women everywhere. They might be your mother, sister, grandma or friends. They might be the volunteer who teaches you to keep the milk of human kindness flowing. They might be the CEO who smashed the glass ceiling but still has a full life. They might be anyone who keeps you buoyed up. Whoever they are, take the lesson:

Change the world by being yourself

P.s I wrote this wearing a crown from a Christmas cracker. In bed. Just because.

image: Ramesh Lalwani – International Day of the Girl Child for 2014 is Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.

Where are you really eating out?

Don't Eat Here Campaign Poster
Don’t Eat Here Campaign Poster

I love TripAdvisor and Yelp. When I’m looking for a new place to eat, I get recommendations from friend, then read reviews to see what its like. And on a Friday night, when I want to a takeaway? Just Eat means I don’t have to worry about having cash at home.

You know what really niggles?

Nothing about how clean the venue is. Nothing, nada, zip – all these sites are missing food hygiene ratings.

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The data is out there and I’ve been analysing it this week. I found some surprises…

My idea? Simple: Show up-to-date food hygiene certificates for any place that serves food, as well as the reviews. An out of the way link near the footer isn’t enough:

JustEat Food Hygiene Link
JustEat Food Hygiene Link

After all:

Where are you really eating?

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Think you can judge a restaurant’s hygiene by what you see? Think again. Our campaign, which prompts consumers to question the choices they make when eating out, is running across the UK until the end of March 2013. – food.gov.uk

Your move Just Eat, Tripadvisor & Yelp.

“Where are you really eating out?” by Edafe Onerhime is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Don’t eat here image” courtesy of Food Standards Agency’Where are you really eating out? campaign.

Cover picture: Quinn Comendant – Food hygiene rating.

Smart City: The Timetable Clock

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Why does a timetable need to be a list? Why can’t it be a clock? Especially if you know where you are and where you’re going. There are obvious issues how much you can display but this is much more intuitive for me than a list.

I made this pretotype back in January ‘14 when my partner kept missing her bus. I had half a mind to make it into a digital artefact but my customer was happy with a photo as her phone background.

The Timetable Clock by Edafe Onerhime is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Liberate the Library: From cost centre to social enterprise

I love libraries.

As a bookworm and bibliophile, libraries, especially those housed in beautiful old buildings are akin to heaven.

We’ve all heard about and felt the impact of cuts to funding. In 2013, the Guardian asked: Are social enterprises the future for libraries?

I ask:

  • How can libraries move from cost centres to sustainable community social enterprises?
  • How can they become organisations that can pay a living wage to library professionals and not rely on, but continue to include volunteers?
  • How can they be sustainbly commercial but remain the heart of the community

Now, I don’t have the answers, nor do I have library expertise but I do have some suggestions based on what I’d like to see as a library fan.

Space and location as an asset

Central staircase, Central Libary, Leeds

Leeds central library is housed in a beautiful building in the heart of Leeds. It’s open at convenient times.

Leeds Central Library Opening Times
Monday 09:00 19:00
Tuesday 09:00 19:00
Wednesday 09:00 19:00
Thursday 09:00 18:00
Friday 09:00 17:00
Saturday 10:00 17:00
Sunday 11:00 15:00

How can Leeds central library make more of it’s opening times, space and convenient, central location?

Here’s some ideas based on the lesser known services offered.

1. Book out the space.

Rooms for meetings, events and workshops crop up regularly on Twitter: Leeds Meeting Room Twitter Search. Leeds is a city for incubating ideas and innovating, we need a range of spaces to meet, mingle and make the magic happen.
Make it easy to find, book and use.

2. Be the experts on business.

Leeds central library already has all the expertise in place. The Business & IP Centre Leeds is a hugely valuable resource business and intellectual property expertise. Make more out of the consultancy, workshops and events for entrepreneurs and start-ups.
Make it the go-to place for business advice.

3. Bring all the folks to your yard.

Integrate an on-site bookshop with an on-line presence. I like to buy as well as borrow books, so it’s a no-brainer to do both in the same place. If you’re concerned about staffing a sales desk, might I suggest you steal like an artist? Consider automated supply chain. Maybe an Amazon Locker approach to click and collect? And once people are at your location, provide them with experiences that delight, enlighten and brings them back to the library.
Make it the enhanced library for more than borrowing.

4. Be the place to hang out.

And not just in the gorgeous tiled hall. Tie 3 in with book groups, coffee evenings, writing events, literary festivals, meet the author nights, starting points for tours of Leeds and guided tours around the beautiful building itself.
Make it the heart of the Leeds community.

Most importantly: Try things out → review → rinse and repeat.

Liberate the Library: From cost centre to social enterprise by Edafe Onerhime is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.theguardian.com/social-enterprise-network/2013/apr/02/social-enterprises-libraries.

Header image: Showing the strain by Brian Smithson