Karren Brady, sometimes nicknamed “The first lady of football”, has plenty on her plate right now, given her position at West Ham United FC and the continuing problems with the club’s new home at the former Olympic stadium in east London. But she still manages to find time to write a Sunday column for the Sun, and today she has brought forth what she no doubt hopes will be an inspirational call to young women across Britain.
Carol Vorderman - a poor inspiration for girls everywhere ...
Except she goes wrong from the word go: “We must teach girls to push boundaries and fly solo like I’m A Celebrity star Carol Vorderman” is the headline. We should, it seems, pretend that a shameless self-promotion artist who got lucky doing the numbers for Countdown is an ideal role model for those girls looking to their future careers.
The article does not do much better than the headline: “Carol has spent her life and her career pushing boundaries … She went to university in the days when not many women did”. Er, plenty of women went to Universities and Polytechnics in the late 70s and early 80s, thanks. Do go on. “She also went fearlessly into the male-dominated world of maths and engineering”. She went on to a Channel 4 game show.
After telling us how many millions Ms Vorderman is allegedly worth, Kazza tells “But it’s not just about money. She’s really living the life she wants to live … She trained to become a pilot at the age of 50, then quit her regular slot on Loose Women to fly solo around the world”. She obtained a Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL). And unless she can fly an aircraft by reference to instruments (the pilots among you will understand what that means) then I wouldn’t want to entrust my on-board safety to her, thanks.
... unlike Kate McWilliams - a real pilot
But enough of this charade: girls looking to making a career for themselves are not going to get any practical inspiration from someone who is famous only for being Herself Personally Now. The kind of pilot that Kazza Brady should be promoting as an inspiration to those still at school is Kate McWilliams. And partly because of our Sleb-obsessed culture, far too few will have heard of her. They should have done.
Ms McWilliams is 26. She became the youngest ever female airline captain recently, and flies for EasyJet out of London’s Gatwick airport. As the BBC reported, “She flies to around 100 destinations across the world and says most people ‘are pleasantly surprised and impressed’ when she tells them her age”. What impresses all those people - not just passengers, but her fellow employees - is her achievement.
For so many years, the flight deck of a commercial airliner was a strictly male preserve. Just getting into the right hand seat was an achievement for women. Even now, no more than 5% of commercial pilots are women. What Kate McWilliams has done is an inspiration to girls everywhere that they, too, can make that particular grade.
But Karren Brady can only see as far as the nearest self-promotion artist. Forget Carol Vorderman, girls. Take your cue from Kate McWilliams. And don’t buy the Sun.