Monthly Archives: June 2016

Abhorrent words – disrupting vaginas

We all have to put up with some revolting words in the jargon of the digital world. 

Disruption (think free range toddlers in a Crouch End cafe) or derailed trains? What’s good about that? 

Lipstick on a pig – spin?

More bang for your buck – isn’t this about bombs? Hopefully not brothels? 

So I am adding another word that will challenge the digital community: menstruation. 

What has that got to do with digital? Not a lot I would say but some people would beg to differ.

The connected vagina: monitor when your tampon needs to be changed with a new app my.flow

There are a lot of problems in the world for the brilliant minds of the digital community to focus their attentions on. So I’m not sure how this has become a priority? Maybe someone thought us women were being left out? I don’t think they asked though. 

In my experience the young generation have absolutely no shame about their periods.

It’s really not ‘a girls worst nightmare having blood leak through their new white pants’. 

They don’t wear white pants when its their period.

I would argue that putting a sensor in your vagina to check when your tampon needs changing is over – engineering.

This isn’t the only vagina disrupting technology on the market – how about this one? Even in North London the market for this will be limited. It’s a speaker you insert into your vagina to play music to foetuses. Fathers to-be tread carefully about buying this as a gift without asking.

Suggestion: instead, how about contributing the development money to this charity?

Women around the world are having their lives blighted by lack of cheap sanitary protection options. Girls miss out on up to 20% of their school time.

This is a simple, sustainable, no ongoing cost solution:

Forget my.Flow nobody needs it. Its madness.

Timing is everything

I had a really tough childhood. 

At one point me, my brother and sister had to wash our hair in car shampoo and condition it with car wax. Lucky for my sister and I long greasy hair was fashionable.  Its a shame but all the men looked creepy then. 

Our tresses were the result of a 1970s American ‘Golden Products’ pyramid selling scam that my father fell victim to.

 We had a cellar full of highly concentrated detergents from shampoo to washing liquid to car wax – the first ever biodegradable detergents manufactured commercially. I blame the Good Life sitcom that every suburban couple in the 70’s aspired to – especially my Mum and Dad in up and coming South Croydon. 

Even positive thinking and Billy Graham style brainwashing coupled with cheese and wine parties (think Liebfraumilch -Abigail’s party) wouldn’t shift the bottles of Golden Products. People were just too closed minded they didn’t think worrying a bout pollution was a problem (most people don’t even now).  As a family we had a whole decade’s worth to work our way through. 

Our mustard coloured Morris Marina didn’t show the dirt enough to warrant washing and waxing more that once a week (had to keep up with the neighbours and there was almost nothing else to do in the 1970’s) hence those bottles lasted until 1978 – blighting my teenage years.

So what has this got to do with anything you say? 

Like me he was eccentric and childlike even in his later years. He had no shame. When we went on holiday, my dad couldn’t swim so he wore orange fluorescent armbands into his 50’s – featured centre photo here: 

He was the epitome of an embarrassing parent. A figure of fun – which he embraced.
Exactly what my children now recognise in me. You reap what you sow.

But now I realise he was perhaps ‘disruptive’, ‘visionary’ and 30 years before his time. 

Biodegradable detergents only became widely available in the 2000s even though the problems with detergent pollution were known by 1966. 

So if you come up with an amazing idea but you can’t get anyone interested – its not you – its just they have other priorities and are thinking shorter term. This is what is slowing innovation. I know you are impatient – you’ll have to wait for the time to be right. Or does society now need to catch up with the fastest thinkers? 

In one case I waited 8 years for everything to fall into place for a revolutionary software project – and then it went like a dream with full engagement from stakeholders and rapid results. The organisation missed out on 8 years of savings and improved services.

Hypatia would never have come off her mobile phone if she’d had one

The tables have turned in our house.

