Tag Archives: #WomensRights

Theft of the Mind: When Women’s Ideas Become Men’s Triumphs

Smiling woman with big mirror in nature. The mirror is in front of her body reflecting nature, so it's like she was transparent.
Photo by Kalpit Khatri.

Generative AI — and more precisely ChatGPT and text-to-image tools like Midjourney — have prompted a flurry of strikes and pushback from visual and writing professionals. And rightly so.

The reason? Book authors, painters, and screenwriters feel that’s unfair that tech companies earn money by creating tools based on scrapping their work result of many years spent learning their craft. All that without acknowledging intellectual property or providing financial compensation.

They say that this is “the first time in history” this has happened.

I dissent. This has been happening for centuries — to women. Let me explain.

There are three reasons that typically come up to explain why there haven’t been more women artists and scientists through the centuries:

  • Women have been too busy with children and house chores to dedicate time — and have the space — to scientific and artistic pursuits.
  • In many cultures, men have been priorised to go to school and university over women.
  • To avoid bias against their work, some women decided to publish their work under a male pen name or to disguise themselves as men

But there is a fourth cause. When women’s outstanding work has been credited to a man. So although the work itself may have won a Nobel prize or be showcased in museums, libraries, and galleries, it has been attributed to a man instead of the rightful female author.

​Hepeating​: When a man takes credit for what a woman already said

Let’s review some unsung sheroes of science and art.

Science and art — a land with no women?

Let’s start with science

What about art?

Not enough? Mother Jones has put together ​an insightful timeline of men getting credit for women’s accomplishments​. Some gems

  • In the 12th century, “Trota of Salerno” authors a gynecology handbook, On the Sufferings of Women. However, until the end of the last century, sholars falsely assumed Trota was a man.
  • In 1818, “Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein anonymously. Her husband pens the preface and people assume he was behind it.”
  • In 1859, “after 10 years working with engineers to design signal flares, Martha Coston is listed as “administratrix” on the patent. Her long-dead husband is listed as the inventor.”
  • In 1970, “forty-six female researchers sued the magazine Newsweek, alleging that male writers and editors took all the credit for their efforts”.

And the uncredited others

  • ​Healers and midwives ​— Women were the original healers, using herbs and remedies to cure alignments and help with deliveries, contraception, and abortion. As no good deed goes unpunished, a lot of them would end up burning at the stake. How much of our current medicine is based on those uncredited healers?
  • Brewers — From the earliest evidence of brewing (7000 BCE) until its commercialisation, ​women were the primary brewers on all inhabited continents​. But who do you picture in your mind when you think of a “brewer”?

Our gendered standards of excellence

Above I shared some examples of women’s extraordinary work stolen by others (or conveniently forgotten).

But the problem runs deeper because we’re educated to consider men’s contributions extraordinary whilst than of women’s ordinary.

  • Let’s take parenthood. A woman takes her children to school — it’s her job. A man takes his children to school — he’s a dedicated father and a beacon for other parents.
  • A woman leads a project — she’s organised. A man leads a project — he’s a project manager.
  • Women are “cooks” and men are “chefs”.

And the list goes on…

What to do differently?

Let’s start acknowledging good work by women — and I’m very intentional when I say “good” and not “stellar” work.

At the same time, let’s stop glorifying each little thing a man does. Is really setting up the washing machine such a big accomplishment?

But how to overcome millennia of indoctrination?

Five years ago, I published a post showcasing a ​6-min TED talk from Kristen Pressner​ where she explained a practical technique to double-check our gender biases. It’s called “Flip it to test it!”

It’s a very simple method: When in doubt, flip the gender and see how it lands.

In practice

  • Would you praise John for taking his children to school if instead was their mother, Jane?
  • Would you diminish the role of Rita leading a project as simply being “a good team player” if Mike had led the project instead?

In summary, let’s purposely acknowledge the good work of women around us. We cannot overdo it — we have centuries to catch up on.

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Insights from Four Women’s Conferences: The Value of Collective Female Wisdom

Four images: (1) Announcement of Patricia Gestoso’s talk “Automated out of work: AI’s impact on the female workforce” at the Women in Tech Festival, (2) Four British female politicians in a panel at the Fawcett Conference 2023, (3) Agenda of the Empowered to Lead Conference 2023, (4) Announcement of Patricia Gestoso’s talk “Seven Counterintuitive Secrets to a Thriving Career in Tech” at the Manchester Tech Festival.
Collage and photos by Patricia Gestoso.

