Giving young girls careers advice isn’t just about encouraging them to become more ambitious (“Labour – give girls career advice before they’re 10”, 1 March), it’s about dispelling the myth of there being “girls’ jobs” and “boys’ jobs”.
Negative stereotypes about girls’ abilities in maths and science can measurably lower their test performance. Similarly, in subjects such as design and technology, stereotypical choices are sometimes encouraged so that girls take up textiles and food technology instead of pursuing an interest in electronics.
Girls need to have a better understanding of career choices and be made aware of the stereotype threat to ensure they feel confident in choosing their preferred subjects and in aspiring to become whatever they wish to in the future.
Jan Hodges OBE
Chief executive, Edge Foundation, London SW1
Just 6 per cent of engineers in the UK are female, one of the lowest percentages in Europe. And women are also under represented in occupations such as science, graphic design and broadcasting. International Women’s Day is a good time to draw attention to the problem.
When I started in engineering I was very against events or quotas to highlight the lack of women. However, 20 or 30 years on, the number of female engineers remains worryingly low, despite the best efforts of all kinds of different organisations.
Increasing the number of women in engineering and science isn’t simply a feminist issue – there is a compelling business case for it too. There aren’t enough engineers to meet expected demand over the next decade. Good practice that creates a level playing field for women is generally good for everyone. We will all benefit from measures such as flexible working, better pay and a more inclusive culture.
President-elect, Institution of Engineering and Technology, London WC2
There is much to be said for devolving health budgets to the new city regions, but this move should come with a health warning (“Jowell’s opinion devolves”, 1 March). The NHS is running into a mega financial crisis. If demand continues to increase and revenue too at the same pace then, by the end of the next Parliament, there will be a cumulative deficit of £90bn. Unless there is a new basis for financing the NHS to accompany and drive through a programme of reform, then, by the end of the next Parliament the Manchester region will have a £5bn deficit. If we don’t embrace radical reform to maintain an NHS free at the point of use then we will not recognise what is on offer by 2020.
Frank Field MP
House of Commons, London SW1
We’re being told, via anonymised claims, that airline bombings in the UK in 2010 were prevented because of the torture of a detainee in Saudi Arabia (“How torture was used to foil UK jet bomb plot”, 1 March).
At the same time the former head of MI6 Jonathan Sawers informs us that torture “does produce intelligence” despite being “very counterproductive” in the longer term.
After scrutinising 6 million pages of documents, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence recently said it had not found a single example of a life saved as a result of CIA torture. Meanwhile, Amnesty can produce thousands of cases where torture has succeeded only in ripping out fingernails, breaking limbs, rupturing organs and scarring people physically and mentally for life.
That these claims come from British intelligence “sources” is deeply worrying and demonstrates the urgency of the need for a fully independent judge-led inquiry into allegations of UK complicity in torture.
Director, Amnesty International UK, London EC2
The country’s first straw bale houses were completed in Waddington in 2010 built by North Kesteven District Council as affordable social homes (“Straw homes can stand up to the big, bad wolf”, 1 March).
In Sleaford, a straw-burning power station generates power for 65,000 homes, and provides free heat to five public buildings, including a pool.
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