Archive for the ‘Media Comments’ Category

What people were looking for last week when they found the Superwoman blog

December 13, 2010

Probably explains why the Western Mail have two annual sexy lists and the Power 100 their powerful list!  Someone was looking for sexyest women whales…..

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Western Mail’s 50 sexiest men 2010

December 7, 2010

It was the boys’ turn this weekend.    So how do you define sexy for men? The sexiest woman in Wales, Alex Jones said when she won last week that “sexiness was about attitude” and according to the Western Mail “our male winner has bags of that”.  The sexiest man in Wales (comedian Rhod Gilbert apparently if you don’t know already) then had a go at defining sexy himself and  said “Laughing makes you feel good about yourself, which is sexy, and I’ve always gravitated towards people who have that affect on me. I could never go out with someone who didn’t have the ability to have me in hysterics.  ”  Jamie Roberts (number 1 last year, number 2 this) said on winning the title last year that sexy “was someone who challenges me intellectually.”   This actually did not help with defining sexy for men since both were defining what they view as sexy in the opposite sex not their own.

Two of the men in the sexy list also feature in the Insider Power 100.  Carwyn Jones (“our guilty crush”) is number 3 in the Insider list but only sneaks in at number 48 in the sexy list.  Huw Eurig Davies is number 43 in the Insider List and 38 in the sexy list.  Do you get more or less sexy the more powerful you get? If you’re a woman it would appear you get less sexy as there is no cross over between the Insider Power 100 list and the sexiest women list.

Has there ever been a gay person on either list?

Truth is that most of the men on the list are actors/presenters/singers/models plus a good sprinkling of sportsmen.   They’re generally fairly easy on the eye but it would look shallow to say that out loud so the definition of sexy gets twisted into something more dignified when actually the reason most of the men are on the list is precisely because they are easy on the eye and on telly a lot.  And perhaps a little because the Western Mail already has a photo of them in the archives.

The same comments apply to the men’s list as apply to the women’s.    People who take Wales to the world and bring the world to Wales deserve better than being herded on a list of “Men we think are shaggable.”  The Western Mail might as well do that gesture involving putting one arm in the crook of the other, gurning and saying “Phwoar.”

Insider’s Power 100 and the 50 Sexiest Women in Wales 2010

November 29, 2010

I wasn’t going to blog about these two lists again this year.   Thought I’d said pretty much all I had to say about them in November 2009.  However, I had to review that decision after both lists hit my desk within 24 hours of each other last week and, more importantly, I noticed that a number of people were finding their way to the Superwoman blog by virtue of googling either Insider Power 100 or the 50 Sexiest Women in Wales.   So – here goes – the way Superwoman sees it in 2010.

Insider Power 100 – the Superwomen November 2010.

One more woman this year on the list, 12 out of 50 compared to last year’s 11, eight of which are politicans or in government.   Last year’s entries were ranked on power and influence.  Insider hasn’t said how this year’s are ranked but refers instead to “a new breed of leader bubbling up” and to the fact that “a lot of the new entrants and fast risers are entreprenuers” and of the 12 women featured only two fall into that category – Hayley Parsons and Elizabeth Hayward.

6.  Cheryl Gillan – Secretary of State for Wales – new

11.  Jane Hutt – business and budget minister (rising from 87 last year)

13.  Dame Gillian Morgan – Permanent Secretary, WAG (down from 11 last year)

14.  Sian Lloyd Jones – Chief Executive Finance Wales (up from 17 last year)

38.  Jane Davidson – Environment, Sustainability and Housing Minister (up from 56 last year)

58.  Menna Richards – Controller, BBC Wales (down from 8 last year as Ms Richards has announced her departure from BBC but perhaps the Power 100 went to print before she announced her non exec directorship of Glas Cymru?)

