20 Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Women.

‘Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.’

(Albert Camus)

A diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD), may be given when an individual experiences ongoing difficulties with self-regulation, concentration, attention, planning, impulse control and memory over an extended period of time.  

Historically, research into ADHD focused exclusively on boys and men, and a gender bias in diagnosis still exists. Boys are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. This may be because boys are more likely to display disruptive behaviours in school, so their difficulties are obvious. Girls are more likely to be quiet, inattentive daydreamers, with their symptoms viewed as personality traits. As girls tend to create less of a problem for teaching staff, many will remain undiagnosed.

Research would suggest that up to 50 – 70% of women with ADHD are undiagnosed. One of the reasons for this relates to the hormonal changes that all women experience throughout life. Puberty in girls begins at around ten years of age, and the menopause finishes when women are in their late 50s, so women may experience hormonal swings for up to 50 years. Pregnant women may complain of exhaustion and poor memory, women in their thirties and forties may experience pre-menstrual tension, adolescent girls can suffer from mood swings and low self-esteem, menopausal women may be emotional and aggressive. It is easy for professionals to confuse symptoms of ADHD with so called ‘women’s problems’ and, as a result, many women are misdiagnosed with anxiety or depression and prescribed inappropriate medication.

Symptoms of ADHD vary between women, but common traits would include: –

  1. Being distractable. Everyone with ADHD has a problem with concentration and focus, continually being distracted by external and internal factors. Their thoughts constantly interrupt their attention. They may be having a job interview, when they suddenly realise that they’re not sure if they locked the car; where they parked the car; whether they paid for parking. Then the interviewer asks a question and it’s obvious they haven’t been concentrating.
  2. Being accident prone. Pranging the car, leaving an empty pan on the hot plate, falling over something that has been put down seconds earlier.
  3. Being easily overwhelmed. Women are expected to manage work commitments as well as caring for children or elderly relatives, coping with domestic responsibilities, keeping fit and looking good. Women with ADHD have to expend considerable amounts of energy on tasks that others manage on automatic pilot. Such conscious effort is achievable, but exhausting.
  4. Underperforming. The woman will know that she has potential, and feel frustrated that her ADHD traits block her way to realising that potential.
  5. Being forgetful. Forgotten medical appointments, birthdays, play dates, bills and meetings. Misplaced house or car keys, purses, glasses, iPads, phones, bank cards, pieces of work, (the importance or value of the item does not guarantee its safety) Umbrellas, handbags, coats and shopping left on buses. Forgetting to put petrol in the car or to buy a key ingredient for a special meal. The list will be endless.
  6. Having a poor sense of time. Women with ADHD will have poor time management. They fail to appreciate how long it will take to do a task or to drive somewhere. Schedules will be approximations. 
  7. Feelings of incompetence. Difficulties with focus and concentration will mean that the individual never grasps all of the facts or information. They may try to fill in gaps, but are often left feeling stupid. 
  8. Feelings of ‘Why is it always me? Why is it me who buys theatre tickets, but goes on the wrong day? Why is it always my child who goes in school uniform on Mufti days? With ADHD, it can feel as if every day is spent in damage limitation rather than in progression of personal goals. 
  9. Experiencing imposter syndrome. When the individual is constantly covering up for errors, striving to be something they’re not, they know that the persona on public display is not the real them. As well as it being exhausting to maintain such a pretence, there is the ever-present fear that they will be ‘found out’. 
  10. An inability to regulate emotions. ADHD individuals can be volatile and respond explosively to situations without thinking. This can lead to problems in personal relationships.
  11. Impulsivity. Impulsive purchases they can’t afford: buying an expensive pair of shoes because they feel a bit down, or even a flat and leaving worries about the paying the mortgage till later. Eating a packet of biscuits or cake on Day 1 of their diet.  
  12. Being disorganised. The ADHD woman will constantly ask herself why she is unable to manage and organise things that other people do easily. Her desk will be piled with paperwork: even when she makes an effort to clear it, it will only stay tidy for a day or two.
  13. Job hopping. These women often start a career, but never manage to stay in post long enough to progress. Their CVs will never fit on to a single page.
  14. Finding routine tasks challenging. Completing boring, repetitive tasks is almost impossible, and will be avoided or delayed. Procrastination is the name of the game.
  15. An ability to hyperfocus. If an activity captures the individual’s interest, they are able to block out everything else in order to concentrate. When others see this behaviour, they assume the individual is selective about what they want and do not want to focus on.
  16. An inability to relax. The individual finds it hard to unwind. Relaxation must involve activity, as if the person is driven by a motor. 
  17. Appearing selfish. At social gatherings the individual will talk over people because of nervousness, but interrupting conversations and failing to listen will make them appear self-centred. Their minds will drift during conversations unless they’re talking, or it’s a topic they find interesting. Any difficulty remembering people’s names will add to the impression of a lack of concern for others.
  18. Appearing thoughtless. The woman with ADHD will often say what first comes to mind, and inadvertently hurt other people’s feelings. 
  19. Experiencing sleep disorders. Most women with ADHD suffer from difficulties with sleep.
  20. Having poor long-term commitment to work. Although an individual may be fascinated by anything novel and new, and start tasks with great enthusiasm; following through on the project will be difficult when the need for detailed or mundane work arises.

