Learning Vocabulary - International Women's Day
Jack interviews Jess who works on the British Council's International Women's Day campaign.
Hello my name’s Jack and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast.
In the Premier Skills English podcast, we talk about football and help you with your English. On the Premier Skills English website, you’ll be able to find all of our podcasts and the transcripts and extra activities that go with them.
So if you are listening to us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or any other podcast platform, check out our website!
And don’t forget to listen to the end of the podcast because there will be a new football phrase for you to guess!
In today’s podcast, I am going to interview Jess who works on the British Council’s campaign for International Women’s Day. The interview is quite long so I’m going to break it into two parts. After each part, I want to look at some of the most important vocabulary. But before I get to that, let’s look back at last week’s football phrase.
Last Week’s Football Phrase
Right, our football phrase. If you’ve not listened to the podcast before, every week we set our listeners a challenge. We explain a football phrase or word and you have to guess what it is.
Last week’s football phrase was ******. The word is a verb and it’s the opposite of the verb to attack. In football, some players attack and try to score goals and others ****** their own goal. You can use defend more generally, out of a football context and it’s often collocated with a reflexive pronoun. If you are attacked, you have the right to ****** yourself.
It was an easy one last week so we had a great response in the comments. Thank you Taha Gashout, Daniel 06 and Faruk Aslan for your kind words. Congratulations to Douglas from Brazil, Mehmet Sisman from Turkey, Daniel 06 from Colombia, Bertoldt from Indonesia, Vudong from Vietnam, Vahid Shabani from Iran, Taha Gashout from Libya, Marcilino3 from Italy, Taki from Japan, HSN from Turkey, Mohamed Kuna from Sudan, Faruk Aslan from Turkey, Hayato from Japan, 258963 from Vietnam you all managed to work out that the correct answer was to defend.
And I’d like to say once again to Alex, Luibomyr, Sabanoleg, Volodymyr, Violinka and everyone in Ukraine that you remain in our thoughts and I hope you are all safe.
Now it’s time for today’s interview with Jess who is going to talk about International Women’s Day.
Interview Part 1
Jack: Today, I'm talking to Jess, who works on the British Council's campaign for International Women's Day. Thanks for talking to me today.
Jess: Hi Jack, thanks for having me.
Jack: So, to get started, could you tell me what is International Women's Day?
Jess: International Women's Day is a global day which celebrates the achievements of women. This could be politically, economically, or socially. It's also a really important day for raising awareness of issues and campaigning for global gender equality.
Jack: OK … and um … Has it been going on for a long time?
Jess: It actually began in 1908 as a grassroots campaign but it was celebrated by the UN in 1975.
Jack: OK, so was that when it became, like, an International Day?
Jess: Yes, and since then, it's only grown, particularly with the birth and subsequent rise of social media use.
Jack: OK, yeah, because you … you see it a lot these days in … in people … in your news feed, on Facebook and on Twitter, yeah?
Jess: Yeah, it's a huge campaign.
Jack: So … um … each … each year, there's a different campaign theme, yes?
Jess: Yes. The theme this year is break the bias.
Jack: OK. So … um … why break the bias?
Jess: Break the bias because bias is something which stands in the way of women achieving equality. Bias is the act of supporting something unfairly. Because of bias, some people will have an unfair advantage in certain situations.
Jack: OK … Could you give me an example of a situation where someone might face bias?
Jess: This could be in a job interview. Research has shown that people are often more likely to give a job to somebody who has similarities to themselves whether this is in … um … appearance or experience, and of course could extend to gender.
Jack: So, bias is when you support someone unfairly because of because of your opinions about them or some … some judgment?
Jess: Yeah. And this can be something you're aware of or it can be subconscious.
Jack: OK. So I can see why … um … I can see why bias is an important thing to campaign against. Um … is it particularly a problem for women?