In the last two weeks, I’ve had the privilege to attend four different conferences focused on women and I’ve presented at two of them.

The topics discussed were as complex and rich as women’s lives: neurodiversity in the workplace, women in politics, childcare, artificial intelligence and the future of the female workforce, child labour, impossible goals and ambition, postpartum depression at work, career myths, women in tech, accessibility, quotas… and so many more.

The idea for this article came from my numerous “aha” moments during talks, panels, and conversations at those events. I wanted to share them broadly so others could benefit as well.

I hope you find those insights as inspiring, stimulating, and actionable as I did.

Fawcett Conference 2023

On October 14th, I attended the Fawcett Conference 2023 with the theme Women Win Elections!

The keynote speakers and panels were excellent. The discussions were thought-provoking and space was held for people to voice their dissent. I especially appreciated listening to women politicians discuss feminist issues.

Below are some of my highlights

  • The need to find a space for feminist men.
  • It’s time for us to go outside our comfort zone.
  • “If men had the menopause, Trafalgar Square Fountain would be pouring oestrogen gel.”
  • If we want to talk about averages, the average voter is a woman. There are slightly more women than men (51% women) and they live longer.
  • Men-only decision-making is not legitimate, i.e. not democratic. Women make up the majority of individuals in the UK but the minority in decision-making. Overall, diversity is an issue of legitimacy.
  • The prison system for women forgets their children.
  • Challenging that anti-blackness/racism is not seen as a topic at the top of the agenda for the next election.
  • We believe “tradition matters” so things have gone backwards from the pandemic for women.
  • In Australia, the Labour Party enforced gender quotas within the party. That led to increasing women’s representation to 50%. The Conservative Party went for mentoring women — no quotas — and that only increased women’s participation to 30%.
  • There is a growing toxicity in X/Twitter against women. Toxic men’s content gets promoted. We need better regulation of social media.
  • More women vote but decide later in the game.
  • We cannot afford not to be bold with childcare. The ROI is one of the highest.
  • We need to treat childcare as infrastructure. 
  • There are more portraits of horses in parliament than of women.

Empowered to Lead Conference 2023

On Saturday 28th October, I attended the “Empowered to Lead” Conference 2023 organised by She leads for legacy — a community of individuals and organisations working together to reduce the barriers faced by Black female professionals aspiring for senior leadership and board level positions.

It was an amazing day! I didn’t stop all day: listening to inspiring role models, taking notes, and meeting great women.

Some of the highlights below

Sharon Amesu

3 Cs:

  • Cathedral thinking — Think big.
  • Courageous leadership — Be ambitious.
  • Command yourself — Have the discipline to do things even if you’re afraid.

Dr Tessy Ojo CBE

  • We ask people what they want to do only when they are children — that’s wrong. We need to learn and unlearn to take up the space we deserve.
  • Three nuggets of wisdom: Audacity/confidence, ambition, and creativity/curiosity.
  • Audacity— Every day we give permission to others to define us. Audacity is about being bold. Overconsultation kills your dream. It’s about going for it even if you feel fear.
  • Ambition — set impossible goals (Patricia’s note: I’m a huge fan of impossible goals. I started the year setting mine on the article Do you want to achieve diversity, inclusion, and equity in 2023? Embrace impossible goals)
  • Creativity & curiosity — takes discipline not to focus on the things that are already there. Embrace diverse thinking.
  • Question 1: What if you were the most audacious, the most ambitious, and the most creative?
  • Question 2: May you die empty? Would you have used all your internal resources?

Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE

  • Childhood lasts a lifetime. We need to tell children that they are worth it.
  • Over 250 children die from suicide a year.
  • When she arrived in the UK, there were signs with the text “No Irish, no dogs, no coloureds”.
  • After Brexit, a man pushed his trolley onto her and told her, “What are you still doing here?” She replied, “I’m here changing the world, what are you doing here?”
  • She was the first anchor-woman to appear pregnant on TV in the world.
  • “I pushed the ladder down for others.”
  • “The wise man forgives but doesn’t forget. If you don’t forgive you become a victim.”
  • ‘Black History Month should be the whole year’.
  • 3 Cs: Consideration, contentment (satisfaction), courage.
  • ‘Every disappointment is an appointment with something better’.

