Parents have spoken of their wishes to build a centre for children with autism.

Aaron and Rachael Pearson are looking to raise £50,000 for the Autism Inclusion Centre. The couple, from Denmead, have a son with the condition and want to expand on Rachael’s charity Autism Isolation No More which she runs from their front room.The centre will create a place where children with autism and their families can go to have fun and relax.

Aaron and Rachael’s plans come just days after the pair were both successful in winning national awards. Rachael won the Positive Role Model for Gender Award at the National Diversity Awards after she turned their living room into a sensory space for youngsters with autism.Meanwhile, Aaron won £10,000 worth of building materials after winning Jewson’s Building Better Communities Trade Hero 2018 award.

Rachael said: ‘We want to try and buy a piece of land so we can build a log cabin and move all our services from our living room there. ‘There will be a place for all the sensory equipment and children and families can go in and relax, parents can chat and join in a play session and stay for longer.’At the moment I can only work with families on an individual basis but I want to hold group events.

That’s beneficial for the children because social interaction is more enjoyable for them.’A number of Rachael’s family members are autistic including her two sons, her brother and nephew.She added: ‘I saw the lack of support my mother had with children with autism, it affected my life. If she had support there are so many things that could have been different.

‘As a parent of a child with autism you can feel lonely, the sleep deprivation is awful.’I provide support for parents and want them to know they’re not alone, I’ll never judge.’

Rachael and Aaron will use the prize from Jewson to help start the log cabin but need funds to get it off the ground. Aaron said: ‘We’ve got the building materials now we’re basically trying to get the project off the ground.‘It’s a mission we both have and it would fulfil us.’

Anyone wishing to donate should visit

Source – Written by Ellie Pilmoor & Tamara Siddiqui as featured in The News –

Hundreds of thousands of pupils in schools across India are getting lessons in the art of cricket.

But for a country which counts the sport as a national passion, these classes are not about finding another cricket superstar such as Virat Kohli.

Instead the aim is to challenge gender stereotypes and promote equality between the sexes.

Sumita Kumari, a teacher at Jawahar Navodya Vidyalaya school in Dakshin Dinajpur, West Bengal says around 80% of India’s population is from rural areas, where many children are likely to face “certain notions about gender roles”.

Rejecting ‘ridicule’

“In a rural environment, a big division can be seen in the development of the two genders.

“Firstly, there is restriction on the freedom of girls. Secondly, there is a clear division of work between boys and girls,” she says.

Boys might be expected to work outdoors while girls are “kept busy in household chores”.

“If a girl wants to participate in sports like swimming, playing soccer or cricket, they become victims of gender inequality.

“Likewise, if a boy is interested in cooking or wants to dance then society frowns on him. They face ridicule and non-cooperation from society.”

Bowled over

The Changing Moves Changing Minds project, run by the British Council, hopes to tackle some of these attitudes through cricket and dance.

“Sport is such a universal language,” says Alan Gemmell, director of the British Council in India.

“It is about teamwork, it is about coming together, and cricket is such a powerful connecter across India.”

Children taking part in the scheme will get a series of lessons in dance and cricket skills – such as choreography and movement and batting and bowling.

“Some of the lessons are about choreography and playing games,” Mr Gemmell explains.

“It’s about challenging stereotypes and saying there aren’t just things that boys do and things that girls do – and that’s part of what the dance element does.”

Catching ideas

The classes will be followed by activities that “give teachers confidence to continue to promote positive gender roles for boys and girls”.

“We hope that that’s a very small thing to do that might shift behaviour or make people think differently about paths that they might take, choices that they might make as they grow up,” he says.

Ms Kumari was among a group of teachers who took part in a pilot of the scheme, which was delivered by the British Council in partnership with the Marylebone Cricket Club and the Royal Academy of Dance.

During the project, she taught children a new dance that combined cricketing actions with Indian dance steps.

‘We don’t know how to hold the bat’

There was resistance at first.

She says the children felt “very uncomfortable”, with one boy saying: “How do we dance with girls?” Another argued that “Playing cricket with girls is absolutely impossible”.

Meanwhile, the girls told her “We do not even know how to hold the bat and we will not be able to play cricket.”

But attitudes began to change.

“I did considerable counselling and motivated the children and I also talked to their parents,” Ms Kumari says.

“After that, girls felt encouraged to play cricket and boys started to dance.”

“The children started opening up to me and started sharing their problems,” she adds.