Jess: Yes, because people will have ideals of what a certain role … um … or a certain person should be and this is often … um … based on gender as well. There's a there's a really famous anecdotal … riddle perhaps you could call it, which I can read out and I … I heard this for the first time about 10 years ago and I'm ashamed to say I, … I fell for it, really … so I'll just read it out now.
Jack: Go on.
Jess: A father and son get in a car crash and are rushed to the hospital. The father dies. The boy is taken to the operating room and the surgeon says “I can't operate on this boy because he's my son.” How is this possible?
Jack: I mean it's amazing because, now, we're talking about it, it's amazing that you'd got … that you'd get caught out. It's amazing that it's a puzzle that catches anybody out in … you know, when we're talking about gender bias, but it really does show how … how deeply ingrained these ideas are.
Jess: And I think this, you know, extends to … um … things such as sport, as well. I think people … um … when people for example, refer to a referee when discussing a football match, a lot of us would automatically in our head have an image of a man in that black uniform with a whistle.
Jack: Well that's, yes … yes, I mean, is that is that gender bias though or is that just because almost all referees are men?
Language focus 1
That was the first part of the interview. There are seven words of phrases from this part that I want to try to explain. The first is the word campaign. This is a word that has come up before in the Premier Skills English podcast because it has a football English use as well as a general English use. The general English use of campaign is a planned series of activities that have a goal, this is often political, but you can do a marketing campaign for a business and you might also hear a military campaign which means a series of battles and actions by an army in a war. In football English, you talk about a team’s campaign in a league. So each year, the teams in the Premier League will look at the fixtures, at the plan of the matches they are going to play and think about their strategy and the best way to get the best result. Jess works on the British Council’s International Women’s Day campaign which aims to promote and communicate the work that the British Council is doing in line with the International Women’s Day objectives.
The second item i want to look at was the verb celebrates. Jess said:
International Women's Day is a global day which celebrates the achievements of women.
The word celebrate in this sentence means to say that you think something is important, it means to express admiration for something.
Achievements are great things that someone has done. They are difficult things that someone has succeeded in doing. So, on International Women’s Day, people are encouraged to celebrate, to praise and express admiration for women and the difficult things they have done.
It's also a really important day for raising awareness of issues and campaigning for global gender equality.
To raise awareness, this is a strong collocation. Awareness means how much people know about something. So if there’s a problem, that nobody knows about it, you could say that there’s very little awareness of the problem. If you want more people to know about it and understand the problem, you could organise some events to raise awareness of the problem. To raise normally means to make something bigger or better or higher. So to raise awareness means to increase the number of people that are aware, that is who know about and understand something.
Equality means the right of people in different groups to be treated in the same way. Gender equality describes equality between men and women or rather no discrimination based on whatever gender a person is. I think the word discrimination is very important in this context because it means treating a person differently, usually in a worse way, because they are part of a specific or different group, usually because of the colour of their skin or because of their gender or their sex or sexuality or religion or because they have a disability. On International Women’s Day, people campaign for global gender equality, that means they campaign against discrimination because of gender, more specifically discrimination against women.
International Women’s Day started as a grassroots campaign. The adjective grassroots in this sentence refers to ordinary people, not politicians or leaders. So we often talk about grassroots football which means local football and local coaches and teams. Just regular people and not professional players who have been brought in to play. A grassroots campaign is a campaign that starts by word of mouth, that is just from people talking to their friends and neighbours about it and is probably only organised around small groups. This is how International Women’s Day started.
The theme of this year’s campaign is break the bias. Bias is the action of supporting someone or something or opposing, being against someone or something unfairly usually because of opinions or ideas you have about someone because of the type of person they are. So you can be biased towards someone and treat them better than they deserve or biased against someone and treat them worse than they deserve. You often hear about bias in the media or in different newspapers. Some newspapers in the UK are more right wing and they are biased towards the conservative party and others are more left wing and they are biased towards the Labour party. The papers will present news about the parties they support differently from the ones that they oppose.
Now it’s time to listen to the second part of the interview.