Jenny Garrett OBE

Rather than talking about “underrepresentation”, let’s talk about “underestimation”.

Nadine Benjamin MBE

  • What do you think you sound? Does how you sound support who you want to be?
  • You’re a queen. Show up for yourself.

Additionally, Sue Lightup shared details about the partnership between Queen Bee Coaching (QBC)  — an organisation for which I volunteer as a coach — and She Leads for Legacy (SLL).

Last year, QBC successfully worked with SLL as an ally, providing a cohort of 8 black women from the SLL network with individual coaching from QBC plus motivational leadership from SLL. 

At the conference, the application process for the second cohort was launched!

Women in Tech Festival

I delivered a keynote at this event on Tuesday 31st October. The topic was the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the future of the female workforce.

When I asked the 200+ attendees if they felt that the usage of AI would create or destroy jobs for them, I was surprised to see that the audience was overwhelmingly positive about the adoption of this technology.

Through my talk, I shared the myths we have about technology (our all-or-nothing mindset), what we know about the impact of AI on the workforce from workers whose experience is orchestrated by algorithms, and four different ways in which we can use AI to progress in our careers.

As I told the audience, the biggest threat to women’s work is not AI. It’s patriarchy feeling threatened by AI. And if you want to learn more about my views on the topic, go to my previous post Artificial intelligence’s impact on the future of the female workforce.

The talk was very well received and people approached me afterwards sharing how much the keynote had made them reflect on the impact of AI on the labour market. I also volunteered for mentoring sessions during the festival and all my on-the-fly mentees told me that the talk had provided them with a blueprint for how to make AI work for them.

I also collected gems of wisdom from other women’s interventions

  • Our workplaces worship the mythical “uber-productive” employee.
  • We must be willing to set boundaries around what we’re willing to do and what not.
  • It may be difficult to attract women to tech startups. One reason is that it’s riskier, so women may prefer to go to more established companies.
  • Workforce diversity is paramount to mitigate biases in generative AI tools.

I found the panel about quotas for women in leadership especially insightful

  • Targets vs quotas: “A target is an aspiration whilst a quota must be met”.
  • “Quotas shock the system but they work”.
  • Panelists shared evidence of how a more diverse leadership led to a more diverse offering and benefits for customers. 
  • For quotas to work is crucial to look at the data. Depending on the category, it may be difficult to get those data. You need to build trust — show that’s for a good purpose.
  • In law firms, you can have 60% of solicitors that are women but when you look at the partners is a different story — they are mostly men. 
  • A culture of presenteeism hurts women in the workplace. 
  • There are more CEOs in the UK FTSE 100 named Peter than women.
  • Organisations lose a lot of women through perimenopause and menopause because they don’t feel supported.

There was a very interesting panel on neurodiversity in the workplace 

  • Neurodivergent criteria have been developed using neurodivergent men as the standard so often they miss women. 
  • The stereotype is that if you have ADHD, you should do badly in your studies. For example, a woman struggled to get an ADHD diagnosis because she had completed a PhD.
  • Women mask neurodivergent behaviours better than men. Masking requires a lot of effort and it’s very taxing. 
  • We need more openness about neurodiversity in the workplace.

Manchester Tech Festival

On Wednesday 1st November, I delivered a talk in the Women in Tech & Tech for Good track at the Manchester Tech Festival.

The title of my talk was “Seven Counterintuitive Secrets to a Thriving Career in Tech” and the purpose was to share with the audience key learnings from my career in tech across 3 continents, spearheading several DEI initiatives in tech, coaching and mentoring women and people from underrepresented communities in tech, as well as writing a book about how women succeed in tech worldwide.

First, I debunked common beliefs such as that there is a simple solution to the lack of women in leadership positions in tech or that you need to be fixed to get to the top. Then, I presented 7 proven strategies to help the audience build a successful, resilient, and sustainable career in tech.

I got very positive feedback about the talk during the day and many women have reached out on social media since to share how they’ve already started applying some of the strategies.

Some takeaways from other talks:

I loved Becki Howarth’s interactive talk about allyship at work where she shared how you can be an ally in four different aspects:

  • Communication and decision-making — think about power dynamics, amplify others, don’t interrupt, and create a system that enables equal participation.
  • Calling out (everyday) sexism — use gender-neutral language, you don’t need to challenge directly, support the recipient (corridor conversations). 
  • Stuff around the edges of work — create space for people to connect organically, don’t pressure people to share, and rotate social responsibilities so everyone pulls their weight.
  • Taking on new opportunities — some people need more encouragement than others, and ask — don’t assume.