The lack of a diagnosis or a misdiagnosis is devastating for many women leading to underachievement, unnecessary medication, poor self-esteem, self-doubt, anxiety, frustration and confusion. 

An accurate diagnosis will lead to an understanding of problems, advice and support, self-help strategies and appropriate medication. A treatment plan will allow relief from symptoms and a greatly improved quality of life. 

Learning from exams

‘Hi ho silver lining’ – Jeff Beck.

Ten alternative lessons to take from sitting exams.

The summer term can be a particularly trying period for secondary pupils because of school and public exams. Some students enjoy the challenge and competition of exams, others hate the whole experience, while some feel frustration when they’ve worked hard, only to be disappointed by their results. 

Immediate lessons learnt from taking exams will include: whether the pupil works too quickly or too slowly, whether they understand and respond appropriately to exam questions and whether their revision has been effective.

However, it can be helpful to view exams from a broader perspective. Every experience in life, fun, challenging, sad or otherwise offers the individual an opportunity for personal growth. You take from all experiences what you will, so why not take positive lessons?

Ten alternative lessons to take from sitting exams: –

  1. Errors provide us with opportunities to develop and improve our performance.

We can correct the mistakes made in an exam; noting the changes that need to be made to our exam and revision techniques. 

Human beings learn by trial and error. When we accept that making mistakes is an essential part of the learning process, then learning opportunities become more important than the errors we make. 

  1. It is helpful to be able to remain calm under pressure.

A hard exam will be hard for everyone, but if you can remain calm and still do your best, you are certain to achieve better grades than those who panic. The ability to keep calm under pressure is always useful.

  1. Understanding is preferable to memorising

Students with good memories may do well in exams, but in the long term, be unable to apply information they have learnt by rote. Anyone who understands rather than memorises, will be able to use their knowledge for problem solving and higher order thinking. 

  1. Working effectively saves lots of time. 

Exams are about working effectively. Always spend time planning how to approach a problem, rather than launching in without thought and wasting time with unnecessary activity.

  1. To compete against yourself rather than against others. 

There will always be somebody who does better in an exam than you. Compete against your own personal bests rather than anyone else’s, in order to avoid being discouraged. Taking small steps towards personal targets, in life is the way to make progress.

  1. When we solve our own problems, our self-confidence increases. 

Work out for yourself what went wrong in an exam or in another situation in life. Individuals who can solve their own problems will experience feelings of success: this will be motivating and support their self-confidence. A virtuous circle will then develop with the individual becoming more resilient, persistent, and applying greater effort to future challenges because they feel that they will be successful. 