Good innings

The scheme is now being rolled out to schools across India, with 300,000 youngsters expected to take part in lessons given by teachers who have been given specialist training over the next three years.

Mr Gemmell says: “What we’re trying to do with the programme is harness this incredible power of sport to promote positive role models and to have boys and girls take part in activities together in schools across India.”

He says the aim is to use “sport and arts, cricket and dance and movement to get boys and girls to play together” and then use that as a platform for teachers to begin conversations about gender roles.

Ms Kumari’s school provides free education, with children from rural areas given priority.

She believes the British Council scheme has helped to promote equality.

“Boys and girls who come from poor rural families in our school, some of whom are first generation learners were given the opportunity to be introduced to a project that helped them challenge their thinking around gender inequality and they learned and presented a new dance style in a very beautiful way without any hesitation,” she says.

Source: BBC News

Couples living in countries with greater gender equality tend to sleep better, new research has found.
A team of sociologists from the University of Melbourne came to this conclusion after cross-referencing data from the UN gender empowerment index with sleep quality findings from the European Social Survey.
In total, they analysed data from around 14,000 people living in 23 European countries.
In Norway, the country with greatest gender equality, 9% of women and 3% of men said they suffered from restless sleep. But in Ukraine, the country with lowest gender equality, these figures rose to 22% and 16%.
Though there is no easy explanation for why gender parity seems to improve sleep quality, the study’s co-author Leah Ruppannear has suggested that a breakdown in traditional roles could be a major contributing factor.
This is because women are less likely to have their sleep interrupted by children when men take an equal share of parenting responsibilities. And at the same time, men are less likely to be kept awake by work worries when they aren’t the sole or main breadwinner.
“Women in gender-equal societies have more equal divisions of housework, and men take a more active role in childcare. Living in a broader context of equality translates into more restful sleep for women,” Ruppannear wrote for The Conversation. “For men, living in a more gender equal context offers a host of benefits including men reporting better health and happiness . And, as our study showed, men slept better, too.”
Ruppannear added: “Gender, an important organiser of our daytime lives, also plays a crucial role in who gets up comfort the baby and whose sleep is disrupted worrying about family finances. Societies that are more effective in equalising economic and political gender relations have citizens who sleep better.
“Since sleep is an integral dimension to health and wellbeing, the economic, health and social benefit to being well-rested cannot be understated. So, let’s work together to get to bed.”
Source: Refinery

An inspirational man born with brittle bone disease has been shortlisted for a prestigious award.

Stuart Thompson, from Mersea, is one of eight finalists in with a chance of winning the Positive Role Model Award for Disability at the National Diversity Awards.

Community organisations and role models from across the country will head to Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on September 14 to see the winners crowned.

Mr Thompson, 42, said: “I am immensely flattered to have been shortlisted for this award, in particular for the work I do with young people and adults with anxiety.

“As a person who has faced many physical challenges who has grown up looking very different to those around me, I know how hard it can be to feel confident and not be afraid.

“I hope this nomination allows me to reach more people and demonstrate how it’s possible to live with confidence.”

Stuart was born with brittle bone disease, a life-limiting disability which has caused him to break almost every bone in his body at some point.

He is three and a half feet tall and uses a wheelchair.

He said: “As a child something would break simply by being picked up by my parents or when I was sitting on the floor.

“Now as an adult I probably break a bone about five times a year.

“As a child it was fine as I didn’t know I was any different, but as an adult I had to learn to find my own voice.”

Stuart started his career as a social worker and now works as a hypnotherapist and anxiety specialist.

He chooses to work mostly with children and young people experiencing anxiety or confidence issues.

He said: “You find confidence within yourself when you realise you have something worth saying.

“We can overcome how we look and how we feel.”

He received more than 40 nominations for the award, all from clients.

He added: “A lot of parents wrote nice things about work I have done with their children, the youngest being six.

“I don’t believe children need endless therapy, and most anxieties can be overcome with a few techniques.”

Johnson & Johnson have recently been announced as headline sponsors of the pioneering awards.

Designed to highlight the country’s most inspirational and selfless people, the NDA’s continue to gain endorsements from high profile figures such as Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry CBE and Graham Norton.

Radio 2 presenter and Scissor Sister favourite Ana Matronic will host this year’s ceremony alongside television presenter Brian Dowling.

