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Automation Digital Skills Green Technology Industry

Digital Pollution: Make Tech Green

As its Earth Day this week, Find Your Flex is doing its part on raising awareness and inciting change to make a greener world. Digital Pollution is one of the biggest contributors to global pollution right now. This may surprise some readers, when you think of the word “digital” and its many connotations, the thought of it being a cause of pollution may seem surprising. Though it shouldn’t, as this is the digital age. The digital industry is one of if not the largest industry on the planet right now, so naturally it is contributing to global pollution. So, what is digital pollution and why is it important to know about it?

What Digital Pollution Is

The digital industry has been growing for decades. Every year something physical is replaced by something digital. Once upon a time, our only way of communicating with someone far away was to write a letter. Then it takes days or weeks to be received and read by the intended recipient. Then came emails which could be read in minutes, now we have direct messages that can be read and responded to in seconds. Long ago the only way to speak to someone face to face was to meet up in person. Now we can speak to people without getting out of bed; by picking up a smart phone or laptop and using services such as FaceTime, Zoom, Skype etc. Digital has made the impossible possible over the years and that is something that especially now we are profoundly grateful for, but it comes at a price.

The Shift Project has been conducting research for several years to see the impact digital evolution is having on the climate. Its easy to forget what goes into creating digital device and services, which is why its easy to assume digital is environmentally friendly. But that assumption could not be further from the truth. CO2 emissions of ICT has grown by 450 million tons since 2013. And the energy intensity of the ICT sector is growing by 4% per year. There are many fossil fuels required to make our devices and maintain the services that we use. Its a good job the “cloud” we upload all our data to is invisible, if visible it would be a thick, grey, choking smog that we increase the size of every day. So what is the cause of all this? The same as all other forms of pollution in the world: us.

Trends + Greed = Digital Pollution

That shouldn’t come as too much of a shock. How many forms of pollution is humanity not responsible for? But in terms of Digital Pollution, what is the main cause? Again, the root cause of all forms of pollution: our greed. There is a reason greed is one of the 7 deadly sins; we’ve been killing our planet with it for centuries now. The majority of it comes down to what is new and “trending” and society’s unhealthy obsession with having the next best thing.

In some cases we even judge each other on the possessions we have. For example: if you have an older model of a phone or do not have the latest games console people judge you on your social status and these judgments can be cruel. This is especially prominent in children and teenagers; they put pressure on their parents to buy them the latest digital gadget to maintain or increase their social status. And since parents don’t want their child to be bullied, they oblige. Yet just as many adults have adopted this practice of buying the newest digital developments simply because its new and “everyone wants it”, whether they need it or not.

If it ain’t Broke, Don’t Buy a New One.

Greed and the need to stay trendy compels us to continue to buy what we do not need. Apple bring out a new model of iPhone every 24 to 48 months, right now we are up to the iPhone 12. There are people who buy the newest model of iPhone as often as possible. Even those that bought a brand new iPhone XS a little over 2 years ago buy this new version, why? Their iPhone XS is still in working order so why do they need to have the latest model? Because it has one or two new features, that in the grand scheme of things are not really necessary. And the screen is slightly clearer with a marginally better quality camera. Or the simple fact that its the newest model out there and they want to show it off and look cool.

However its not just getting the newest model available that is the problem. Once again one of the 7 deadlies; gluttony, is a contributing reason why digital pollution is prominent. Apple have a plethora of products, yet most of them do the same things. There are hundreds of people out there who own an Apple MacBook, an iPad, an iPhone and an Apple Watch. Yet almost every one of those devices can do the same thing and provide the same service as the other, with only a small number of features making them different. So why on earth does one person need each of these? If you ask, the reasons will likely be quite superficial as there is no plausible reason to buy a new digital device for something that can be done with a device you already own. And again it comes down to greed and gluttony.

So why does all this have an impact on digital pollution? Simple where do you think your old devices go when you have replaced them with newer ones? And for anyone who thinks they are being good by giving them to a family member, selling them online or giving them to a second-hand shop, I hate to burst your bubble but that makes little difference. As the phone you’re giving to someone else will be simply replacing a older device of theirs. That iPhone XR you’ve given away is likely replacing an iPhone 6 which will have to be thrown away. And it is the combination of fossil fuels used to make these devices that is having a disastrous effect on the environment.

Now consumers are not totally to blame for this. There are big companies out there who design their devices to decrease capability after a certain length of time. This then forces consumers to buy newer devices, so large corporations do need to do their part to stop this. However, if you have a perfectly functional iPhone X there’s no reason to buy an iPhone 12, none whatsoever. And if you chose to do this, you are part of a growing problem that is having disastrous consequences for the environment. If you don’t need it, do not buy it, it is as simple as that.

Netflix and… pollute?

Its not just the over consumption of digital devices that is the issue. In fact the much larger issue is the consumption of online videos. Online video, generates 60% of of world data flows and thus over 300 million tons of CO2 per year. It represents 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions of all digital devices (use and production included), and 1% of global emissions. This is largely down to the usage of streaming services such as Netflix, which makes up 34% of the 60%. This research was conducted in 2019 and taking the pandemic into account, these will likely have increased dramatically over the last year.