  1. How we can motivate ourselves.

If you remind yourself of why you want to do well in this exam, perhaps to prove something to a teacher, to be able to study a subject for GCSE or ‘A’ Level or because a good grade is necessary for your chosen job or career, you will learn a valuable lesson about motivation. Work out what is in it for you. Try to look at situations in the long term. Maybe you would prefer to be out with friends on a Friday night, rather than at home working: it’s down to you. Immediate pleasure or delayed gratification: the choice is yours.

  1. Resilience is an invaluable personal attribute. 

It is worth remembering when you make mistakes in life as in exams, you will always have another chance. There will always be another exam to take or an opportunity to re-sit an exam. Allow yourself time to feel irritated, embarrassed, upset or disappointed and then move on or try again. 

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius (Chinese philosopher)

  1. Creativity is born out of change. 

Failure in a test will encourage us to find new ways to do things, rather than repeat the same unsuccessful approach. Tackling a problem differently will mean exploring alternative ways of working, and we can then apply some of those new approaches to other situations. 

  1. Human beings are strongest when they co-operate

When you struggle to understand what went wrong in an exam, one solution would be to ask someone for help. Being able to work with others is an essential life skill: sometimes they will help you, and sometimes you will help them. What goes around, comes around.

‘Counting your blessings.’ 

The benefits of developing a sense of gratitude.

Aunt Lucy taught me to count my blessings. It’s the first thing she does when she wakes up in the morning …………

The benefits of developing a sense of gratitude include: –

  • The development of optimism and a positive outlook. When an individual makes a conscious effort to feel grateful for all the things they enjoy; they will develop a more positive approach to life generally. A sense of gratitude reassures the individual that everything is fine as it is, and reduces the need to continually strive and chase happiness. 
  • A reduction in a perceived need to buy happiness. Buying ‘stuff’ will only bring temporary happiness. The pleasure of a new phone, new trainers, new car or new toy, will not last. If an individual is content and grateful for what they have, they will become less materialistic and feelings of envy will be diminished. 
  • The development of empathy. Gratitude encourages the individual to be more caring and to think about the needs of others.
  • Improved mental and physical health. Gratitude has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve the immune system and have a positive effect on the quality of a person’s sleep.
  • Enhanced personal and social relationships. When gratitude is shown towards others, the quality of personal relationships improves and connectivity between individuals increases. A sense of gratitude helps to overcome such negative emotions as jealousy, and allows the person to feel happier around others.
  • An increase in self-esteem. When the individual acknowledges their gratitude for family and friends, they accept that there are people close to them, who care about them. Knowing that they have value in the eyes of others will support their self-confidence.

To develop gratitude: –

  • Slow down and take time to appreciate what is already good about your life. Spend a few minutes every day thinking about the things you are grateful for: good health, extended family, good weather, loyal friends, satisfying hobbies, a well-kept garden, a much-loved pet and so on.
  • Acknowledge the small things you encounter daily that give you pleasure, particularly those things you normally take for granted: a favourite TV programme, a refreshing shower, a perfect cup of tea, a bus arriving on time or a funny Instagram post.
  • Express gratitude to others. The next time an acquaintance does something helpful or kind, thank them for their thoughtfulness. Even if you don’t feel like it, go through the motions of being grateful: smile, express your appreciation verbally or send an email to say thank you. What goes around, comes around. 
  • Actively look for situations in which you can feel grateful. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to practise gratitude: for example, going to the dentist and not requiring treatment, having a good night’s sleep, getting a seat on the train or doing better than you thought you would in an exam.
  • Write down ten things you are grateful for every day then, whenever you feel dissatisfied, look back at your lists and remind yourself just how many things you have to be grateful for. 

……….. I’ve been counting my blessings. Except, I do mine before I go to sleep. I have so many, I may not have time tomorrow.’ (Paddington Bear)

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) in adults

APD is a disorder where an individual’s brain is unable to process sound in the usual way. Some adults will have had undiagnosed APD since childhood and established coping mechanisms for what they assume to be a personality trait.