The talk of Lydia Hawthorn about postpartum depression in the workplace was both heartbreaking and inspiring. She provided true gems of wisdom:

  • Up to 15% of women will experience postpartum depression.
  • Talk about the possibility of postpartum depression before it happens.
  • Talk to your employer about flexible options.
  • Consider a parent-buddy scheme at work.
  • Coaching and therapy can be lifesaving.

Amelia Caffrey gave a very dynamic talk about how to use ChatGPT for coding. One of the most interesting aspects she brought up for me is that there is no more excuse to write inaccessible code. For example, you can add in the prompt the requisite that the code must be accessible for people using screen readers.

Finally, one of the most touching talks was from Eleanor Harry, Founder and CEO of HACE: Data Changing Child Labour. Their mission is to eradicate child labour in company supply chains.

There are 160 million children in child labour as of 2020. HACE is launching the Child Labour Index; the only quantitative metric in the world for child labour performance at a company level. Their scoring methodology is based on cutting-edge AI technologies, combined with HACE’s subject matter expertise. The expectation is the index provides the investor community with quantitative leverage to push for stronger company performance on child labour.

Eleanor’s talk was an inspiring example of what tech and AI for good look like.

Back to you

With so many men competing in the news, social media, and bookstores for your attention, how are you making sure you give other women’s wisdom the consideration it deserves?

Work with me — My special offer

“If somebody is unhappy with your life, it shouldn’t be you.”

You have 55 days to the end of 2023. I dare you to

  • Leave behind the tiring to-do list imposed by society’s expectations.
  • Learn how to love who you truly are.
  • Become your own version of success.

If that resonates with you, my 3-month 1:1 coaching program “Upwards and Onwards” is for you.

For £875.00, we’ll dive into where you are now and the results you want to create, we’ll uncover the obstacles in your way, explore strategies to overcome them, and implement a plan.

Contact me to explore how we can work together.

How to upend your life: Become an accidental caregiver

Close-up of two people holding their hands.
Photo by Thirdman.

This is the final article in a trilogy based on my summer holiday. Each piece marks an important milestone in my evolution as an activist for women’s rights and also as a person. The first one was about the invisibility of women in public spaces (Monumental Inequity: The Missing Women). The second one was about the visibility of harassment in the workplace.

This one comes full circle. It’s about the invisibility of a very specific kind of work: caregiving.

The invisibility of carework

On August 25th my family and I traveled from Malta, where we had spent one week of holiday, to Vigo, in the Northwest of Spain. My plan was to spend 10 additional vacation days with my parents and brother before coming back to the UK.

We had a fluid plan for the remaining days: Going to Porto one day, visiting my grandmother on her farm, going to Santiago de Compostela for shopping, celebrating my mother and sister-in-law birthday’s, and visiting some cool restaurants.

The next day, August 26th, my mother broke her hip whilst walking to Vigo downtown.

From there, it was all a roller-coaster. All comes in flashbacks

  • Going in the ambulance with my mother.
  • Waiting in the emergency ward for the doctors to confirm what my mother had sensed, she had a broken hip.
  • Learning how to help my mother whilst minimising hurting her.
  • Sleeping in a hospital care chair.
  • Trying to guess went my mother was suffering because of her tendency to put up with pain.
  • Going to the hospital cafeteria for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Unfortunately, I was not surprised by the amount of work involved.

  • My research on the effect of COVID-19 on the unpaid work of women demonstrates the massive hidden work towards caring for the elderly and other family members.
  • My current research for the book How Women Succeed in Tech has confirmed the huge penalty imposed by eldercare on women. It’s typically not recognised in the workplace leave entitlements — like parental leave — or by the state, so women are left to shoulder the brunt of the care to reduce the financial burden even to the extent, in some cases, of being pushed to make the hard decision to not have children.
  • All my life, I’ve seen the women in my family – my grandmother and aunts – assume the care of their elders and sick husbands on top of their work. Without transition and, as expected, without retribution.