We use these services without thinking, they are just there. We sometimes have Netflix or NowTV on in the background while we do other things. Or perhaps spend countless hours browsing through YouTube videos just for something to do. It would be hypocritical if I did not admit to being guilty of this. I watch videos on YouTube that I am only mildly interested in and do not really care about. I have had Netflix playing in the background while I work because I like the background noise. We have become drunk on these streaming services when once again, in reality we do not need them! There are alternatives that predate these services that could lesson the impact they are having on the environment.

Many online streaming services lure in subscribers by promoting a popular series or film. Yet we don’t have to sign up to a monthly streaming service for this. If you love Game of Thrones or the Walking Dead and want to watch them, go out and by the DVD boxset. Remember DVD’s? They’re far cheaper in the long run and you can still watch them whenever you want. They also have far less of an impact on the environment than streaming services. Once again though, the service providers are equally to blame. They make some series exclusive to their service and do not make physical copies available. Yet turning back to DVDs is a change we should all consider. Once we do this companies will have no choice but to make more available to make the required sales.

What is the Solution to Digital Pollution? We don’t know.

Some edits in behaviours towards digital have been mentioned above. And these will definitely help lesson the impact Digital Pollution has and we should absolutely try to adopt these mindsets. However, they alone will not solve the problem. So what is the overall solution to this growing problem? The scary truth is we don’t know.

This is the digital age we’re living in and the fact is we have become completely dependant on digital technology. The last 13 months has proven that without a shadow of doubt. And in many way we have to be grateful in that regard. Digital devices have saved lives during this pandemic, there is no arguing that. Isolation would have meant something entirely different without the ability to communicate digitally or have access to certain online services. It has been hard enough with them, so the thought of living without them in the same manner is a terrifying thought.

But that doesn’t change the damage that this industry is doing to our planet. And the fact that there is no clear solution to stop this has to mean something. We need to come up with ways of making tech Green, so that further digitalization is sustainable. Right now it isn’t and we cannot ignore that, the facts must hit home. We have already done enough damage to the eco system throughout the centuries in one form or another. The difference is we didn’t know it then, we do now so there is no excuse. We need to make changes and develop solutions now. Make technology green and halt digital pollution in its tracks.

To hit home just how reliant society is on digital, check out this piece on the digital skills gap. And perhaps we should now ask ourselves if green tech awareness should be incorporated into these skills?

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Disability Equality and Diversity Flexible Working

Autism Awareness & Inclusion in the Workplace

As part of National Autism Awareness Week 2021, Find Your Flex is here to help raise awareness. To assist to cultivate much needed change within the workplace in regards to autistic people.

COVID-19 has given pause for much thought over the last year. In many ways the pandemic has given the opportunity to make a fresh start. It is impossible to deny that some societal practices continued until they were forced to stop. Now that we are in position to move forward, certain mindsets must be left behind. Especially the inclusion of neurodiversity in the workplace.

Autism Awareness: Employer Inclusivity

When it comes to neurodiverse people, employers in the UK are not accommodating or inclusive enough. That seems like a harsh blanket statement. Sadly, there is concrete evidence to back this up. Only 22% of autistic adults are employed in the UK as of 2020. In a modern society claiming to be forward-thinking, diversified and inclusive, these statistics are unacceptable.

Employers need to be making stronger commitments to inclusive cultures. The benefits are twofold. Firstly, talented people are able to enter the workforce, utilise their skills and grow. Secondly employers and organisations reap the benefits of a more creative and innovative team. It is baffling that there are not more neurodiverse people in the workplace. They are a massive pool of exceptional talent and missed opportunities.

Be Aware of what Autistic People bring to the table

Employers need to be aware of what they are potentially missing out on. There are some exceptionally talented people looking for work. Being neurodiverse shouldn’t be a factor in them not finding employment. Autistic people may need to work in a different way than what employers are used to. All it requires is an understanding employer and an open conversation about how they work best.

The National Autistic Society, interviewed Jamie Knight; Senior Research Engineer at the BBC. Jamie has a number of important roles, including developing software, conduct tech maintenance and ensuring their apps and services are running properly. This is just one example of how much neurodiverse people can bring to the table at a senior level. This is for one of the most globally recognised organisations; the BBC. This is definitely an indicator for more organisations to follow this example and really take an internal look at their recruitment process.

Autism Awareness: Perceiving the World around us

The first aspect of autism awareness employers need to recognise is that they need to rid themselves of existing mindsets. Neurodiverse people perceive the world differently than people who are not neurodiverse. This is the mindset employers and society in general must adopt if they haven’t already. For example; a faulty lightbulb in a lit room can be slightly annoying but easy to ignore for some people. Yet for an autistic person this can be something potentially debilitating.

In NAS’s interview with Jamie Knight, he sums up perfectly how employers and society in general should view neurodiverse people:

“Look, its not that I’m defective, it’s that the environment is disabling me. So if I start modifying the environment, it will stop disabling me. I’ll still remain impaired … But I can stop it from having a negative impact on my life.”