One of the most common problems experienced by adults with APD is understanding speech in environments where there’s a lot of background noise. This has been referred to as ‘Cocktail Party Deafness’. Cocktail Party Deafness describes social situations in which it is easy to become confused by general chatter and music, whilst trying to concentrate on a one-to-one conversation.

Adults with APD will experience difficulties with: –

  • Rapid speech, unfamiliar accents, and the processing of complex spoken sentences.
  • Using the phone. During phone conversations it is necessary to ignore sounds in the immediate environment in order to focus on the person speaking at the other end of the line.
  • The nuances of speech, for example, not picking up on sarcasm or irony.
  • Following multi-step instructions. The individual may hear and remember the first instruction; but because their processing of language is slow, they miss the second instruction, but hear the third, and so fail to follow the directions properly.
  • Following discussions in an environment with poor acoustics and a lot of echo, for example, restaurants, pubs or work canteens.
  • Hypersensitivity to certain sounds: finding some noise frequencies physically painful.

How can adults manage their APD?

  • Environmental modifications such as carpeting, curtains and soft furnishings will help to absorb excess noise.
  • By minimising background noise: sitting away from fans, air conditioning units, open windows next to busy streets, or talkative colleagues.
  • By asking for help. Ask if others would mind speaking as slowly and clearly as possible, attracting the individual’s attention before speaking to them, and using body language or visuals to emphasise key points.
  • By arriving early for meetings in order to sit in the best position, away from distractions, and with a good view of the speaker’s face and any visual aids.
  • When listening, the individual should focus on the person speaking, position themselves directly in front of them, and watch their body language and facial movements carefully. Ask the speaker if they could try not to cover their mouth with their hands or speak with their back turned.
  • By writing down anything of importance: dates, addresses, appointments or phone numbers.
  • By playing to their strengths. Adults with APD often think of points they would like to make after a discussion has moved on. If being put on the spot is difficult for the individual because of the time needed to formulate their response, they may prefer to write a report, send a text or use email .

Many adults will have found their own ways over the years to cope with their APD. However, as APD is thought to have a genetic component, it is worth parents being alert to any indictors of the disorder in their children in order to help schools to identify problems early. This will enable teachers to make more accurate diagnoses, and to support the children as appropriately as possible. 

Auditory Processing Difficulties

An individual may suspect they have an Auditory Processing Disorder, (APD), when they have a difficulty with understanding and interpreting oral information. 

Although children with APD can appear to have a hearing impairment, their hearing is usually within the normal range. The individual can hear what is being said, but finds it difficult to work out what the words mean. 

It can be hard to establish whether APD is a symptom or a contributory factor of Specific Learning Difficulties such as dyslexia or attention deficit, because of the overlapping behaviours involved. 

When a child with APD cannot understand what is being said, they may ask for repetition, copy their peers, misbehave, not react, or do what they, (mistakenly), believe they’ve been asked to do. Such behaviour could be viewed by an adult as the result of the child experiencing a hearing problem, learning difficulty, having a poor memory, a weakness in attention, or simply being naughty.

Parents may suspect that the child is not hearing or listening properly at a young age, but it is normally when the child starts school that the difficulties become more obvious. 

APD is believed to affect between 3%–5% of school-aged children.

The child with APD will display some of the following behaviours: –

  • Poor listening ability, for example, confusion when following the sequence of a story or remembering the role different characters play within the story.
  • A difficulty coping with noise, and generally being more distractible in noisy environments. The child’s listening and performance will improve in quieter settings.
  • A problem with identifying sounds and words accurately, and often confusing similar sounding words, for example house and horse, muslin and Muslim, gum and gone. 
  • The child will find it hard to remember simple songs and nursery rhymes.
  • In school they will be slow to contribute to class or group discussions.
  • A difficulty following simple instructions, often misunderstanding what they are being asked to do. They will regularly request repetition of information, or closely watch and then copy the actions of other children. 
  • They will find it hard to follow rapid speech and fast-moving conversations.
  • Their poor grasp of phonics will lead to comparatively slow development of early reading. 