63.  Jocelyn Davies – Deputy Minster for Housing and Regeneration – new

67.  Edwina Hart – Health Minister (down from 12 last year when she was tied in 12th place with Huw Lewis and Carwyn Jones as the Labour leadership had not been decided at the time – Carwyn Jones is in at number 3 this year and Huw Lewis not at all)

71.  Kirsty Williams – Liberal Democrat Leader (up from 86 last year)

74.  Lesley Griffiths – deputy minister for science, innovation and skills – new

82.  Hayley Parsons – founder, Go Compare – new

100.  Elizabeth Hayward – director South East Wales Economic Forum -new

The following women who featured last year have lost their places this year:

16.  Iona Jones, Chief Executive, S4C – due to resignation/unfair dismissal depending on who wins the tribunal claim

88.  Katherine Jenkins, singer – due to the fact that Gio Compario has got the “shouldn’t really be in it but it gets people talking” place this year

91.  Margaret Matthews, director Dow Corning and Chairman CBI Wales

100.  Ann Beynon, director BT Wales

Well done again to all the women who feature in the list.  Just think if our numbers keep growing at one a year we’ll get equality by 2023!  Hurrah for Hayley Parsons in particular- creating jobs in Wales and a brand name known all over the UK.   Women are natural entrepreneurs but tend to keep their businesses small and manageable and capable of being fitted round child care rather than grow them to the size of Go Compare.  Hayley has shown that if women want to think big, they can.  The Superwomen salute you Hayley.  We also salute Laura Tenison, who didn’t make it to the Power 100 but should have.   Really – how many more jobs/stores/turnover millions/business awards does a girl need to land to be classed as a leader and entrepreneur?

I wonder if it’s any consolation to Laura Tenison that she did however make the Western Mail’s 50 sexiest women list for 2010.  Incidentally, there is no overlap between the two lists now that Katherine Jenkins has lost her place in the Power 100.   The Western Mail advises that amongst the models on the list we’d find women from the fields of art, business, music, sport, TV and politics.   I counted one from art (Cat Gardner) one from business (Laura Tenison), three from sport all coming in at number 39 or lower (Jazz Carlin (39), Jessica Fishlock (43) and Breanne Loukes (49) ) and one from politics, Polly Mackenzie and she’s Nick Clegg’s speech writer so I’m not even certain that counts.

This year the job of trying to define sexy fell to Claire Rees.  She tells us that “Our top 50 is about celebrating the women who have more to offer than pin up looks” and “Women who have achieved something, because that’s sexy, and women who have such infectious personalties you’d actually want to share a drink with them this Christmas.”      I’d love to have a drink with the women on the list – not because I want to have sex with them but because they are all of them flying the flag for Wales and flying it high.   Good on ’em all.    They deserve a Superwoman salute too.   But, dear Western Mail,  it’s  high time you changed the name of this list because the clue to what sexy means is right there in the word sexy.  How about “the 50 most Wonderful Women in Wales” instead?

See you next week after the boys’ list comes out.

French women may not get fat but do they get equal?

October 27, 2010

The  Sunday Times recently reported (17 October 2010) that a World Economic Forum put France in 46th place behind countries such as Kazahkstan and Uganda for its overall treatment of women.  The same survey put France in joint first position for women’s education and health but near the bottom – 127th – for male versus female pay for the same work.  French women are paid 17% less than men in the same jobs.  “Sexism is extraordinarily entrenched in French society,” said Laurence Parisot, president of Medef, the employers’ forum.  “It’s so serious, so profound and has such ancient roots that laws are not enough.  Our culture has to change.”

Rachida Dati, Sarkozy’s “little Arab girl” who rose to be justice minister in the French cabinet  returned to work five days after giving birth to a baby girl whose paternity remains a closely guarded secret because she feared she’d get dropped from the goverment.  She got called a traitor to her sex for returning to work so early and got dropped from the government anyway.

Valerie Toranian, editor in chief of Elle magazine said French women are “exhausted.”  They have the right “to do what men do” but only if “we also take care of the children, cook a delicious dinner and look immaculate.  We have to be superwoman.”

That’s not my definition of Superwoman Valerie; that’s my definition of a door mat.   A Superwoman is one who after a day’s work  says beans on toast for tea is just fine and couldn’t give a stuff about manicures and pedicures because she’s too busy chatting with her kids about the day or going out to meet friends or having a glass of wine with her husband.   Life’s far too short to be immaculate.  Delicious dinners are lovely but any sort of dinner will do and husbands are very capable of delivering either type.  Superwoman doesn’t exist but feeling super does.  And time saved not cooking delicious dinners and looking immaculate will mean more energy to fight the gender pay gap and stick two fingers up at entrenched sexism.