And this is key when employing neurodiverse people. Make small changes to the workplace environment, interactions and overall processes. This will accommodate someone who can prove to be an invaluable asset. Making this less of an inconvenience and more of investment. General acceptance and adapting to people is an easy part of creating a more inclusive environment. Jaimie has Lion with him at all times as he says he helps to keep him happy. And Lion even acts as an indicator for how Jaimie is feeling. When neurodiverse people are comfortable in their environment they can thrive as well as anyone else. Any employer can see this as a positive thing which they can prosper from.

Recruitment Process: Inclusivity & Accommodation

Accommodating neurodiverse people does not start once they are in the job. It needs to start at the beginning of the recruitment process. Job descriptions can sometimes ask for too much. Listing a number unnecessary requirements as “essential” to the job, when in practice they are not. This isn’t just an issue that concerns neurodiverse people, but it does present a greater barrier for them more so than others.

Employers casually include “essential requirements” in job descriptions without thinking much of it. Such as: ‘excellent communication skills’ or ‘must work well in a team’. These skills can often be included in job descriptions where the employee would be mostly working independently or would not need to interact much with others to do the job well. If this is the case, why are these skills part of the essential criteria? An autistic person will see this and automatically move on as they may not have these skills, yet they could have been exceptional in that role. This is also true for people who are not neurodiverse. Instead of looking for the “perfect” candidate, employers should be searching for the right candidate. Consider what really is essential and what is not.

The same is true for the interview process. Candidate assessments in interviews can include asking vague, open ended questions and reading body language. An autistic person should not be assessed in this way as it is unfair; they perceive things differently and may not perform well under this kind of assessment. A better assessment of their performance would be to give them a trial in the appropriate role and asses their performance this way. Employers need to adopt these changes in practice if they are aiming to create a more diverse and inclusive environment.

Why Flexible Working for Neurodiverse People is Key

Flexible working should be available for everyone, yet it is a key element of working life for neurodiverse people. For an autistic person, aspects in and out of the workplace can derail them for the rest of the day. And as previously stated; neurodiverse people perceive things differently and therefore have to cope with this in a different way. Therefore it is completely unfair, inappropriate and ignorant to expect neurodiverse people to operate on fixed shifts all the time with no room for compromise.

This not only shows a total lack of autism awareness but is a totally regressive way of working. If companies maintain this approach they are making no effort to facilitate a diverse and inclusive working environment. Now it is true that some neurodiverse people require structure and benefit from having fixed shifts. That is fine, flexible working does not effect that. It simply means the company can work around neurodiverse employees if their environment has left them incapable of operating under their normal hours for whatever reason. This is why flexible working is an essential requirement for neurodiverse people which all organisations should adopt. They outcome can only be positive.

Autism Awareness: Improve Lives

Like anyone else, neurodiverse people may want a certain level of independence, sense of achievement and purpose. For most adults, these aspects of life are defined by their careers. We achieve independence through the money we make from our job to become self reliant. We often strive for achievements within our job and measure our success with these. Often our career is literally the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning, giving our lives structure and purpose. Neurodiverse people deserve to have the opportunity for these basic fundamental parts of life that everyone is entitled to.

Employers are the ones with the ability to make this happen. This can be done simply by creating a more inclusive and diverse environment. It can not be understated the impact this can have on the life of a neurodiverse person. All too often the base need they have is structure and nothing provides this more than a career which will also grant them a certain level of independence. This is the way forward in a post-COVID world, employers and society need to embrace this sooner rather than later.

Categories
Equality and Diversity

International Women’s Day: 10 Inspirational Women

What it makes Inspirational Women?

There has been something of a women’s revolution going on in society. Inspirational women are stepping forward and speaking out on a united front. To abolish stigmas, gender pay gaps and recognise how strong, smart, and savvy women are.

In honour and recognition of International Women’s Day 2021, we will be looking at some powerful and inspirational women; historical figures and current trail blazers. The Find Your Flex team have put forward their candidates for women who deserve recognition.

1: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson: The first woman in Britain to become a doctor
(Image Credit: The Telegraph/Holly Godfrey)

A woman who punched the glass ceiling until it shattered. No matter how many times the institutions and government of her time tried to reinforce it. In the early 19th century there were few roles for women to fill in life. In the 1800’s, a woman’s the best lot in life was to make an agreeable marriage. Living life as a wife, mother and lady of leisure. For Elizabeth Garrett Anderson this was nowhere near enough. Believing that if her education was as good as any man’s, she should could enter the same profession.

Anderson’s dream was to become a doctor, something unheard of in Britain during those days. This didn’t stop her from going down every avenue to get there. After exploiting to legal technicalities, the institution amended rules so no woman could do the same. Setting her own rules, Anderson opened her own hospital. As an added gesture of defiance had it staffed solely by women. Anderson became the first practicing female doctor in British history.