To help the child with APD: –

  • Reduce background noise and visual distractions. Turn off the radio or TV when speaking to the child.
  • Ask the child to repeat instructions in their own words to make sure they have understood. 
  • Be aware of the impact on the child of situations where acoustics are particularly poor. 
  • Don’t use ‘flowery’ language. Give simple directions with fewer words and instructions for the child to follow. 
  • Speak clearly and deliberately, slowing your rate of speech if necessary. Face the child and ensure they are looking at you, using their name to hold their attention. 
  • Use pictures, body language, gesture and visual demonstration to clarify information given verbally.
  • Be patient: the child will need additional time to hear, process and then respond to what is being said.

Remember – The auditory system isn’t fully developed until an individual is about 14 years old. Most children with APD will develop better listening skills over time as their auditory systems mature.

The Benefits of Boredom

‘And I remember how we’d play,

simply waste the day away.’

(Our House – Madness)

Many working parents rely on the stimulating environment of nurseries and day care centres to entertain their child while they are at work. Older school-aged children are taken from one extra-curricular activity to another after school and at weekends. Such structured and adult led input can reduce a child’s capacity to amuse themselves, encouraging a dependency on grown-ups to provide stimulus and entertainment. Perhaps there is an argument for reducing children’s reliance on adult organised activity, and letting them experience boredom. 

When a child is bored, they will: –

  1. Daydream. 

Children need time to daydream. Daydreaming encourages creativity. During free time, away from adult interference, children will play more creatively by, for example, using everyday objects for different purposes: a cardboard box becoming an animal’s shell, a goal, a house, truck, cave, shop, and so on. The more free time children have, the more creative they will become in their solutions to boredom.

2. Be prepared for life.

The adult world is often predictable and humdrum. Adults have to be able to complete routine tasks conscientiously: not everything is always exciting and entertaining. Workplaces may also demand soft skills such as: problem-solving, collaboration, creativity, imagination and cognitive flexibility. Children need enough free time to develop these skills: time to amuse themselves and bond with their peers, devising their own games without a grown-up overseeing their play. A football match does not have to have two equal sides, set positions, two goals, or be played with a football; the children can make up their own rules.

3. Develop their social skills.

A child who has nothing to do, will seek out social interaction. Children need time to play in the real world; opportunities to enjoy their surroundings, play with siblings, meet with friends, and engage in simple, everyday tasks: hanging out the washing, shopping, reading, playing in the garden. Happiness involves being grateful for simple things. Gerda Weissmann Klein, a Holocaust survivor. talked about enjoying ‘the magic of a boring evening at home.’

4. Develop personal motivation

When a child is bored, they will be forced to decide how to amuse themselves. If a child is left to pursue their own interests, they will develop their individual passions, explore different hobbies and pick up alternative pastimes. 

5. Become more independent.

Free time assists cognitive and emotional development. Children who are always occupied with adult led activity: after school care, music lessons, sporting activity, ballet, gym and chess classes, Spanish and Italian discussion groups, screens, TV, and social media, will not have the time to think or use their own brains.

6. Rest and re-charge their batteries.

When children are taken from one extracurricular activity to another, (often activities that involve little personal choice), they are likely to develop an apathy towards learning. Children need the time to rest physically and emotionally, to reflect and think about things that have happened, or that they would like to happen, to turn the TV, mobile phone or iPad off, and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. 

7. Become less self-centred.

When children are left to their own devices, away from adult intervention and organisation, they are given a valuable message, namely, that the world does not revolve around them. 

‘Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.’

(Winnie the Pooh.)

The Perfectionist.

Whilst trying to do your best is always admirable, if reasonable effort turns into a need for perfection, a commendable personality trait becomes problematic. Perfectionism can lead to reduced self-esteem, unhappiness and underachievement.