What did surprise me was the mental load of my conflicting emotions. Feeling

  • Guilty when thinking that I was not doing enough in my role as caregiver.
  • Selfish the nights I shifted turns with my father and I went to sleep at my brother’s house whilst he slept at the hospital.
  • Resentful and angry because after so many months and years of waiting for this reunion, I felt we didn’t deserve to spend it in the hospital. 
  • Sad when my mother would blame herself for “ruining” the holidays for everybody.
  • Inadequate for not knowing off the bat how to move the hospital bed or make work the pay-as-you-go TV.

What helped? Remembering my training as a life coach. Through self-coaching techniques.

  • I limited useless rumination. Early in the ordeal, I was able to pause and ask myself, “What is the true purpose of this holiday?”. I answered, “To be with my family”. From that moment, I decided that the whole incident had not detracted from the purpose of the trip and that from that point of view, the holiday was a success.
  • It also helped to reduce the tendency to give advice to others about what to think or feel. Instead, I was often able to shift into curiosity and spend more time listening and asking about their thoughts and feelings.
  • I put things into context. I asked myself, “If my mother were to break her hip anyway and I could be anywhere in the world, what would have been my choice?”. The answer was straightforward. It would be exactly as it happened.
  • I gave myself permission to name and process my emotions. Not only anger, disappointment, or sadness but also relief when my mother came back from the successful surgery and joy when I saw her walking the next day.

Coming back to the UK

I was not prepared for the exhaustion and mental fatigue that I experienced once back in Manchester. I guess that I thought that as soon as I’d be home, I’d resume my normal life. 

Nothing farther from the truth. I felt depleted mentally and physically. I had plenty of deadlines but my brain and body wanted to rest.

Then, I did something unusual for me, I pushed back on agreed deadlines.

I consider myself very dependable, so it was hard to share with people what happened and ask for more time to send an article, prepare a presentation, or record a video.

The good news was that everybody was very understanding. Deadlines were extended and I delivered the work. 

I felt relieved and thankful. 

Still, I thought, “What if this was a common occurrence?”, “Would the people around me have been so understanding?“

My learnings

Reading a book teaching how to drive a car is not the same as driving it. Watching a video about unconscious bias doesn’t mean that we stop being affected by stereotypes.

My research into unpaid caregiving opened my eyes to this invisible sink of women’s work. Through the data and the stories of women, I was able to quantify the effort not recognised, the time invested, the unearned money, and the lost career opportunities.

But this experience made it personal and urgent. Because in a world that still grapples with recognizing childcare as an infrastructure, eldercare is invisible, even if our societies get older and older.

Recently, I was at the feminist Fawcett Conference 2023 with the theme Women Win Elections! Of course, support for mothers was at the top of the agenda from the early morning. And rightly so. 

What concerned me it’s that it was presented as “the” item to tackle, even if during the event it became clear that eldercare — among other challenges — needs to be addressed for women to present themselves as political candidates.

Then, why do we only focus on childcare? Because we continue to think of women as second-class citizens who have only the right to one “ask” at a time. And that is “childcare”.

However, this is not a contest. Chances are that as a woman you may become a “sandwich carer” at some point  — those who care for both sick, disabled, or older relatives and dependent children.

In 2019, the UK Office for National Statistics reported that sandwich carers (about 3% of the UK general population) were more likely to report symptoms of mental ill-health, feel less satisfied with life, and struggle financially compared with the general population. Moreover, the prevalence of mental ill-health increases with the amount of care given per week. 

In summary, asking our societies to recognise the multiple identities women can embody beyond motherhood is “too much”, so we keep invisibilizing and minimising our efforts. We think that by patiently staying in line and asking for one “favour” at a time we’ll get to the finish line of gender equality.

The problem is that by continuing what we’re doing, we’ll have to wait 300 years more to reach gender equality as per the UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The cure

I don’t want to die feeling that I’m the child of a lesser god. Do you?

We women need to stop conforming ourselves with less and demand much more from our partners, our families, our workplaces, our society, and our governments. 

We need to stop “being mindful” of the inflation, the NHS crisis, the strikes, the wars…

We need to stop believing that we need to be the adults in the room, the ones that are ready to make sacrifices for the common good, the half of the humanity that is expected to “shut up and do the work”.

Let’s be bold and put ourselves first. Because when women win, 8 billion people win.

Thanks for your support

When I started writing these three articles, I thought of them as three distinct episodes with the common thread of my holidays and women. I was surprised how “visibility” weaved into each of them naturally.