Thanks to her tenacity, the rules were changed to allow women in Britain to become doctors. Anderson would achieve another first, after retirement she became mayor of Aldeburgh. The first woman in British history to become a mayor. Anderson was a staunch supporter of the suffragette movement. Her own daughter (no doubt in part due to having such an inspiring mother) was a prominent figure. Anderson’s refusal to back down helped to break the mould of what women could achieve.

2: Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton Continues to Be the Hero of 2020
(Image Credit: Vanity Fair/Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

If you call Dolly Parton a legend of country music, you’d be right, but that would be such a small tip of the iceberg. She travelled to Nashville ‘the home of country music’, at the young age of 18. She used irony, stereotypes and her looks to get her foot in the door. But once inside, she used her personality to slam it behind her.

In looks Parton fit the mould of what it meant to be a female country singer. In personality she broke it into pieces. Dolly used irony to her advantage. While portraying a stylish, busty blonde, her music was attacking stereotypes. Her first chart record was “Dumb Blonde” took clear shots at misogynistic views on women. Many of Dolly’s songs had subliminal messages about the strength of women. Though in 1966, the was nothing subtle about a song she released called “Just Because I’m a Woman”. The song she challenged double-standards, calling out how poorly men can treat women and get away with it.

Despite clear implications of her music, Parton remained ambiguous about her views on feminism. Parton became one of the most globally recognised music stars of all time and in many ways does not get the credit she deserves. She was challenging female stereotypes and gender double standards during risky periods. Dolly Parton is not just an inspirational woman in music. But an inspirational woman period.

3: Anita Roddick

Image
(Image Credit: Twitter @TheBodyShop)

Anita Roddick is an inspiring business woman and entrepreneur who founded The Body Shop. She was humble, claiming that certain things happened by accident and led to success. Yet those inspired by her can see that she had the business savvy to capitalise on these “accidents”. She was an understated figure of female empowerment. Recognised for this, she was awarded the 1991 World Vision Award for Development Initiative.

Roddick had the vision to look at the long term implications of her business decisions. When she sold Body Shop to L’Oréal, she faced some harsh criticism. At the time reports suggested they used animal testing. Something Roddick claimed to be against. Her response was that she likened them move to being like ‘Trojan Horse’. She would have an input on the company’s decisions, as would the suppliers of Body Shop. This proved to be true. L’Oréal currently claim to be world leaders in abolishing animal testing. Something Roddick may be directly or indirectly responsible for.

Roddick was also a notable activist and philanthropist, involved in many charities. She founded Children on the Edge (COTE). Aiding overcrowded conditions in orphanages dealing with catastrophic issues. Roddick became an advocate for people suffering with Hepatitis C, as she too suffered from this disease. Upon her death she reportedly donated the entirety of her fortune to charity. Anita Roddick was pinnacle of what it mean to be a great business woman. One who gives back, any young aspiring entrepreneur should take inspiration from her.

4: Serena Williams

Serena Williams played in the Yarra Valley Classic as a tuneup to the Australian Open.
(Image Credit: The New York Times/David Gray/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Serena Williams is arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, breaking and setting records. Williams has broken down race and gender barriers through her passion and outspoken persona. From a young age she faced racism, her father was protective over her and her sister Venus on this matter. Racial discrimination continued throughout her adult career. Her gender was also a point of contention as the world of tennis was a white male dominated world.

Serena was criticized for her cultural hair style and faced many other derogatory comments early on. Serena along with her father and sister, boycotted the Indian Wells when her family received racial abuse. She openly challenges officials for sexist discrimination and is often outspoken. She has done a lot to empower women. Inspiring them to push themselves in athletic professions and shedding light on the significant gender pay gap in most sports. Serena is a trail blazer in shattering the idea of a what a woman is “supposed to look like”. Abolishing the image of what conventional beauty is.

She has done much to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Vocalising personal concerns and what needs to change. Williams has stood up for the LGBT community. When other members of her profession have made disparaging remarks. She used her personal successes to abolish gender pay gaps and to push for more equality across the board. This included becoming one of the highest paid athletes in the world two years in a row through sponsorships. Owing to her immense popularity as a female role model, in any list of inspirational women, Serena Williams stands out.

5: Tanni Grey-Thompson

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson career in pictures
(Image Credit: The Telegraph)

Its one thing to make such a long lasting mark in sports. But to go on to a career in politics and make your mark defines inspirational women. Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson is one such woman, born with spina bifida and requiring a wheelchair. Grey-Thompson would go on to become one of the most accomplished disabled athletes in the UK. Grey-Thompson achieved a BA (Hons) Degree in Politics and Social Administration. She would return to the subject of her degree later on in life, after making an impact in athletics.

Tanni would start her Paralympic career at the Junior National Games for Wales in 1984. Grey-Thompson became an inspiration to women and people suffering with disabilities. She won 16 Paralympic medals, 11 of which were gold. She held 30 track world records during her time competing in both 100m and 400m. Grey-Thompson’s last Paralympic Games were in Athens in 2004.