The desire among children and young people for high achievement across all areas of their life: academic, sporting, appearance, popularity, etc, has escalated exponentially in recent years. One of the main reasons for this seems to be the regular testing taking place in schools. When adults placed emphasis on test results, children are constantly reminded of the value of academic success. Social media also adds to young people’s insecurity by presenting a distorted view of the lives of others, in which good looks, a perfect figure, a fabulous social life, popularity, money and success all appear to be achieved without effort. Some groups of young people seem to feel this pressure more keenly than others. High achieving girls from schools with a reputation for academic success, are among those most likely to experience the downside of perfectionism.

The perfectionist will: –

  • Become anxious quickly and worry about errors. They will take a long time to finish work or constantly re-start tasks because they aren’t going to plan.
  • Procrastinate; constantly avoiding or putting off activities because they worry that the task may be too difficult for them to complete, and they will be humiliated.
  • Become so frustrated by any mistakes they make, they abandon the whole activity.
  • Be unwilling to try anything new. The child or young person will avoid challenges and be reluctant to think creatively in case their ideas don’t work, and they’re subject to ridicule.
  • Set unrealistically high expectations of themselves, with concern about failure being out of all proportion to the task in hand.
  • Compare themselves to others; being dismissive of their own achievements.
  • Find it difficult to accept help or advice; exhibiting anger in the face of any perceived criticism.
  • Feel guilty if they aren’t constantly engaged in meaningful work.
  • Have a compulsive drive to achieve: their self-image being based on their accomplishments. 

How to help the young perfectionist: –

  • Provide unconditional affection and care: love unconnected to achievement. 
  • Listen to what the child says, empathise, then help them to view situations from more realistic perspectives.
  • Avoid comparisons with siblings or peers. 
  • Help the child to focus on the effort they are making, rather than their achievement. 
  • Encourage them to concentrate on their own performance, and disregard the performance of others. 
  • Explain the connection between mistakes and success. There are hundreds of examples of errors that led to inventions or discoveries. 

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison – inventor and businessman.

  • Provide them with coping strategies for tackling difficult tasks by, for example, taking complex pieces of work one step at a time. 
  • Give specific praise; avoiding statements about the child being gifted or a genius.
  • Be a role model. Demonstrate how to move on and not dwell on any failures. No one is defined by the mistakes they make. 
  • Help the child or young person to understand social media. What people do and say online is a reflection of what they imagine other people want, and often very different from their reality. 

Girls’ Friendships

‘A friend is one of the nicest things you can have and one of the best things you can be.’

(Winnie the Pooh)

Children and young people’s friendships gradually increase in importance during the school years as the child’s focus moves from family towards contacts outside the home. This shift is an essential part of a child’s progress into adulthood. 

Everyone needs to belong and human beings are designed to connect with others close to them. A child will be friends with children who are at school with them, those in social groups outside school, and those who live in the same neighbourhood. Such friends will share the child’s experience, understanding how it feels to be a child of that age, at that moment in time, and in that particular context. 

Research shows that male and female friendships tend to differ: – More girls than boys will report having a best friend. Boys tend to have larger groups of casual friendships, while girls have smaller social circles, but more intimate relationships.

For many girls the transition from primary to secondary school is a period of instability. A girl’s best friends from primary school may develop new and different interests, and join alternative peer groups. While children will gradually come to realise that change happens, and personal relationships come and go, many girls find this shifting of friendships traumatic. 