PS: French women consume more anti depressants than any other females in Europe.  Perhaps French women don’t get fat because they’re just too miserable to eat?

Having it all – a Superwoman’s view point

May 5, 2010

You do know don’t you that none of us at Superwoman actually believe we’re  Superwoman?  That we’re poking fun at ourselves because we’re rather a long way from Super?   You do?   Phew.  I’m glad we cleared that up.    So what about Having It All then?  Do we believe in that?

For those of you who missed the recent debate in the media about Having it All (generated by Allison Pearson’s  recent resignation from her Daily Mail column)  Having it All is a term used to describe women with careers plus children and/or ageing parents who also contribute to community and keep a clean, organised home, a decent face and figure and a happy other half.  Allison Pearson has been suffering from depression which she attributes to trying to Have it All and has therefore decided to resign.  So is Having it All possible?  Here’s our take on the situation.

1.  Lots of women go out to work because if they didn’t there wouldn’t be enough money coming in to pay the mortgage.   This is not Having it All this is Having no Choice.

2.   Women who Have no Choice regularly work long, stressful days.  Some of them are lucky enough to get well paid but many of the women who Have no Choice are on very low rates of pay.

3.  If you Have a Choice even if it would involve radical belt tightening then in our view you pretty much already Have Most of It.

4.  Having it All  is impossible;  as fictitious a concept as Superwoman.    Nearly Having it All is not impossible but it does involve prioritising, letting somethings go altogether and for others embracing the concept of Good Enough.   Good Enough is key to Nearly Having it All.     Minette Martin in her column in the Sunday Times this week had some great advice –  don’t read fashion magazines if they make you feel fat or frumpy or if they make you long for things you can’t have; don’t cook unless you really must: think catering rather than cooking; don’t go shopping unless you really have to; don’t have lots of clothes: have only a few that really suit you; give up answering the telephone just because it’s ringing.  The point here is that  if you are trying to Nearly Have it All you need to cut yourself some slack.   A would be Superwoman that we know, when asked how she does it all, replies “Big Bum, Dirty House”.  Quite a lot of slack there.

6.  If  Nearly Having it All and Good Enough are not for you (or are no longer for you, for whatever reason) and your family finances can cope then STOP and don’t waste your precious time feeling guilty about it.   You will not be letting your feminist foremothers down if you are doing what makes you happy, whatever that may be.  This advice applies whether you have children or you don’t and whether you are a man or a woman.    Wherever possible and financial circumstances/family commitments permitting you should do what makes your heart sing, at least some of the time.

7.  Depression is a terrible, terrifying thing.  We’ve already talked in this blog about the tragic story of 41 year old solicitor Catherine Bailey who, suffering from depression,  drowned herself in the Thames leaving three young daughters behind.    20% of women aged between 45 and 64 are suffering from depression , a 20% increase on 2003.   Anyone, be they man or woman,  who starts to become depressed by how they are living their lives should listen to their body and take immediate action to stop that depression becoming as bad as it did for Catherine Bailey.   Allison Pearson did the right thing.

Top 50 sexiest men in Wales

November 16, 2009

I feel obliged to mention the men’s sexy list having blogged last week about the women’s.    I’m all about equality, me.

Jamie Roberts is officially the Sexiest Man in Wales, well according to the anonymous researchers at the Western Mail who come up with the list.     As with the women’s list it would be more accurately described as wonderful Welsh men who are on the telly a lot.  Much better representation of sports people than on the women’s list – 10 sportsmen whereas the top 50 women’s list didn’t include a single sportswoman.   Then again five of the sportsmen listed were in the Welsh rugby team and let’s face it the men’s Welsh rugby team is on telly a whole lot more than the women’s.     

As with the women’s list the more you’re on telly OUTSIDE Wales then, as a general rule, the higher you scored so Joe Calzaghe was at number 10 and Matthew Rhys and Ioan Gruffydd were up there in the high teens.  Not certain therefore why Rhys Ifans was only in at 38 as he’s been on telly a lot this year.     One businessman also managed to slip into the men’s top 50 – Huw Eurig Davies, chief executive of Boomerang, the independent TV production company.  Not quite on the telly but runs a company that makes telly programmes and therefore a close enough association with the telly to scrape in at number 49. 