Allowing myself the time for this exploration has been liberating and, at the same time, constraining. Liberating because of the format but constraining because of my self-imposed commitment to both exploring the uncomfortable aspects of the topics as well as reflecting on the alternatives.

Thanks again for accompanying me along this trilogy. 

Work with me — My special offer

“What if the rest of this year is the best of this year?”

You have 75 days to the end of 2023. You can continue to do what you’re doing. But there is a different way.

  • What if you could master your mind so you could take your life and career to a whole new level?
  • What if you could learn how not to depend on others’ praise and criticism so you could feel worthy of love and success from the insight?
  • What if you could stop the habits that don’t serve you well and have a better work-life balance?

If that resonates with you, my 3-month 1:1 coaching program “Upwards and Onwards” is for you.

For £875.00, we’ll dive into where you are now and the results you want to create, we’ll uncover the obstacles in your way, explore strategies to overcome them, and implement a plan.

Contact me to explore how we can work together.

From the Bible to the Football Field: Harassment in the Workplace

Black and white photo of young man covering his face with his hands.
Photo by Santiago Sauceda González.

This week my article comes with a little delay because I spent the weekend in London attending the Fawcett Conference 2023 with the theme Women win elections! and celebrating my birthday.

And now, back to the post.

As I mentioned last week, this is the second of a series of three articles based on my summer holiday. Each marks an important milestone in my evolution as an activist for women’s rights and also as a person. The first one was about the invisibility of women in public spaces (Monumental Inequity: The Missing Women). The focus of this one is on the visibility of harassment.


On August 20th I was on holiday in Malta with my family. I’m not a football fan but it was impossible to visit the webpage of a Spanish or English journal and ignore that the Women’s World Cup final was scheduled for that day between the two countries.

I didn’t watch the match but I kept checking the results as I was walking through the streets of La Valetta, Malta’s capital. And I was happy when I learned they had won. (To be honest, I would only have been mildly disappointed if England had won instead, after all, I’ve been living in the UK for 19 years).

Then, I read about the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) kissing one of the female Spanish football players during the medal presentation.

I couldn’t believe it. A kiss on the lips in front of everybody? The cameras broadcasting the event? It couldn’t be…

So I searched the image. And it was there. 

What happened next was textbook sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The abuser

Once his victim dared to express that she didn’t like the kiss, the president of the RFEF followed the typical pattern that a perpetrator of wrongdoing may display when confronted with their behaviour: Deny, Attack, and Reverse the Victim with the Offender, which is referred to by the acronym DARVO.

  • He denied that it was harassment.
  • He accused others of seeing harassment where there wasn’t.
  • He consistently refused it was his fault.
  • He claimed he was the victim of a witch hunt.

The cherry on the cake? The defense tactic that never dies: “I have daughters”.

How many times have we heard abusers claim that having daughters automatically rules out that they can be harassers, rapists, or murderers? 

What about the others?

  • The RFEP stood by their boss, even releasing a note that analysed the positions of the body of the female football player to imply she was the one kissing him.
  • On 25th August, the president addressed the RFEF in an in-person event. Instead of resigning, he complained of being the object of a manhunt and confirmed he’d continue in his role. The attendees applauded, including other top bosses of the RFEF and the coach of the female football team.
  • Hardly any male football teams denounced the issue and only a few male players supported the female footballer.
  • The UEFA, the FIFA, and many other federations closed their eyes as much as they could.
  • Even after the RFEF president resigned, the female players had to continue to exert pressure to get the reforms that they’d been asking for years.

Harassment has a long tradition

Is sexual harassment in the workplace new? And is it really hidden?

Before #MeToo, there was the American attorney and educator Anita Hill. In 1991, she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about Clarence Thomas’s sexual harassment when he was appointed to the US Supreme Court. Her testimony has been credited with raising awareness of workplace sexual harassment.

But almost a century ago, actresses Shirley Temple and Judy Garland had already endured sexual harassment in the workplace at the ages of 12 and 16, respectively. 

Before the 20th century, women were seen as “property” so rather than complaining about sexual harassment, their “owners” (fathers, husbands) asked compensation for “damaging goods”. Historian Ed Ayers shares an example in this interview: “There’s an 1858 case … the father sues his daughter’s employer — she’s 14 — for getting her pregnant, and thus losing her income when she has to quit and have the baby.”