It is important for girls affected by such changes to remember certain truths: –

  1. In new situations, it can be hard to find your ‘tribe’, but given time, like minded peers will appear: friends who enjoy the same activities as you and share your opinions and beliefs
  2. You don’t have to be liked by everyone. It is natural to want to belong, but try not to conform if it’s going to cost you your independence.
  3. When you like yourself, more people will like you. You will also have the confidence to steer clear of unhealthy relationships.
  4. When friendships shift, learn to be happy with your own company. Take time to do the things that you enjoy.
  5. Healthy relationships will always allow people space: if you are too possessive with friends, they may feel smothered. Sometimes friends will want to go somewhere without you, perhaps on a family outing or to a club or group they belong to outside school. 
  6. Remember that all friendships go wrong every now and then, and sometimes you are certain to be irritated by something a friend has said or done. This is a normal part of all relationships: forgive, forget and move on. 
  7. Everyone has a lot going on in their life, so it would be egotistical to imagine that your peers are constantly talking about you behind your back. 
  8. Friendship is a two-way street. If you expect friends to be there for you, you should be there for them. 
  9. You need to spend face to face time with friends to maintain relationships. It is important to do things together: go swimming, shopping, to each other’s houses or the cinema. 
  10. Good friends make you feel positive about yourself. Some girls work out their own insecurities through their friendships. On-off relationships can be exhausting, and social media make such games easy to play. Remember that manipulating others says more about the manipulator than anyone they are using so unkindly.
  11. There is a difference between being popular and being well liked. Popularity can be fickle. Girls who are popular tend to be fashionable, good looking, cool, have money and be popular with boys. Girls who are well liked are kind, fun, honest, friendly and co-operative.
  12. Friendships as portrayed in films and on TV are fictional friendships. Social media does not reflect real life. 

‘Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.’ 

(Winnie the Pooh)

Young girls and body image

  1. Social media.

Remember that: –

  • Internet images are carefully posed or photoshopped. Hundreds of images will have been taken and the best two or three selected. 
  • Looking at firm and toned female bodies on social media sites does not always inspire, but rather make girls feel inadequate by promoting a body image that is unachievable for the average individual. 
  • Most women’s magazines will include ‘naughty, but nice’ recipes, followed immediately by articles about keeping fit and dieting. This is the way food companies develop business.
  • Switching off social media occasionally and enjoying real life activities in the company of others is a positive choice.
  1. Dieting.

Remember that: –

  • Healthy eating is not associated with low calories, but moderation. All things, puddings, chips, chocolate and cake included, are fine in moderation. No food is ever off limits. Healthy nutrition pans out over years, rather than days. 
  • Diets are designed with older people in mind. Adolescents need more calories than older people or young children because they are growing and developing at a rapid rate. 
  • Eating is a basic human drive. Dieting will increase your appetite and make you obsess about food to the exclusion of other more interesting activities.
  • The feeling of too many things happening all at once, may lead the individual to try to impose structure on their life. Strict dieting and fitness regimes may form part of this structure.
  • Human willpower is limited, not limitless. You may start the day deciding not to eat biscuits at break, but every time you engage your willpower in a situation, (not arguing with a friend, not answering a teacher back), your supply of willpower dwindles. Willpower is reduced by tiredness and hunger, so if you are tired or upset, you are more likely to fancy sweet and sugary food. 
  1. Self-respect.

Remember that: –

  • Even beautiful women fret about their physical appearance: – 

‘I’d like to be not so flat-chested, not to have such angular shoulders, such big feet and such a big nose.’ (Audrey Hepburn.)

Unfortunately, as a result of evolution, humans are programmed to focus on negatives rather than positives. In early human history, paying attention to things that were going wrong was a matter of life and death. Modern society has maintained this prehistoric inclination, worrying about our hairy arms, rather than focussing on our glowing skin.

  • Exercise does not have to be stressful, challenging or extreme to be beneficial. Yoga, for example, provides enjoyable exercise, developing flexibility and strength, whilst allowing time for meditation, relaxation and personal reflection. 
  • We choose our friends because they are thoughtful, funny and loyal, not because they are tall, have long hair or short legs. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend.
  • Women and girls should treat each other with respect. Avoid commenting negatively on anyone’s appearance. Women come in all shapes and sizes – end of.
  1. Many things are beyond women’s control.

Remember that: –

  • What is judged as female beauty changes over time. In the 18th century, voluptuous women were admired as an ideal. There was a prevalence of eating disorders among women in the 1920s when slender, boyish figures became the trend. The 1950s saw more curvaceous women with ample breasts being viewed as attractive, before the image of the ideal female body reversed again in the late 20th century towards a slimmer look. Judgements about the perfect female body depend on many factors beyond women’s control.
  • It is normal for girls to lay down fat in puberty and adolescence.
  • Body shape and size is largely down to genetics. 
  • You can never see your body properly; even from a photo or from the image in a mirror. You will never see yourself as others see you.
  • If you lose weight, your body will retain its proportions. You will still be tall, have stocky legs or skinny arms.
  • Everyone develops at different rates. Adolescence can be particularly difficult if you are the first or last person amongst your peers to go through puberty: you may be the tallest, or the shortest, or retain a childlike figure when everyone else is developing curves. This situation will not be permanent.