Two politicians made it to the men’s list (only one in the women’s) although only towards the bottom of the list,  “charming” Huw Lewis at number 46 and at number 47 the 63 year old presiding officer of the National Assembly Lord Dafydd-Elis Thomas because “power is sexy, but this former university lecturer from Ceredigion exudes cool and calm with it.”   If power plus cool and calm equals sexy where was Carwyn Jones then?  Or should we all be really rather glad that the person tipped most likely winner of the Welsh labour leadership contest has managed to avoid the sexy list?

The Western Mail’s top 50 sexiest women in Wales

November 8, 2009
According to the front page of the Western Mail (Wales’ National Newspaper) yesterday was Super Saturday.  This was because Cardiff and Swansea were playing football, Wales and New Zealand were playing rugby and the Western Mail was publishing its list of the top 50 sexiest women in Wales.  Wow!  Sport AND sex on the front page.  That’s got to help the circulation figures.
The job of trying to define sexy (or more accurately of trying NOT to define it) fell to Karen Price.  She asked “What does sexy mean to you?  Does it define someone who is conventionally gorgeous-looking with an effortless style to boot?  Someone who oozes confidence and isn’t afraid to stand up and be counted?  Perhaps it’s someone who’s intelligent and go-getting? 
Er, no, actually.  Stacey Solomon was charged with the task of looking sexy on last night’s X factor.   The primary definition of sexy according to my Chambers 21 Century dictionary is: sexually attractive, stimulating or arousing sexual desire and that’s pretty much what Stacey was trying to be although she found singing with a pout and walking with a wiggle at the same time difficult to do.  However much the Western Mail may try to stretch “sexy” into a catch all kind of definition for something much more complex and multi-layered, the clue to what most people mean by sexy is right there in the word.  It means shaggable.  
I obviously have a thing about lists.  I’ve already blogged about Insider’s Power 100 and the Western Mail’s Movers and Shakers complaining about the lack of women in those lists.  And now here I am moaning about a list compiled entirely of women.  There’s no pleasing some is there?  One of the things I’ve queried about the “business” lists is the criteria used for selecting the people who make the lists but at least they set out those criteria.   The top 50 sexiest women in Wales list didn’t bother with that but their criteria weren’t exactly difficult to work out – candidates have to be on telly or radio – acting, singing, presenting, news reading, reality TV at a push – and have a pretty face.    And if you want to be in the top half of the list you’ve got to be on telly and radio and sexy OUTSIDE of Wales too.
Katherine Jenkins made it not only to number 6 of the sexiest women of Wales list but also to last year’s Insider Power 100.   The only woman in Wales this year apparently who is both powerful and sexy.  Otherwise, there are no Welsh sportswomen or academics or business women in the sexy list this year (and just one politician, Bethan Jenkins at number 41, who used to be in a band apparently so that’s alright then).  Presumably, to answer Karen Price’s rhetorical questions, these sorts of woman don’t ooze confidence or are afraid to stand up and be counted?  Aren’t intelligent and go-getting enough? 
For the most part, I really rate the women who feature in the sexiest women list.  Joanna Page is exactly as the Western Mail describes her – funny, warm, confident, intelligent, down to earth and with a natural beauty.   The list is stuffed with talented, capable, outspoken, beautiful women who are flying the flag for Wales in the media in the fields of music, acting and presenting.   Women who have made us laugh and cry; made us proud.    That description uses more words and might not sell as many papers as “sexy” but it’s so much more accurate.   Here’s an idea for 2010: The Western Mail’s top 50 Wonderful Welsh Women in the media.     

Who’s Who 2009 The Movers and Shakers in Welsh Business

June 16, 2009

The Western Mail’s “Who’s Who 2009 The Movers and Shakers in Welsh Business” landed on my desk last week.  It can also be viewed on line at Media Wales’ website although you must first click onto the business pages and then on to the Who’s Who guide.   The criterion for entry is “those considered influential in the private sector”.  When we put in my firm’s submission for inclusion in the guide, the submission rules provided clearly that only one person per organisation could be put forward yet in his foreword to the guide Sion Barry advises “There are a few instances of more than one representative from a company” without detailing on what basis a company managed to get more than one representative in.    Number of employees?  Size of turnover?  Employing lots of people  “influential in the private sector?”

