Why it matters that we finally have a woman playing The Doctor

It’s been a long time coming but many women across Britain have finally realised a dream which I wasn’t sure would ever come true a female lead in the British cult series – Dr Who.

A few years ago, I remember talking to a producer of Dr Who and asked the question ‘when is the Doctor going to be a woman?’. She advised me that it would never happen because the fans didn’t want it and the ratings would fall if that decision was made.

We now get to find out if that is a valid concern or indeed if the change means the series can inspire a whole new audience.

Why does it matter whether we have a female Doctor?

It isn’t just a nice thing to do for women, it really matters that we have female role models who are visible and leading the way. Being able to see women in prominent roles and breaking new ground is an inspiration for girls everywhere. It tells our daughters that anything is possible and they can actually be whatever they want to be.

Role models help to raise aspirations and show girls they can succeed. Whether it’s leadership, media, engineering or something else, we need to see that women can achieve in whatever they choose and this character provides someone for our girls to look up to.

For those girls watching Jodie Whittaker taking on the Daleks, it tells them they can have leading roles, become action heroes and achieve what seems impossible if they want to. We see far too little of girls having adventures so many of us are cheering this turn of events and hope that it marks the beginning of an era where girls can get right in the thick of it too.

Typically, women are seen as not having power so hopefully having a woman play an extraterrestrial Time Lord who zips through time and space to solve problems and battle injustice across the universe will help to change this.

Do women have equal opportunities in the media?

It’s been a big week for women with names and salaries of the BBCs highest paid stars being published in a bid to improve transparency of the public service. Reading the news articles ahead of the release, I was disappointed to see this quote: ‘It’s good to see some women on the list too’. This is the type of attitude that creates inequality in the first place and allows it to continue. It’s shocking to discover that women account for just 1/3 of the list and men exclusively hold the top 12 highest paid roles.

What impact does a lack of female role models have on wider society?

An article published by Forbes explains the need for role models perfectly:

“Seeing few people who look and act like them in industries like science and politics discourages girls from pursuing their interests if those interests are not popular. This robs the world of future talent that has massive potential to feed innovation, create change, and boost the economy”

When young women and girls see Jodie Whittaker or other leading lights taking on new challenges and succeeding in the chosen field, they think ‘if they can do it, so can I’. So thank you to the BBC for taking diversity seriously and finally appointing a female Doctor to show our girls they have options.

What can you do to help ensure we have good role models for girls to look up to?

You can be visible – if you have any kind of role that challenges gender stereotypes, do what you can to make it known to others so you can inspire girls coming though.

You can be the change – when you secure a role in an area where women are under-represented, you can help to create a space where women are welcome and judged on their own merits.

You can help others – if you make it to a position of authority or even achieve something that others admire, you can share your story and experiences to help others do the same.

If you have any thoughts about what more needs to happen to promote female role models or have an experience to share with us, please post in the comments below.


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Photo credit: Pixabay

Authenticity and believing what you say

Over the last few days, I’ve been developing a speech writing workshop which has involved trawling through videos on you tube to find a range of public speakers that my group can study.

In trying to get gender and political balance, I’ve had to look particularly hard for footage of women. My search eventually led me to watch some clips of Mhairi Black and I couldn’t help thinking what a great leader she is. So what does she have that makes her stand out? What is it that gives her authority and makes people want to support her?

Well, the first thing is that she commands attention. When she speaks, people listen. She’s given some great performances lately and that makes us want to hear more.

The next thing is that she comes across as standing up for people and raising issues that matter on the ground. The speeches I watched were about pensions and Trident in which she highlights the negative impact of policy decisions on constituents. She really seems to care about the issues and doing the right thing for people.

What she does very cleverly is draw comparisons with things that everyone can relate to. For example, in her speech on pensions, she talked about mobile phone contracts which made the pensions issue that is so real for the WASPI women, something which felt real to everyone listening.

And she’s inclusive. She tries to bring people together by setting out her vision and inviting others to join her by focusing on the issues and transcending political boundaries.

All of this from the youngest Member of Parliament in the House of Commons who also happens to be female and a proud LGBT rights activist. Challenging every stereotype there is around politicians, you can’t help wanting to be just like her making her a fantastic role model for others.

All of these things together, I would argue, make her an excellent example of the authentic leader we hear so much about today. She has a real sense of honesty and integrity that instils confidence.

I think it was Tony Benn who said ‘if you say what you believe and believe what you say’ you can’t go far wrong and this certainly seems to be true in this case and a truth I think all leaders would do well to keep close to their heart.
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