‘You’re a pretty girl. What’s in your head it doesn’t matter. Brush your hair, fix your teeth. What you wear is all that matters.’

(Pretty Hurts – Beyoncé – 2013)



  • According to the 2011 Census, 51% of the population of England and Wales is female and 49% male.
  • In the last set of ‘A’ Level exams taken by pupils, (2019), 25.5% of girls got A/A* grades compared to 25.4% of boys.
  • The gender split of the UK Higher Education student body is 56% female and 44% male, (March 2020). 

Women make up 55% of teaching staff in UK universities, 37% of senior leadership teams and 29% of Vice-Chancellors are female. 

  • In 2019, 53% of first year students at Oxford were female and 47% male. 

In 2019, 19% of Oxford University’s Statutory Professors, (the university’s most senior academic grade), were female and 81% male. 

In 2015 a freedom of information request revealed that amongst senior personnel at Oxford University, 13 women and 145 men were paid over £140,000 a year. 

  • In UK secondary schools, 38% of the work force are male and 62% are female, but 64% of secondary headteachers are male and 36% are female.
  • Of the 195 countries in the world, 15 have female leaders and 180 have male leaders.
  • Women over 30 years of age were given the vote in 1918. 

At the 2019 General Election, 430 male MPs and 220 female MPs were elected. A total of 6 of the 24 members of the current cabinet are women. 

In 2022, 550 males and 221 females had seats in the House of Lords. The first women took their seats in the House of Lords in 1958. 

  • In 2020, 5% of FTSE 100 CEOs were women and 95% male. Male FTSE 100 CEOs receive total remunerations averaging £5,299,609 a year, their female counterparts receive average renumeration of £4,416,455 a year: a difference of over £800,000 per annum. 

Five articles published in one newspaper, (Monday, April 10th 2022), contained information covering the following: –

  1. The Care Quality Commission’s report, (2022), into maternity services in England. The report rated 80 of 193 maternity services as inadequate and not meeting basic safety standards. A report by NHS England found that 231 women died in childbirth between 2017 and 2019, and that more than 80 of these women could have been saved had they received better care.
  2. The Home Affairs Committee’s report, ‘Investigation and Prosecution of Rape’ (2022). This report was based on data from the year September 2020 – September 2021. 63,136 rapes were reported to the police during this period, with 1,557 successful prosecutions. Successful prosecutions amounted to 1.3% of the total number of rapes reported.
  3. The UK army’s ‘Sexual Harassment Report’, (2022). This report stated that one in every 25 women serving in the armed forces had reported being raped by a colleague from the armed forces. Currently 5.6% of senior officers in the armed forces are female.
  4. Oxford University’s refusal to sign a government backed pledge against the misuse of gagging orders. These gagging orders have been used inappropriately to silence victims of sexual misconduct, or other illegal or inappropriate behaviour. 
  5. The National Gallery’s exhibition of ‘Women in our Collection’, (2022). The gallery revealed that of the 2,300 paintings they own, 25 were by female artists: equal to 1.09% of their collection. An investigation by the Guardian newspaper in 2018 revealed that female artists account for 4% of the National Gallery, Scotland’s collection and 35% of Tate Modern’s collection. 

No matter how much equality legislation is passed by parliament and how many targets set, the move towards gender equality remains painfully slow. It is up to women to be proactive and to force their way through glass ceilings in large enough numbers to make change inevitable. Those who are well served by maintaining the status quo are unlikely to be motivated to make the changes required for society to recognise women’s skills, ways of working, and to fully exploit their intelligence and abilities.