Anyway because I’m sad like that and because I’d done the same thing to Insider’s Power 100 I counted up the total number of people listed in the Private Sector section – 354 – and then I counted how many women there were within that 354.  There were 32.  Superwomen we failed to hit even 10%.    The split of influential people in Wales (as determined by the Western Mail and ” a number of their business contacts who provided their invaluable expertise in helping to identify suitable candidates”) is more than 90% male, less than 10% women. 

If Sion Barry had been to a Superwoman event (especially our flagship event in October which last year was attended by more than 160 women) I think he’d be forced to conclude that women account for more than 10% of the influential people in the private sector in Wales.  (We’ve never said men aren’t allowed -we’ve just never had one apply to come.)  So why is our showing in this guide so poor?  I think it is at least in part to the requirement on the submission guidelines that only one person per organisation could be put forward.   The percentage of women on the board of companies is low (just 12% on the FTSE 100 boards in November 2008) but the percentage of women who are chief executives and chairs is even less.  Based on the Western Mail’s guidelines only the chief honcho could be put forward so even really very senior honchas with bags of influence could not be included if they did not have the top job.  Unless of course one of the Western Mail’s contacts identified them and what’s the odds those contacts have got cojones not ovarios? 

There’s lots of reasons women don’t get the top job.   Sometimes due to discrimination, sometimes  because they want to work hard but also be  good mothers which doesn’t sit well with the time commitment and unbroken career path of the very top job.   Michelle Obama doesn’t have the top job in America but she’s got plenty of influence.     Sion Barry invites us to email him if you believe you should be included in the list and says if you do he will consider adding you to the on line version.  Superwomen – let’s get emailing –

Shirley Conran’s Tips for Working Women

February 23, 2009

For those of you who did not see it in the Sunday Times yesterday, here are the top tips of the original Superwoman, Shirley Conran, for working women:

  • Be realistic.  A woman can have it all but probably not all at once.
  • Dump feelings of guilt about not being at home all the time.  Remember you are dumping them to protect your psychological health, your spouse or boyfrined – if you have one – and any children.
  • One- parent mothers need to remember that no man – however wonderful – can replace a child’s father so help it to see as much as possible of his or her father, and have a bit more time to yourself, too.
  • Try to be a bit healthier than you are at the moment.  Any higher aim is unrealistic.
  • Plan on paper.  Keep a diary and plan your weekends and evenings as carefully as you do your weekdays.  Use an index card to plan your day, with not more than three things to do and three telephone calls to make.  If you add something, cross something else off.  List everything that needs doing and delegate all except five important items.
  • Don’t take on too much.  If you do, get out of it firmly.  Just say no and keep saying no.
  • My gran told me that you can’t get a quart out of a pint pot and this is the key to self-management.  Things haven’t changed.  To get through life you need a fast, adaptable sense of priorities to achieve your particular work-life balance. 

There’s a lot of good advice here.  I particularly like the bit about trying to be a bit healthier but that any higher aim is unrealistic and that women can have it all, just not all at once.  However, what Superwoman plans her day (on paper!) around only three things to do and three phone calls to make and is in a position to delegate?  Only three things to do is a day off for most of us, particularly as the only delegation most of us can do is to tell the kids to pick up their toys and their other halves to pick up their dirty socks.  Still, for being one of the first to tell the world that it is possible to have a career and children and for her OBE for services to equality, we salute you Shirl.

Superwoman’s back, huh? Pass the cheese doodles – a view from Canada

January 23, 2009

The following is an article from Canada’s Globe and Mail which appeared on Saturday 17 January 2009 by kind permission of the writer, Leah McLaren:

I’ve got a hot idea for a block buster sequel.

