Writing samples

In the UK in 2017, some 11% of engineers were women – but given this figure stood at just 6% in 2011, education and training in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) seems to be making headway.

The latest figures from the Women into Science and Engineering (Wise) campaign show that the number of women working in core Stem careers (including engineering) rose by more than 60,000 between 2016 and 2017. After the government launched its new “trailblazer” scheme in 2013 to initiate industry-set standards in apprenticeships, these pathways have played a key role in better representation for women in engineering. Nevertheless, while women currently make up approximately 12% of engineers in the UK, just over 7% of engineering apprentices are female.

This year’s Top 50 Women in Engineering highlights 22 current and 28 former apprentices at the forefront of UK engineering, from HS2 to Typhoon jets and the 5G rollout. It was put together by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), a charity that celebrates its centenary this year.

Elizabeth Donnelly, its CEO, explains: “We want a world where women are as likely as men to choose an engineering career, and it can be seen from this list that women are excelling across an impressive range of sectors.”

I covered the WES’s top 50 women in engineering as a 2,500-word feature, which ran in The Guardian’s supplement on the same subject.

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Shannon Trust volunteers reading

Since most of us learn to read and write in the first year or two of school, it feels almost impossible to imagine not being able to. But Angela Cairns, CEO of prisoners reading charity Shannon Trust, knows all too well how illiteracy can feel

Half of England’s prisoners are illiterate. Since most of us learn to read and write in the first year or two of school, it feels almost impossible to imagine. But Angela Cairns, CEO of prisoners reading charity Shannon Trust, knows all too well how illiteracy can feel.

“I sometimes hear a prisoner describing themselves as a ‘bad ‘un’. They say: ‘I was a bad ‘un because I was frustrated’, ‘because I couldn’t read the letters and notices that went around’, or ‘I couldn’t choose what I wanted to eat from a menu card, so I’m just randomly picking’. These are people who feel they have so little control over their lives that they can’t even choose what to eat.”

There are several charities that teach prisoners how to read, but Shannon Trust is unique: all of its 2,000 or so mentors are prisoners themselves. Prisoner–mentors, working with the charity, are helping more than 4,000 other inmates learn to read. The need is huge: 50 per cent of all prisoners in England are ‘functionally illiterate’, meaning they have a reading age of 11 or lower, while many are completely illiterate. The impact on their employability, unsurprisingly, is huge. You can read more about that story on the Positive News website, and in the magazine. 

Positive News is a media co-operative owned by readers and journalists worldwide, and profits are reinvested in journalism. In 2015 Positive News became a community benefit society (a form of co-op) invested in by more than 1,500 people in 33 countries, age 18-89, who each have equal influence. They’re just about the best people to work for, and it was great to have the chance to profile the Sharon Trust for their latest issue.

Positive News

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Nicole Kidman plays Julia Edwards in series two

Twelve-year-old Tui Mitcham is missing. A search party of farmers and bikers meets in the town’s dive bar, gathered under her father’s leadership. From the front of the room, his gaze pans the room. His eyes drift over a woman at the far end of the bar, dressed in a pristine black parka, and snag on her for a moment. Robin Griffin grew up in that town, and she got out: now she’s back to investigate Tui’s case. Matt Mitcham might have the microphone, but Griffin has the power.

Read more on The Pool.

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ETA, Feb 2019: I had a couple of commissions for The Pool, both on TV. You read read both of those on The Pool’s own website, or read PDFs here.

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This year I was lucky enough to join the BBC Springwatch team to write the live blog.

For three weeks, I wrote live updates from 8am to 9pm from the Sherborne Park Estate in Gloucestershire, in the heart of the Cotswolds.

You can see the archived updates here, and if you’d like to know anything else about how the live blog worked, please get in touch by email.

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Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and the film that followed, spurred a new generation of women to tackle huge walks like the 2,650km-long Pacific Coastal Trail. But one walker had already set out on another, much longer, walk when Reese Witherspoon hit the big screen.

Sarah Jackson had just finished her sociology degree when she embarked on one of the most gruelling anti-gap years imaginable. Some 10,600km later, though, she’s smiling: at the end of this month, aged 24, she’ll become the first woman to walk across Canada from coast to coast. (She still hasn’t read or seen Wild, though).

She often walked with a partner, and admits she took breaks to go home for Christmas, but has essentially spent two years living outdoors, out of a backpack, spending much of her time alone.

Sarah was kind enough to talk to me about her trek for Refinery29’s UK site. Read more here.

If you’re interested in reading more work I’ve done for the site, check out:

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