In her book Ain’t I a Woman, bell hooks opens our eyes to the sexual assault Black women underwent during slavery. It was either comply or be punished. 

Would you be surprised if I told you that we have records of sexual harassment in the workplace happening 3,000 years ago? The Book of Ruth in the Bible is dated around 1160 and 1100 BC. One of the pivotal moments in the Book is when Ruth becomes a gleaner in Boaz’s field. He instructs his workers not to molest her (Ruth 2: 7–9, 15–16). And whilst the Catholic Bible in English may leave doubts about what “molesting” means, the text was originally written in Hebrew and many Bible scholars have found sexual overtones in it

Basically, Boaz knew his workers were predators and he decided to spare Ruth by explicitly telling them not to molest her. How kind of him! What about other women? What about instead firing them?

Boys will be boys…

Willful blindness

Back to the football drama. 

This was not the first time the now ex-president of the RFEP was involved in a story of sex at work. In 2020, there was money expensed towards an off-site work event run in a cottage that he later referred to as a “ paella with girlfriends” and his uncle and ex-cabinet manager as an orgy.

Years ago, the Spanish female footballers had already reported that their coach forced them to keep the doors of their rooms open until midnight so he could check by himself that they were there. He also would check their bags when they were back from shopping and, if they went out, they should inform him where they were going and with whom.

Sounds familiar. When we look at #MeToo or the sexual harassment lawsuits at “tech bro” companies (Tesla, Uber, Google) they want us to believe that those things were happening behind doors, that only a few knew, that there was no evidence.

The reality is that in all cases

  • Evidence was there for everybody to see it all along but nobody cared.
  • That having visual evidence didn’t result in automatic sanctions to the perpetrators and restitution for the victim. Abusers were still given the benefit of the doubt and victims were badmouthed.

We have in Spanish the saying “No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver.” There is a similar saying in English, “There’s none so blind as he who will not see.” There is a legal term for this

In law, willful blindness is when a person seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally keeping themselves unaware of facts that would render them liable or implicated.


Stopping willful blindness towards sexual harassment in the workplace

I was in Malta when the story started. I went to Spain with my family where the drama was played on TV 24–7. I came back to the UK from holidays and it’s still ongoing.

Although the RFEF president finally resigned, the story is far from finished for the female player who endured the harassment. There are several lawsuits underway.

Once again we have proof that whilst women continue to be seen as second-class humans, no evidence would be enough to finish sexual harassment and gender violence. We’ll continue to excuse perpetrators and find a rationale to blame victims.

Whilst I like to believe that indeed #SeAcabo (the hashtag they used to protest and means “It’s finished”), the reality is that it isn’t. It’s not a matter of “visibility” or “awareness”. 

So, what’s the cure for wilful blindness to sexual harassment in the workplace? Forceful accountability.

How does that look in practice?

  • First and foremost, let’s look at the evidence.
  • Let’s stop finding comfort in justifying a 3,000-year status quo where sexual predators take advantage of the asymmetry of power in hierarchical work relationships.
  • Let’s stop finding exculpating rationales for the perpetrators.
  • Let’s stop placing the onus on the victims to shatter our biases about who’s credible and who isn’t. 

It’s a lie that eradicating sexual harassment at work is about the perpetrators and the victims. It’s about the workplace’s culture we all contribute to — what we decide to see, what we choose to ignore, and who we believe.

Which workplace culture are you supporting right now? Is it one of difficult conversations and zero-tolerance? Or is it one of being forgiving and forgetful?

I know which one I’m supporting. I won’t be a bystander. Will you?


Thanks for accompanying me on this journey. The final installment of this trilogy will focus on caregiving.

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Monumental Inequity: The Missing Women

Potted bay laurel tree. In front, there is with a stone plaque in a podium with the text "In memory of the investigative journalist Daphe Caruana Galizia Born in Silema in 1964., assassinated on 16 October 2017 for seeking the truth May this simple bay laurel remind us of her wisdom, victory and triumph over darkness".
Monument to Daphne Caruana Galizia. Photo by Patricia Gestoso.

I went on holiday in August with the very clear objective of spending time with my brother — who lives in Spain — and my parents — who live in Venezuela.

From that point of view, I’m happy to report that it was mission accomplished.

I also wanted to rest. So I thought I’d put my women’s rights activism aside during the vacation and have a lighthearted summer break.