It’s about an average woman who manages to save the world by being all things to all people: Wife, mother, friend,  artist,  earner,  athlete, chef, sex kitten, cleaner, interior decorateor, self-actualiszed spiritual guide – you name it, our heroine does it.  The title, in case you haven’t figured it out yet,  is Superwoman Returns – and it’s coming to a theatre near you.

That’s right.  Superwoman is back.  Just when you thought she’d retired her cape and spike-heeled designer boots, that pulled-together, working-mother-with-a-social-conscience-and-impossibly-great-hair has returned to show us all up once and for all.  Unlike the last time, she is not going to give up and move to the suburbs.  The new Superwoman is hot, hip, defiantly downtown and eco-friendly.  To head off the bad press sparked by her last attempt to make the universe perfect, she even has some character “quirks” that make her seem more “real”.  (For instance, she admits to having struggled with postpartum depression in the three weeks before returning to work after her third, smokes a cheeky cigarette once a while and – Wait! Is that a laugh line on her brow? No injections for this chemical-free nouveau boho – the wrinkles on her face are a road map of her past, which has been incredibly fulfilling, thank you very much).

The new Superwoman is just like you or me, except that she’s way better at everything.  Forget the shoulder-padded, gym-slaving, working mom of yesteryear – this is a woman you actually want to be but, of course, never will.  The only thing she has in common with her predecessor is her breath-taking talent for making the rest of us feel bad.  Which we do.  Because we’re women.

I knew something was afoot last Sunday night, when I was scarfing cheese doodles and watching Kate Winslet accept her second Golden Globe of the night.  Observing Winslet’s new arm sinew and detoxified glow, I suddently remembered I was supposed to be on a cleanse (a.k.a as a diet).

My girlfriend from Toronto (who, unlike me, happens to be an incredibly busy mother, wife and successful magazine editor) had e-mailed me earlier in the week extolling the virtues of a new cleansing “system” she had been reading about.  “I know you love a good January cleanse,” she wrote.  “Too bad you’re not here so we could suffer together.”

I wrote back immediately vowing to eat brown rice and kale with her for 21 days, tracking our daily progress together online.  No alcohol, no caffeine, but think of how gorgeous how colons would be!  For five minutes I was very excited.  Then I forgot all about it.  But Gwyneth Paltrow is cleansing.  I know this because I occasionally amuse/punish myself by reading her weekly blog Goop, which could also be called Diary of an Unapologetic Superwoman.  It’s full of all sorts of unintentionally hilarious tips on how to “nourish your inner space” by eliminating white foods, pairing hot pink tights with a black mini dress and “embracing the Kaballistic view of families.”

It’s easy to roll your eyes at Gwyneth and Kate, with their self consciously constructed I’m-just-a-regular-gal personas.  Even more annoying is Caroline Kennedy, who, in her U.S Senate bid, typifies the late-stage incarnation of the new Superwoman.  A former member of the opt-out generation that eschewed the work-place in favour of full-time motherhood, Kennedy is now using her privilege to opt back in, proving that even traditional soccer moms, provided they’re famous and well-connected, might eventually “have it all”.

The real difficulty is imagining how these Superwoman can possibly find enough time to do all the things they apparently do.  Is it really possible to host a cooking show, run a website, work out with a trainer for two hours a day, do the cooking, spend quality time with the kids, be happily married to a rock singer, constantly update your wardrobe and be an A-list movie star?  According to Gwyneth, it’s not just possible, it’s balm for the soul. 

The reality of course, is that any woman attempting this in real life would end up certifiably insane, uncontrollably bitch, in need of serious medication or all of the above – which more or less describes the protagonist of my favourite new TV show, The United States of Tara, set to air Monday on the Movie Network.

Written by the only ex-stripper we know of to win a screenwriting Oscar, Diablo Cody of Juno fame, it follows the story of a suburban mon (Toni Collette) with one major flaw – she has three other personalities.  Judging by the first episode, the show is the logical conclusion of the Superwoman myth.  Tara’s tendencies to flip from biker dude to teenage beeyotch to Betty Crocker homemaker is a clever illustration of why it’s impossible to be all things to all people.  Now there’s a lesson every aspiring Superwoman should heed.

Well, that’s my un-Kabbalistic view for the week.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to the kitchen to eat some white stuff.  Even real women have got to nourish their inner space.