To view a full list of nominees visit

Source: Gazette News



Previous sponsor of the National Diversity Awards & Accountancy giant PwC has banned all-male shortlists for jobs in the UK in an attempt to increase the number of women in senior roles at the firm.

It said the move was prompted by its recent pay gap report showing men on average earned 43.8% more than women.

The company said recruitment was one of the areas it was looking at as a way to narrow the gap.

PwC also plans to ban all-male interview panels and examine how “career defining roles” are awarded.

Making sure that “everybody in the firm” had access to important career opportunities such as working on big projects or for well known clients, would be “a real game changer”, said PwC’s chief people officer Laura Hinton.

She said the move was part of the firm’s wider plan to improve the diversity of its workforce, which includes looking at the attitude of senior management.

  • ‘Staggering’ failure to pick woman for MPC
  • ‘All the good women have been snapped up’

It also has a returnship programme, which encourages those who have taken a break from work, such as maternity leave, to do six months paid work experience.

The company has also started to allocate “progression coaches” – usually partners – who will work with women and ethnic minorities employees to help develop their careers.

The Daily Mail, which first reported PwC’s decision, said it was the first of the big four accountancy firms to ban all-male shortlists.

‘More common’

Jill Miller, policy adviser at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), said it did not have data on the number of firms which had banned all-male shortlists for jobs, but said it was becoming “more common”.

She said new rules forcing firms to publish their gender pay gaps had increased transparency and focused leaders’ attention on how to improve the figures.

However, many firms were failing to exploit the data they had on their workforce, she said, such as when and why women were leaving the firm.

“It’s important to look at as wide a talent pool as possible. Overall it’s about levelling the playing field and getting best person for the job.”

PwC’s decision comes amid a furore over diversity at the Bank of England, which recently appointed a male economist to its rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee despite a shortlist of four women and one man.

The Treasury said the role had been awarded on merit.

Ms Hinton said that hiring diverse people at a senior level was “a real challenge” because candidates tended to be “disproportionately male”.

Improving diversity at graduate and school-leaver levels was easier because the firm had more control, she said.

For example, it had found that male graduates tended to apply for graduate placements earlier on in their university career. As a result, rather than filling up their assessment centres on a first-come first-served basis, it makes sure each centre has a 50/50 split between male and female applicants.

“Little things like that can stack up against women,” she said.

“The challenge is making sure that at every stage in the process we are saying yes to get the right person and not excluding. The objective is to keep pushing and to encourage others to do the same.”

Source: BBC News

Britain’s most successful companies tend to have a large proportion of women in senior management roles but the UK lags behind the US and Australia on diversity at the top, new research suggests.

Between 2011 and 2015, the most gender diverse quarter of companies were 20pc more likely than the least diverse to have above average financial performance, a report by management consultants McKinsey found.

Dame Vivian Hunt, who runs McKinsey’s UK business, said: “The correlation between diversity and financial performance is clear across different sectors and geographies: more diverse teams equals significant financial outperformance.”

The proportion of women on FTSE boards has soared since 2011 amid government and shareholder pressure to boost diversity at the top. But while women now make up around a third of non-executive directors, their representation among senior management teams is much lower.

The research showed UK firms are well above the global average with around 15pc of executive roles held by women, but they drag behind their rivals in the US, on 19pc, and Australia on 21pc. Even with the promotion of GKN’s Anne Stevens last week, just eight FTSE 100 companies currently have women chief executives, up from six in 2016.

From April, all UK companies with at least 250 staff will be forced to publish the gap between what they pay men and women in an effort to encourage firms to level the playing field.

Lady Barbara Judge, the first female chairman of the Institute of Directors, told the Daily Telegraph last Week “The main cause of the [pay] gap is the fact fewer women progress up the work ladder than men. Much more must be done to ensure more women reach the executive level.”

The McKinsey research also found correlation between ethnic diversity and financial performance, particularly in the UK. Globally, those companies with a low proportion of both female and ethnic minority executives were 29pc more likely to financially underperform than their peers.

Financial services firms top the charts for gender diversity, while telecoms, media and technology companies were the best for ethnic diversity, the report said.

Dame Hunt said: “Companies promote diversity for many reasons. Our research shows that central among these should be the fact that diversity has a demonstrable relationship to inclusive growth and longer-term value creation, particularly when it is found at the executive level.”


Source: The Daily Telegraph


MAYOR Sadiq Khan has unveiled a major new campaign for 2018, to mark 100 years since women gained the vote in the UK and to drive forward the progress of gender equality across London.