She has won many awards including being voted UK Sporting Hero by UK sports. Grey-Thompson returned to her academic routes, becoming an Independent Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords. Aside from her role in sport and in politics, Grey-Thompson is involved with many charities. Being an advocate for disabled people in sports, using her own success to inspire others. She made an impact in the world of sports. And to transition from that into the daunting world of politics is beyond admirable.

6: Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai discusses depression and Dr. Seuss with Teen Vogue
(Image Credit: The New York Post/Getty Images)

There are still countries where women are confined to only having children and being wives. Malala Yousafzai was only a child when she began speaking out for women’s rights in Pakistan. Malala’s unyielding bravery brought her a lot of media attention. She gave interviews to both the BBC and the New York Times. She became so notable she was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize.

At the age of 15, on her way home from school on the bus a gunman for the Taliban boarded the vehicle. Malala was shot in the head and left in a critical condition. She was sent to the Quean Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and would go on to make a full recovery. The attack resulted in the United Nations denouncing and condemning the Taliban. The attempt to silence her only strengthened Yousafzai’s resolve. She continued to speak out and raise awareness. After her recovery, she studied at Oxford University. Earning a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economy.

In 2014 she became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She brought awareness to the fact that in some parts of the world girls and women are no were near able fight for equal pay and recognition. Because they are still in the midst of fighting for basic human rights that we all take for granted. There are many inspirational women throughout history who deserve recognition. Malala Yousafzai will go down as one of the greatest activists in history.

7: Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks
(Image Credit: thoughtco.com/William Philpott/Getty Images)

In the world of figures that cultivated change, a name than cannot go unmentioned is Rosa Parks. Children today are taught about the brave, young woman who faced extreme racial discrimination. And refused to vacate her seat on the bus for a white person. Parks would become one of the most prominent figures in history. She was part of the civil rights movement, along with Martin Luther King Jr..

Her actions led to the Montgomery bus boycott. Where people of colour refused to use bus services in Montgomery for over a year. Rosa’s arrest would lead to the abolishment of bus segregation laws. This would have greater implications moving forward. Segregation was prominent in Alabama in the 1950’s. Furthermore, Rosa’s defiance was even more frowned upon due the fact that she was a woman. Its hard to believe that this event only happened 7 decades ago. As the years go on Rosa’s actions receive more recognition for the chain of events they led to. Rosa remained a part of the “Black Power” movement and continued to speak out for equal rights.

However, Rosa’s life after the event only became more difficult. She lost her job as a result of her arrest and began receiving death threats because of it. The long term implications of Park’s actions would come to fruition in later years. Despite this, Rosa remained outspoken about the need for further justice and change. Sadly, Rosa was correct in this regard, as the fight against racial discrimination goes on. Though, Rosa’s legacy gives strength and resolve to those continuing the fight. Without her actions the fight would be that much harder. Without a doubt, someone who stands up for themselves and others in the face of extreme adversity is an inspirational woman indeed.

8: Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey prepares for a title fight against Sara McMann in Las Vegas in February. The UFC star scored a disabling knee to McMann's gut for a TKO 66 seconds into their fight.
(Image Credit: Isaac Brekken/Associated Press)

There is an argument that the woman responsible for changing the gender imbalance in combat sports is Ronda Rousey. Ronda began a judo career and proved successful. Rousey became the first American to win a medal in judo since its inception at the Olympics. She began training in Mixed Martial Arts. The powers that be declared that no one wanted to watch two women legitimately trying to hurt each other in MMA. But with women in other sports becoming more polarizing. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) realised they needed to make a change.

The first female signee was Ronda Rousey. She became the inaugural UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. Rousey participated in the first UFC female fight in history. She would remain undefeated for years, gaining global popularity. During this time, Rousey was voted the best female athlete of all-time in a 2015 ESPN fan poll. After Rousey lost for the first time and again in her returning rematch, she retired. She was the first female inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2018.

In 2015, WWE began evolving its women’s division to focus more on wrestling rather than looks. Many believed that Rousey’s success in UFC was a large part of inciting this change in wrestling. Rousey began competing in WWE in 2018. She would feature in the first ever women’s main event in Wrestlemania history. Ronda has broken down many barriers for women in sports, earning many “firsts” for women. She has spoken about how she suffered with body image as a child. Bullied for looking too masculine due to her athletic physique and interest in video games. Many have credited Ronda as being one of the driving forces for change in women receiving equal recognition to men. Proving herself a force to be reckoned with and can be proud to know she is one of societies most inspirational women.

9: Bethenny Frankel

Skinnygirl CEO Bethenny Frankel uses Real Housewives for brand empire
(Image Credit: businessinsider.com/Richard Feloni and Sarah Wyman)

Most people reading this may recognise the name Bethenny Frankel as one of The Real Housewives of New York City. Bethenny had a mentally abusive mother who had a physically abusive relationship with her step-father. Bethenny would leave home and moved to Los Angeles with one goal: to become a success. She worked as a nanny for Paris Hilton before becoming the personal assistant of Jerry and Linda Bruckheimer. After this she started her own baked goods business. When the Bravo network contacted her to be part of RHONYC, she saw an opportunity to promote her business.