That was a total failure.

I had little rest and it couldn’t park my activism. However, I learned a lot about myself, what’s important to me, and how central is my advocacy for women to the way I perceive the world and the legacy I want to leave behind. The fact that these events happened during my holiday allowed me to slow down enough to recognise why they triggered such intense emotions in me and give me time to process them.

Here is the first installment of three articles capturing three intense experiences related to women during my vacation. The first one is about the absence of real women from those symbols of power, remembrance, and cultural identity that we call monuments.


The holiday started when I met with my mother, brother, and sister-in-law in Malta to spend a week on the island. 

Before the pandemic, I had been there for a scuba diving vacation. It was a nice holiday but when I discovered that Malta was the only country in the EU where abortion was penalised, I told myself that I wouldn’t go back. Although in June this year the law was amended, it’s still very restrictive. For example, in cases of severe fetal malformation, incest, or rape women are still liable to imprisonment for a term from eighteen months to three years.

Of course, that was until my family thought it was a good place for the holidays and, rather than pushing back, I decided to “park” my activism for a week.

But I couldn’t.

Very quickly, walking through the capital, Valetta, and visiting multiple towns in the islands of Malta and Gozo, I realised what to expect

  • Churches.
  • Nice streets and houses in yellowish bricks.
  • Statues of men, especially politicians.

A monument is a type of structure that was explicitly created to commemorate a person or event, or which has become relevant to a social group as a part of their remembrance of historic times or cultural heritage, due to its artistic, historical, political, technical or architectural importance.

Examples of monuments include statues, (war) memorials, historical buildings, archaeological sites, and cultural assets.

The word “monument” comes the Latin “monumentum“, derived from the word moneomonere (comparable to the Greek mnemosynon) which means ‘to remind’, ‘to advise’ or ‘to warn’.


Of course, with two notable — and expected —  exceptions

  • Religion —  Statues of the Virgin Mary, female saints and mystics…
  • Embodiment of an idea — e.g. Statues of women personifying independence. 

It hit me especially hard when I saw the monument to Daphne Caruana Galizia in Silema, journalist and anti-corruption activist, assassinated by a car bomb. It’s a bay laurel tree to “remind us of her wisdom, victory and triumph over darkness” (see image illustrating this article).

Again, women as the embodiment of ideas. I wanted so hard to see a statue of her.

Unfortunately, the lack of statues of real women is not only a problem in Malta

And it’s not only about statues

  • Only around 10% of streets and public spaces worldwide are named after women. The project only 8% brings awareness to the fact that in Barcelona (Spain) women-named streets only account for 8% of all public spaces, with most located outside the city center. On their interactive website, they also highlight that streets named after women are typically about 62 meters shorter than streets named after men.
  • And what about when we try to redress the imbalance? You either need sponsors to pay for it or you should expect public humiliation and threats to your physical integrity, as happened to Caroline Criado Perez when she dared to campaign to reinstate a woman on an English banknote.

As all the information was sinking in my head, I remembered watching a film as a child about the neutron bomb. Its premise was that those bombs could “kill people and spare buildings”. I can still see the black and white scenes portraying perfectly clean streets and buildings — no life at all.

I thought, if life was erased and only “infrastructure” remained and some aliens visited the planet Earth, what would they make out of our statues, streets, buildings, history books, museums, and banknotes? 

Monuments also play an important role in shaping our collective memory. They serve as tangible reminders of historical events and figures, helping to preserve our cultural heritage for future generations. 

Monuments of Victoria

Here comes my guess: Those aliens would conclude that female human beings never existed. That we were merely an imaginary artifact for men to get inspired, illustrate concepts, and express their ideas about beauty.

The remedy? To strive for being too much – we have so many centuries to catch up on! When in doubt, let’s remember bell hook’s words of wisdom and apply them to all domains

No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”…No woman has ever written enough. 

bell hooks

CALL TO ACTION: Let’s inundate the world with our ideas and our work. Because even if they are

  • Unfinished – we can decide that they’re finished for today.
  • Unpopular – what’s criticised one day can be a success the next.
  • Ignored – if we hide them, we’ll never know.

Let’s ensure we leave proof that we existed.


Dear Reader, 

This is the first time I’m delivering an article in three installments. It was not planned but today feels like the right thing to do. Thank you for your kindness, patience, and support as I make this experiment. The next one is on harassment.

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