I am now being told by my children to put my smartphone down and pay attention. 
So I protest – ‘what do you think I’m doing on my enormous phablet – let me assure you it is nothing fun’ (I use no other device now – I have to take advantage of every free moment – wherever I am – to keep up). I’m topping up dinner money, using voice recognition to reply to 150+ work emails a day and doing a huge amount of self service admin on-line that used to be done by staff in banks, insurance companies, civil service administrators etc. (Mostly) women in those companies used to get paid for this work. Now (mostly) women don’t get paid for this admin.

But in all honesty – its not true that’s why I can hardly ever put down my phone. 
I am making up for the generations of women who could not get access to information or discuss deeper issues because they were not educated and were barred from libraries.

Maybe some nuns were the exception to this (Ruth Jones – is this your specialist subject?).

One woman who was an exception was the little known -first ever -female mathematician Hypatia from 355 to 415 AD who was the only woman academic and lecturer with access to the library of Alexandria. 

Students (all male) came from far and wide internationally (Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean) to hear her lectures on maths and astronomy. It is likely that she helped design some of the first pocket astrolabes – the 4th century equivalent of the smartphone with an early version of GPS to measure the position of celestial objects, time of day, season etc. A really cool gift and gadget for wealthy Alexandrians. 

If you want to know more – watch the film Agora (unfortunately with extra added romantic interest) but otherwise good. Or this YouTube video:

She was an atheist and is better known than her male contemporaries because of her grisly end – more later. 
The University of Alexandria was the first international centre of learning, and had a very diverse culture – open to all religions with an ethos of equality ( obviously not women in that era). The predominant philosophy was neo-Platonism – liberal and non-conformist. Many of her students got jobs as top establishment figures. 

She was internationally influential.

She was an advisor to governors, self possessed, confident, respected and listened to. People congregated outside her house in times of turmoil to hear her opinions on what to do. While her father (a top intellectual at Alexandria University) and her sponsor the bishop of Alexandria Theophilus were alive, she was safe, but when Theophilus died she was very quickly seen as a threat.

About her grisly end: being stripped, hacked to death with pottery shards then burnt by Christian monks. She paid the ultimate price for being a token woman! Even so – I bet she thought it was worth it. 

So here we are as modern women with access the library of Alexandria and more at our finger tips and you are surprised that we are distracted from chasing dragons or playing tea parties? 

For the avoidance of doubt – North London Women – by Ambrosia for once I don’t mean an aperitif involving Prosecco.

Is the lack of diversity in IT a Priority?

Lets imagine you have a traditional boy’s school that has opened itself up to become co-Ed. They were up against it  because the school has a reputation for having a very narrow focus on science and maths and in addition has a legacy of exclusivity. At the moment its probably around 15% girls but it is declining. This is the corporate IT world.

Now imagine you have another modern school which has no uniforms – as well as a focus on science and technology it also has a focus on drama and music.They are not sure about the % girls and are not sure its relevant – they haven’t got time to worry about it – but it is nowhere near 50% yet. (This is an IT start up). 

Both schools are running an open day to try to encourage parents of girls to take up places.

You go along with your daughter because she’s really good at science and maths, and she’s really good at drama, music and English, she’s brave, a pioneer and loves a challenge. She gets on really well with boys. She’s also very sporty. 

Your daughter currently goes to a multi – disciplinary diverse co-ed school with 50/50 boys and girls and has no problem getting heard in class. She is regarded as a star pupil. She feels supported by a range of male and female teachers. 

What questions do you prepare to ask these two schools to decide if your daughter is going to move schools? 

You read the prospectus for the traditional school and find it very off-putting. For example, in the section under sports they stress the success of their rugby and cricket teams but no mention of tennis, swimming or netball. 

The more modern school’s prospectus has pictures of some very cool kids. Some of the 6th form boys have long beards. They stress the commitment of the pupils to the drama clubs – to be involved you need to be willing to do very late nights and weekend rehearsals. If not you can’t join. They also do musical theatre and have lots of bands – but stress they don’t do glee or pop. 