Titled #BehindEveryGreatCity – a play on the feminist slogan of the Sixties and Seventies, “Behind Every Great Man Stands A Great Woman” (a mantra that the mayor says he isn’t a fan of, because really it should be that they stand alongside one another), to highlight how women have driven their city’s successes – the year-long initiative will also celebrate the role that London played in women’s suffrage. It coincides with the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the right to vote.

While the anniversary will be a time to celebrate and recognise the progress that has been made in the last few decades, Khan is more keen to address how much further there is to go in the fight for gender parity, using 2018 to “turbo-charge” the rate of progression, he told us as he announced the campaign to students at Platanos College in Stockwell on Monday morning.

“A big part of it is changing the stereotypes, changing the prejudices that people have,” he said. “I passionately believe that it can’t just be a fight for girls and women, it’s got to be all of us.”

“We need more boys and men getting it, not just because they are fathers of daughters or because they have a sister they care about, but because we will benefit as a society if we have equality,” he added, before quoting Malala Yousafzai – “We cannot succeed while half of us are held back.”

The gender pay gap will, naturally, be a focus, with the mayor saying that companies over a certain size being required to publish their overall mean and median pay gaps – in line with government legislation that is to be brought in next year – must only be the first step in tackling the issue. Khan reiterated that the reasons for discrepancies in how much men and women earn must be looked at, highlighting some ways in which the Greater London Authority is attempting to address it. The Metropolitan Police, for instance, is now offering graduates a direct route to becoming detectives, having found that some women were discouraged by the traditional constable route.

“We’ve normalised gender pay gaps but that isn’t right, it shouldn’t be a thing,” he said.

As for whether he has a target in the reduction of the gender pay gap, the mayor was steadfast. “It should be zero as soon as possible – there’s no excuse for a gender pay gap either way,” he told us, while acknowledging that changing the workforce would take time. Increasing professional accessibility, including into City Hall, and improving transparency are two of Khan’s key goals.

He also addressed how serious issues regarding the treatment of women in certain industries have come to light in recent months – particularly in the wake of a number of allegations being made against Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo campaign that followed – saying that having safe avenues for people to express grievances and seek support is critical.

“One of the things that is particular to the creative industry sector is that a lot of work you get is by word of mouth and there can be ripples. The most recent example is of Peter Jackson and the Harvey Weinstein case, where two actresses were blackballed. That happens a lot. That’s why it’s important that, when you see it, you highlight it, call it out. It’s a wake-up call.”

“It may just be the tip of the iceberg, there are many other industries where this may be happening,” he continued. “You’ve seen it in Parliament now too. What other walks of life is this going on in? That’s why it’s important that we have a culture where people aren’t worried about being blackballed or labelled.”

Naming his mother (“in our family there was no issue about gender stereotypes – we all did cooking, ironing”) and Doreen Lawrence (“she’s changed the narrative around ethnicity, changed the law, and has been a formidable fighter”) as two of his feminist role models, Khan said that he wants to make sure that London is a “beacon” for gender equality. The capital’s cultural sphere, for a start, will see changes next year. The first statue of a woman, suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett interpreted by Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing, will be unveiled in Parliament Square in spring 2018, while Art on the Underground – Transport for London’s public art programme – will present works only by female artists for the entirety of the year.

“I think London is the greatest city in the world,” Khan said of launching the campaign. “It’s the city I want to raise my daughters, but it’s still the case in 2017 that there are problems. If you’re born a girl you don’t have the same chances as if you’re born a boy.”


Attempts to improve gender diversity on the boards of FTSE 100 firms are stalling and female representation may be worse than thought, according to new research.

A study into the boardroom appointments of FTSE 100 companies between 2006 and 2016 by data consultancy Beyond Analysis suggests that women assumed less than a quarter of key board appointments over the decade.

Beyond Analysis says that its findings contradict the five-year review of executive appointments by former Labour minister Lord Mervyn Davies, which was published in October 2015.

Paul Alexander, chief executive of Beyond Analysis, said: “When he published the results of his review, Lord Davies claimed that there had been a ‘near revolution’ in the boardrooms of Britain’s top companies, but that view is clearly undermined by what those firms themselves say.”

Beyond Analysis’s study, which reviewed more than 1,000 annual reports of businesses that had featured in the FTSE 100 between 2006 and 2016, showed that most board positions that women had taken up over the decade were either newly created roles or non-executive director positions, which was limiting the impact they could have on company policy or direction.