Interview - Part 2
Jack: So, there are some jobs that people associate with men and there are some jobs that people associate more with women, so sometimes it's to do with say, physical strength, but then for jobs … jobs that people associate with women, they think about what … what characteristics? They think women are more caring or … so they're better for jobs like nursing. Is this this is kind of still gender bias?
Jess: Yeah, yes.
Jack: If I was employing someone to … to move house for me, I don't know, is it unfair?
Jess: What … to not employ someone because they're a woman?
Jack: If I wanted to employ someone to move my sofa?
Jack: It's really heavy, it's a sofa bed it's really heavy …
Jack: And if I had four people turning up, and if there were two strapping great blokes and then two women … now the women could probably move it as well,
Jack: I don't know, but … but is that…?
Jess: You'd be surprised.
Jack: Yeah, I’m wondering if I'm being unfair even in that.
Jess: Yeah, because if the job is literally to get the sofa from A to B, it doesn't matter how … you know … by a certain time, if they can do it, then they can do it.
Jack: But my assumption would be that they're not going to be able to do it as well … but I mean it's not how well, I'm not asking them to, kind of, flex while they're doing it, they can either do it or they can't. Yeah … tricky. Yeah, that's tricky.
Jess: So, actually … um … there's a story from the 1970s in the US … It came to light that the number of women in the top orchestras in the country was only five percent, as in, women made up five percent of the total number of musicians in the top-rated orchestras.
Jess: So, to try and tackle this, they decided to do blind auditions, whereby the people who were recruiting or selecting new musicians to join the orchestra would not be able to see what the person looked like or know their name. They would just be able to hear the quality of their musicianship, the quality of their playing, shall we say.
Jack: So … When they were doing their auditions normally, they'd do them on a stage and the … the kind of, conductor or whoever was giving them the job, would watch them, but instead of that, they were doing it, they were hidden, were they?
Jess: Yeah, and what happened essentially is this: double the number of women … doubled the number of women who advanced to the final stages of the audition process, and it had a significant impact on the number of women who were actually selected. So today, women represent 25 to 30 percent of the orchestras.
Jack: Well that's really interesting, because I don't know what prejudices or … or qualities would stop people, would make people think that a woman would not be as good in an orchestra. It's amazing how these biases can affect people.
Jess: Yeah, and I think, the thing is, sometimes, people don't even realize that they have … they have a bias towards a certain gender.
Jack: No I … I agree. I think most people, if you if you ask them, they'd say: ‘no, no, I don't … I'm not sexist. I don't have any um … any bias against women, but there are other studies aren't there that show that people do?
Jess: Yeah. And we can't help it, as humans, we judge somebody in … I think it's under a minute.
Jack: There was another case, wasn't there? To do with … um … in business schools?
Jess: Yeah, so students were asked to read a case study written by somebody called Howard Rosen … um
Jess: And they were also given one by somebody called Heidi Rosen and for Howard, they rated him as highly competent and effective and said it was somebody they'd be willing to work with. However, when they read Heidi's case study, which was, of course, the exact same document, they found her competent and effective but said they wouldn't like her or want to work with her which is interesting.
Jack: That’s really interesting.
Jess: Because in this case, they're not looking at her ability to do the job, it's more whether they would want to work with her.
Jack: Yeah. This reminds me of some of the descriptions I read of Hillary Clinton, when she was when she was campaigning to become president of the United States, because people described her as hard and as ambitious and demanding, but these were, kind of, negative things when describing Hillary Clinton but would be considered positive attributes if they were being used to describe a male politician.
Jess: Yes. I think there are characteristics that people perceive differently based on whether they're used to describe a man or a woman, particularly when we're looking at people in positions of authority.
Jack: So, what can we do to take action against this? How do you combat um bias, whether it's unconscious or conscious bias?
