POW! Thanet is the first ever Thanet-wide celebration of International Women’s Day, a six day series of events We hosted a thought provoking debate entitled ‘What Future for Girls?’ at Turner Contemporary. Our panel included broadcaster Barbara Sturgeon, acclaimed film director Jan Dunn, political activist Jacqueline Walker, writer Lizzie Hodgson and Heart Scientist Dr Renata Gomes.
Our panel gave inspirational talks sharing their experiences, expertise and ideas with a packed audience. The debate had a fantastic feeling of celebration and determination to create a better future for girls.
Jan Dunn, award winning director, spoke about finding drama at school and a teacher that sparked a passion for stories by giving her a copy of Wuthering Heights as defining moments. In an industry dominated by men, (out of 600 films released from 2007 to 2013 women directed only 1.9% of them) Jan stressed the importance of making and keeping networks, and the role that mentoring plays in nurturing talent. Jan’s message to girls - ‘we only limit ourselves’ - speaks of not giving up on your dreams and making your own luck; she nurtured her dream of being a director in secret for years after her search for female directors at the library revealed few role models.
Barbara Sturgeon began by reminding us how far we’ve come in such a short period of time and spoke about her mother’s experiences of education and work in comparison to hers and, in turn, her confidence that the future for girls was bright. Barbara spoke about perceiving setbacks as challenges to be overcome and the importance of using her voice and making herself heard.
Renata Gomes came with bullet points jotted on a napkin (napkins seem to feature in Renata’s creative process; she also designed nanotechnology to mend broken hearts on a napkin!). Renata spoke about her experiences of poverty as a hardship but also as something that makes you creative and resourceful, as well as her experience of being the poor student at Oxbridge - ‘what I lacked in money they lacked in character!’
Renata stressed that science is a creative vocation and that this way of thinking about STEM subjects will tap into what girls believe they are better at, perhaps stopping the trend of girls dropping these subjects.
Lizzie Hodgson has had a really diverse career – although she disputes the notion of careers or jobs for life in a job market that is changing so rapidly – interning for Gordon Brown, speech writing, tech startups and her most recent project ThinkNation that she started to help young people participate in the elitist word of technology development. Lizzie spoke really passionately with some excellent advice for girls - saying yes to opportunities that come your way, not feeling like you have to be the best before giving it a go, that failing is not the end of the world! This attitude is a really important one – there’s an oft quoted statistic that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them, I hope Lizzie inspired more girls to grab at opportunities.
Jackie Walker rounded up the evening by remembering the women that have fought and died for our rights and the need for communities to come together to facilitate change via political struggle. She emphasised the fact that not everyone has the chance to succeed, that poverty and lack of opportunity can be impossible to overcome.
Oasis CEO Deborah Cartwright said, ‘When POW! Chairperson Chris McQuaid got in touch and suggested that Oasis should be a part of this first POW Thanet week we were thrilled, and are deeply grateful to her for the opportunity to be part of something so special.’