Over the decade, women had claimed only 22 per cent of all senior appointments and 83 per cent of those positions were non-executive roles. Less than 7 per cent of the 151 chief executive appointments in that time were women.

In Lord Davies’ 2015 report, called Improving the Gender Balance on British Boards, he said that women’s representation on the FTSE 100 had more than doubled to 26 per cent in less than five years, exceeding the 25 per cent target.

Beyond Analysis said that if you focus on women just occupying senior executive roles, the numbers are far less positive than the Davies report suggests. In 2006, women took up only 5.2 per cent of those positions. A decade later, the figure had only risen to 11.2 per cent.

“There is a risk that if Government does not refocus on this issue soon, a diversity
campaign, which many regard as a priority, could stall completely,” said Mr Alexander.

In July 2016 the chair of the Government-backed Women on Boards Review, Sir Philip Hampton, admitted that the proportion of new board appointments going to women had fallen to a five-year low. Between September 2015 and March 2016, only 24.6 per cent of new board roles had gone to women, which was the lowest proportion since 2011.

Sir Philip said at the time that the lull in activity since he had been appointed in February 2016 was partly down to the Government’s wish to avoid distractions during the run-up to the EU Referendum.

Mr Alexander said that Beyond Analysis’s findings emphasised that further effort was needed to secure change on company boards.

The findings from 1,046 annual reports are being converted into a digital tool that will allow businesses to track their progress on executive diversity.

Mr Alexander said that the improvements to gender diversity on boards so far, which have seen a limited number of women appointed to [significant] positions, might be seen by critics as “lip service, rather than great strides”. Beyond Analysis said the positions to which women were appointed were, almost without exception, non-executive. Although those in a non-executive board position advise, and can influence, colleagues as they are not in full-time positions the degree to which they can do so is limited.

For the six-month research project Beyond Analysis worked with David O’Brien who has had senior roles at companies such as Accenture, Siemens and Unisys.

Source: Emma Featherstone ,

A KNUTSFORD resident and social enterprise founder has been shortlisted for a National Diversity Award in the positive role model for gender category.

Jane Kenyon, who founded Girls Out Loud in 2010, has made the list after 22,000 nominees were considered.

Girls Out Loud aims to raise the confidence and aspirations and teenage girls in the north west and north Wales, by pairing them with female role models. To date, the organisation has worked with more than 5,000 girls across 35 schools.

Jane said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have been shortlisted for a National Diversity Award. It’s wonderful to have been recognised along with the other shortlisted nominees. There’s so much brilliant work going on across the country to improve diversity and I’m looking forward to celebrating that at the ceremony.”

The awards will be presented at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral on September 8, with a ceremony showcasing the achievements of those bidding to enhance equality, diversity and inclusion.

The NDAs are supported by Stephen Fry, Adam Hills and Sir Lenny Henry among many others.

Paul Sesay, founder and CEO of the awards, said: “I am so proud to be able to witness the journeys of some of the most inspiring role models this country has to offer.”

Written by Ned Bristow, featured in The Knutsford Guardian –

A well-known London girls’ school has introduced new measures that allow pupils to define their own gender identity.

St Paul’s Girls’ School, whose alumni include MP Harriet Harman andVogue ‘s departing editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman, says it “takes a neutral stance, neither encouraging nor discouraging” a student’s decision to identify either as a boy or gender-neutral.

“We consulted the pupils to find out what the issues were. Their main preoccupation has been to look after people who don’t want to identify as one gender or another,” the school’s high mistress Clarissa Farr told The Sunday Times.

When SPGS students reach the age of 16, they can now submit a written request to be known as a boy or gender-neutral while at school. St Paul’s says in its new “gender identity protocol” that parents will ideally be “fully involved in such discussions.”

Sue Sanders of Schools Out UK, an organisation which works towards achieving LGBT equality in education, hailed the new measures as “sensible and smart.”

“The gender fluidity of young people has become more pronounced in the last three to four years; there is a growing confidence in young people to challenge binary constraints,” Sanders told The Guardian. “This is really about organisations keeping up with how people are perceiving themselves – this is part of the whole process of exploding those gender boxes.”

The Sunday Times reports that up to 10 students have already used the new protocol so they can be known at school either as boys or gender-neutral.


Written By: Nick Levine

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