Bethenny became a fan favourite for her blunt, snarky, charismatic attitude. She was unafraid to laugh at herself, while equally unafraid to call people out. During this time Frankel created the ‘Skinnygirl Margarita’. A move that would have major implications for her. Frankel published several books and was offered her own spin-off and talk shows. Bethenny launched the first ever low-calorie cocktail line branded Skinnygirl Cocktails. Through partnerships, she grew the line to include other alcoholic beverages, foods and apparels.

Suffering mental and emotional abuse throughout her divorce. Her experiences would lead her to found Bstrong. A charity providing financial support for women that feel trapped in abusive situations. When Frankel saw the devastation caused by natural disasters, she raised millions. Travelling to destinations such as Houston, Mexico City and Puerto Rico. Bethenny Frankel ticks all the boxes of what it means to be strong in the list of inspirational women. Someone who has suffered abuse, became a successful business woman and given back to people less fortunate than herself.

10: Rose McGowan

American actress Rose McGowan has been indicted by the US court for possession of cocaine
(Image Credit: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

One of the biggest movements began when women stepped forward revealing the corruption and abuse of Hollywood. The most notable case involved then movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Rose McGowan was one of the “Silence Breakers” to step forward and accuse Weinstein of rape. McGowan’s first notable appearance was in the horror film Scream. She starred in some other notable films. In 1997, she was recommended to Weinstein and an encounter took place in which she was sexually assaulted.

In 2017, a story broke in the New York times. Many well-known figures in the film industry, accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. The number would grow to over 100 people and McGowan’s voice was one of the loudest. These events would lead to the MeToo movement. A massive global movement that encouraged victims of sexual abuse to step forward and call out the perpetrators. Rose would continue to bring awareness to the corruption of Hollywood. Calling out other industry figures for being complacent and looking the other way.

McGowan became an outspoken activist for LGBT and women’s rights. She shaved her long hair. Stating the image of conventual beauty depicted by Hollywood needed abolishing. That women should perpetuate their individual beauty. She has published her auto-biography Brave detailing her experiences. One thing is without dispute, Rose McGowan is the pinnacle of what brave, inspirational women are. One who refuses to fall in line and be silenced. By those who think they will always get away with it because of their gender and position.

Inspirational Women, Honourable Mentions:

Audrey Hepburn – Hepburn was a notable actress in the 1950s onwards. As a child she survived Nazi occupied Holland. She became a globally recognised actress. She did a lot for charity. Hepburn travelled to third world countries to meet underprivileged people and raise awareness

Kelly Hoppen – Hoppen is a notable business woman how began a career as an interior designer at the young age of 16. She built her empire and would go on to design home, yachts and private jets for celebrities and high-end clients. She would be a ‘Dragon’ on the show Dragons Den. Helping to support small businesses through investing and mentoring.


Amelia Sordell – “I am a boss. Not a girl boss. I am an entrepreneur. Not a female entrepreneur. I am a business owner. Not a woman in business. The sooner we drop gender from these phrases the better. Maybe we should start calling people ‘Male Entrepreneurs’ and ‘Boy Bosses’ to see how stupid it sounds.”.

There are many more inspirational women, past and present. These inspirational women have made a difference either by actively seeking change or achieving it through their personal success. We honour all women on International Women’s Day 2021. Which strong, brave, clever, tenacious woman do you take inspiration from?

Categories
Careers Flexible Working Students and Graduates

The Apprenticeship Route: Why it is a smart choice

The Apprenticeship route is a path to employment that has been around for decades. Despite many positive attributes, apprenticeships have almost become a second class career path. Taking a backseat to other means of gaining employment. This blog post will be looking at some disillusioned stigmas associated with apprenticeships. And why currently it is one of the smartest routes to take to gaining employment.

Are schools diverting traffic from the Apprenticeship Route?

In 2019 I conducted a survey within high schools with students and teachers as part of my internship. To find out which routes to employment they were most encouraged to take. The results were that the majority of students found apprenticeships appealing. Yet only a minority would actually choose this route. Students felt they did not have enough accessible information on apprenticeships.

The teachers’ survey yielded similar results. They claimed that the majority of students go to university. The teachers also admitted that there is ‘sometimes’ a stigma with other post-education career paths. They did say these attitudes are changing, but felt the other career paths are not as encouraged as university. Many said there could be more accessible information within schools on the apprenticeship route.

The results showed schools encourage the university route more than other career paths. A general comment made by teachers is that views on the apprenticeship route are changing and becoming more positive. Yet, that implies it is changing from a negative view, which should never have become prominent in the first place. One thing is clear, schools need to provide more encouragement and accessible information on apprenticeships. To do otherwise if depriving students of opportunities that could potentially lead to a fulfilling career.

The Impact of Parental Views on Apprenticeships

Parents want what is best for their children, it is their innate priority. And for a lot of young people, family opinions/encouragement is what impact’s their decisions the most. Parents can often map out their child’s career journey before they can even walk. Could pre-existing bias or misconceptions of post-education routes be impacting their children’s choices?