The girls at both schools don’t seem to be reaching their potential and are progressing slower than the boys. Again the statistics are not clear.


    • How long has the this disparity in ratios been a problem (15/ 30 years) and why are they making such slow progress recruiting girls? What is their target date to get to 50/50? Do they have an action plan? 
    • Is the ethos of the school as described in the prospectus accurate?
    • What is the exact %ge of girls / boys for each school and each subject and why aren’t they reporting it transparently? Or don’t they know? 
    • Have they asked the girls that are currently at the school what it is like, and if they have any idea why girls might not want to come to the school and are leaving (this may need to be an anonymous survey)? If not, why not? 
    • When girls leave before ‘A levels’ do they systematically ask them why?
    • Are there any issues with girls being bullied or harassed? Are they encouraged to report it? Is there a designated teacher to deal with it? Is that teacher male or female? 
    • What do the boys think about being in a predominantly male school – would they prefer it if it was more balanced or do they think its not a problem? They’ve just got used to it. 
    • Do they recognise, support, value and allow time for young people’s out of school interests (e.g. your daughter swims for the county).

    If the schools could not answer these questions and in fact had not even thought of them – you would very much question if they were serious about dealing with the problem. They are not showing any proactivity. 

    Particularly if they said that the only problem is that girls just don’t seem to want to apply to their school. Young people these days are very well networked – they talk – they will have the insider knowledge of your school. 

    If they said a partner school had carried out a survey which showed that 60% of girls had been sexually harassed ( cf Silicon valley) you would probably ask why they hadn’t done something similar – because that sounded really serious. 

    On balance would you encourage your daughter to go to either school – are you sure she would thrive? Can you see anything changing  any time soon in these schools? 

    She is a pioneer but not a martyr. She’s very talented and has lots of choices. 

    I know the potential IT recruits to your company are Women not girls – but I think you get the idea. Even Iron Maidens would struggle. As my son says: why would I? 

    If you are a Technology leader I challenge you- have you ever Googled ‘Diversity in Technology’? Do you have any insight? Have you spoken to minorities that work in Tech? Do you have any idea of the Diversity Stats in your teams and how they are changing over time? If you haven’t yet – then I would suggest you are not serious and are happy with the status quo. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? 

    Show, Ask don’t tell -agile demystified

    I’m used to lots of jargon at work. Now I am having to learn a whole new set of terminology in order to keep up with my son’s craze for YouTube hair styling videos. 

    When all our jobs have been taken over by Artificial Intelligence and Robots – I am pretty sure I can switch to my (currently amateur ) career in hair cutting / styling. Like Arthur Dent’s wildebeest sandwich making. 

    Anyway – in our search for the perfect ‘disconnected undercut’ my son finally gave up on my haphazard efforts and we headed to a paying hair salon to learn from the professionals. 

    Why is it that getting our hair cut makes us so happy and makes hairstylists the happiest profession despite the often low pay ?

    Firstly its the personalised service. The good ones listen actively and they are versatile – they don’t just churn you out with the same style as the person before you. They ask – not tell. My son wasn’t interested in blue rinse shampoo and set with laquer like the woman before. More like no 1 clipping, Straighteners and clay. Very frequent questions – ‘how would you like the length – how would you like it dried – do you like shiny wax or matt?’Your look co-designed throughout the session, bespoke to you. They are honest – “with your curly hair , you won’t be able to look exactly like Mariano di Vaio.” 

    You come out looking a million dollars for £15 (its grim up North London). Luckily you can combine your trip by popping into the artisan baker next door to pick up a bargain ‘pain ancienne’ for £2.20. 

    So – software suppliers how about you trying to make us this happy? Listening – co-design- personalised – ask don’t tell.

    Or employers – can you make your IT staff this happy? The tables are turning and millennials want a personalised employment experience.

    In case you are asking – for CIOs attempting to transform themselves into Digital leaders I recommend an updated hairstyle along the lines above. Its better than wearing your baseball cap backwards.