A survey on Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitudes relating to careers advice and guidance, was conducted Island between September 2019 and February 2020. Statistics showed that over two thirds (68%) of pupils agreed their family encouraged them to go to university. 2% more than the number of students who agreed it was their own choice to go to university. These statistics are worrying. Showing that parent encouragement of the university path could be detracting from the number of children choosing other (just as successful) routes to employment.

This shows a bias towards the university route. It’s clear the majority of parents think that university is the best path their child can take. They should focus on what career their child is pursuing. As the university route is not always the best way to get there. For many parents, their proudest moment was when their child received their degree. And they should be proud, that is an amazing achievement. However they also need to keep their priorities straight; which is more important? That framed cap and degree, while their child is upstairs on their computer struggling to find work? Or the knowledge that their child has a fulfilling career and were encouraged to choose the best means to get there? Parents must not let misconceived bias and pride derail them from doing what is best for their child’s future.

The Apprenticeship Route vs The University Route

Every job role is subjective; some require certain routes to get there. This section is less about deciding which route is better and more about creating a level playing field. It is true that there are many pros to going to university. Yet there are more than a few cons too. And it is a fact that apprenticeships do not have these same cons.

Certain job roles specify that they want a degree in the field. However, to some employers its does not mean that much. University is expensive, often new students have to borrow the money to go to university. You are essentially in debt before you have even gotten into a full time career. Also you are giving up three or more years of your life to studying. There may be less time consuming routes that lead to the same outcome. There is a level of exclusivity to some courses; they can be difficult to get into. You may find yourself a few points shy of the minimum and unable to get onto the course you want. An apprenticeship can be a worthwhile alternative.

You don’t pay to do for the apprenticeship route, you get paid. Although payment is the least you get out of an apprenticeship. What is more important is the experience you will gain. Employers are becoming as interested in experience as they are in a high level qualification. You may be able to do work placements and voluntary work while in university. But won’t gain as much experience as the full specified training while doing an apprenticeship. Some employers conducting apprenticeships tend to take on once they have achieved that qualification. As they have spent time and money training someone how to do a job and to do it well. No route is better than the other, they are equally beneficial. But you may find one will yield results more than the other depending on the job role you’re aiming for. 

The Flexible Route

It is important to point out that more young people require flexible working hours and study time. They could be young parents. Or have relatives they need to look after or have physical or mental health needs that need catering too. There is a stigma that flexible working is primarily reserved for single mums or people over a certain age. However on, Find Your Flex, 47% of flexible job seekers using the site are male and around 60% report they don’t have children or their children are aged 17+. So no one should make this assumption. Everyone should be entitled to flexible working and young people are no exception, the same goes for their post-education routes. Is it fair that a young person cannot gain a higher qualification because they may have to look after an unwell relative? Of course not. Which is why apprenticeship providers, universities and employers need to begin making changes. To incorporate not only flexible working but flexible study into their courses.

Covid-19 has shown us how vital this is. In the face of the greatest threat of our generation, we have had to make changes. Yet we shouldn’t have had to adapt as much as we have. If society made changes to incorporate flexible working and study before this pandemic, not as many people would have suffered. We wouldn’t have has such a drop in grades and rise in unemployment. When we return to normality, we cannot forget the lessons it taught us. We cannot throw away the importance of flexible working and study; we cannot make the same mistakes twice.  

The rise of the Apprenticeship Route

Find Your Flex has been on this mission long before Covid. Yet we will continue to ensure flexible apprenticeships continue long after the fight against this virus is won. Visit out apprenticeship hub: at https://jobs.findyourflex.co.uk/apprentice-hub to find out more. We work with organisations that are making the significant changes to ensure that flexible working is available for everyone. If this encompasses you, do not hesitate to look at our apprenticeships. As you may find the perfect apprenticeship for you that will lead to that job you are striving towards.

The apprenticeship route isn’t exclusively for school leavers either, it is available for anyone older than that. Even graduates, don’t assume that because you chose to do a degree that you cannot or should not consider the apprenticeship route. If you find yourself struggling to enter the field you want, an apprenticeship could be the perfect way in. For more advice on what graduates can do or should not do to gain a career after graduating, have a read of this blog post: After Graduating: Getting that first step on the job ladder

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Careers Students and Graduates

After Graduating: Getting that first step on the job ladder

The first thing on a graduates mind when leaving university is getting their dream job. Yet, this is not as easy as it seems. This blog post we will discuss steps graduates should take both during and after graduating to get that first step on the job ladder.

Do more than study hard.

It can seem logical while in university to put your entire focus on your studies and nothing else. This way you come out with the best degree. That should grab an employer’s attention, showing them you are hardworking, dedicated and know your stuff right?

No. That may seem blunt, but it is important to rid yourself of that style of thinking as it is self-sabotage. Yes, you should put as much effort as you can into achieving the best grade possible. But your degree alone will not get you your dream job.

This doesn’t make your degree is any less valuable and it will still count for something when an employer is looking at your CV.

The Paradox of Experience.

There is a lot of competition for job roles out there and for employers their main focus is one word. If you haven’t got it, it can become public enemy number one when trying to secure a decent job role in your desired field. That word/attribute is; experience.

This is becoming an all too essential requirement in job descriptions these days. It can lead to hair pulling frustration for graduates when reading job descriptions. You have all the knowledge and skills, then the bottom of the page and it reads: “A minimum of 1 years experience required”.

For graduates experiencing this first hand, you realise the paradox you are presented with. How can you gain experience for a job if you can’t get a job to gain the experience?

Overcome this barrier (early on).

The answers are hard to swallow for those who are looking for work after graduating. It is important to gain access to these while still studying. The best way to gain experience is through securing work placements, internships or voluntary work.

Most of these will take up a decent amount of your free time and most of these positions are unpaid. Yet, you will find that in the long run the experience you gain from these opportunities is worth far more than any wages the company would pay. The more experience you have on your CV the better.

Though you should do this after graduating, it would be better to secure this kind of work while studying. Most universities have resources or facilitators that can help to secure these roles. Don’t let experience become the biggest road block on your career journey; it can be a difficult one to overcome.

Apprenticeships After Graduating

For a graduate fresh out of university, their primary goal is full time employment. Though as discussed before, a degree isn’t a guarantee that you will secure a role, especially in the field you are aiming for. Even experience through work placements and voluntary work may not be enough.

If you have a specific job in mind, the internship/apprenticeship route might be the best option to get you there. For some graduates this can be frustrating, apprenticeships can feel like a career path that you choose instead of university. This is not the case, from 2017 to 2018, a 34.37% majority of apprentices in the UK were aged between 19-24, a further 18.55% being 25-34 year olds.

Apprenticeships have their own advantages that can be used in conjunction with the knowledge you gained from your degree. They answer key parts of job descriptions. Tending to be more specified to roles and they answer that experience need. With an apprenticeship you learn the job while doing the job, which is becoming more and more appealing to employers.

 See an opportunity for what it is.

It is important graduates don’t let preconceived views of apprenticeships deter them. There is no reason why you shouldn’t seek to gain an extra qualification; it makes your CV look better not worse. Society has made university the more encouraged path of higher education for years. The truth of matter is, apprenticeships are equally rewarding in terms of gaining employment.

This is a stigma that is changing, so don’t let this influence you when deciding whether to go down this route. It is understandable that beginning an apprenticeship after graduating from years of study can feel like spending more time in education. A frustration to some who hoped to be done with education and want to start work.

However, with an apprenticeship you are working. And your getting paid to learn the job whilst you are in it, so it is not the same. There is also unavoidable factor that with some companies it is the best/only way in. If in the end it gets you the dream job you’ve always wanted, why wouldn’t you take this opportunity that lies before you?

Don’t limit yourself.

Do not place restrictions on yourself while looking for work. You may have secured your degree in your chosen subject with one specific job in mind. Yet, the chances of you walking straight into that job after graduating, are slim to none.

This of course depends on what your personal dream job is. If it requires a certain level of experience, you need to lower your expectations. Some employers want to see your skills and experience demonstrated in another role. They may see potential in graduates, but sometimes they want more than that. You must also be prepared.

If you are adamant about only applying for one specific type of job, you are limiting the number of opportunities that will come your way. What if the job you want isn’t out there right now? If you do nothing else in the meantime, you’re even less likely to secure that role when it does appear. Those gaps in your CV don’t go unnoticed.

Be Flexible in your choices.

There is no reason why you can’t get a different job in the same sector your desired job is in. You will gain invaluable skills and experience which can only benefit you. Employers will be drawn to fact that you have spent time working in the industry and will have an idea of how things work.

Though, you should still not rule out working in a different industry than the one you are aiming for. A diverse knowledge and skill set will look impressive on your CV. When applying for other roles you can make these transferable to said role. Employers will see you as versatile, someone who is looking to develop a broad skill set which can be appealing to them.

The Job for you is not always the Job you want.

There is a personal aspect to keep in mind, it’s a bit cliché, but it rings true; when job searching after graduating, be careful what you wish for. Gearing your education and focus towards a certain job, that does not mean it will be what you thought if/when you get it.

That may sound negative, and an attempt dissuade you from your dreams, but that’s not the case at all. It means you may think a certain job is perfect for you and when you finally get into it, it doesn’t fit you as well as you might have thought.

Which is why it’s important to pursue other job opportunities. You may find that a job you were not dreaming of, is more comfortable and rewarding than the one you were aiming for.

Where to look?

Finally, it’s important to use every resource out there to gain employment. Don’t just think indeed and total jobs are your only options. Check company websites, jobs boards and that ever growing behemoth social media.

There are job boards that target specific niche target audiences. Don’t avoid these if you feel you don’t fall into that category, you might find a job you know you can do well, so go for it!

Your career journey begins after graduating. And there are infinite roads with their own twists and turns. Don’t be afraid to divert from you planned course to explore them, you may find it suits your far better!

You can start by looking here: https://jobs.findyourflex.co.uk/jobs/

Here’s another blog advising how to create a good Linkedin Profile: Top 10 Tips for a Compelling LinkedIn Profile