Jess: Well, as we've just seen, these kind of experiments and studies can be really powerful in tackling bias and helping people to be aware of it. So things such as blind recruitment for jobs or auditions as we've just seen is a really positive way to, kind of, filter out any opportunity for bias … to have an impact in the area of gender. And secondly, we can look at positive discrimination for example, an all-woman shortlist for a particular role, perhaps in organization where senior level roles are typically filled by men. And then really, after that, it's looking at role models so that we can celebrate women who have achieved things in the face of this underlying bias.
Jack: And this is something that you see quite a lot in … in Premier Skills, I think.
Jess: Exactly. Completely. And this is why, you know, we really try to celebrate our female coaches because we know just how much power and influence they have on the young people they work with, both boys and girls, and also um their peers, their families, older adults within their communities, they can have a real a real impact on challenging people's biases and assumptions.
Jack: Well, thank you very much Jess for … for coming and doing this interview today. It's been … it's been great to … to talk to you and I hope that all of our listeners will have, firstly they'll enjoy the interview, they'll learn lots of vocabulary and hopefully it'll make them think about their own unconscious bias and, er … do what they can to … to break, to break their own biases.
Jess: Exactly. Thank you, Jack. Thank you for having me.
Language focus - Part 2
Now, I want to look at some vocabulary from the second part of the interview.
There are some jobs that people associate with men and there are some jobs that people associate more with women.
If you associate something with someone or something, you connect it in your mind to that person or thing. Some associations are strong and well known. In the UK, we associate fish with chips because of the common fast food fish and chips. Other associations are less strong. For example, you might associate Sunday afternoons with watching football or sport on TV if that’s something you do. Sometimes associations are for official or professional reasons. A player might be associated with a club because they play or played for the club or you might be associated with a project that you have worked on. In the interview, we were talking about jobs that we normally think of men or women doing – these jobs are associated with men or women.
Jess spoke about a case study from an orchestra which only had 5% female musicians. She said:
To try and tackle this, they decided to do blind auditions.
If someone is blind, they have a disability which means they can’t see. In regular English it just means a person can’t see. An audition is a performance by an artist, for example an actor or dancer or musician to show someone that they are suitable to be given a job in a show or play or band or orchestra. A blind audition is where the person who is recruiting or hiring a musician or singer cannot see the musician or singer.
I used the word prejudice to describe a belief that someone is not suitable for a role in an orchestra based on gender. A prejudice is an unfair belief about or feeling towards someone, often based on some characteristic that makes them different to you. Prejudices are usually based on ignorant and false assumptions. Sadly, you often hear the term racial prejudice meaning a belief about a ethnic group, about people with different skin colour.
Jess spoke about a case study in a business school in the USA where students were asked to read and evaluate profiles of two identical candidates except for their gender. In both cases, the students judged the candidates to be highly competent and effective. If someone is competent at something, they are able to do it well. If someone is highly competent, then they are very good at it. If you describe a colleague as highly competent, then they are someone you can trust at work to do their job very well. Effective is quite similar when used to describe someone in a professional environment. The adjective effective means something does what it is supposed to do. It produces the results that you want. If a medicine is effective, then it helps a patient get better. If a person is effective, then they are able to get positive results in their work or whatever activity they are effective in.
We spoke about positive attributes. An attribute is similar to a quality. It is something that you would say about a person if you described their personality. So if you describe a person as generous, that generosity is an attribute. We can talk about positive and negative attributes. If you describe a person as generous, that is a positive attribute. If you describe a person as mean or stingy, that is a negative attribute. However, as we saw from the case study, sometimes the same attributes can be seen as positive if they are describing a man and negative or at least less positive if they are describing a woman.
I think there are characteristics that people perceive differently based on whether they're used to describe a man or a woman.
A characteristic is a quality. It’s very similar to the word attribute, but it is used with physical descriptions as well as to talk about a person’s personality. It’s used a lot more frequently than the word attribute. You may know the word character, which is very similar to personality and can see how a person’s character might be made up of their characteristics.
The last word I want to look at from the interview is tackling. Listen to this:
These kind of experiments and studies can be really powerful in tackling bias and helping people to be aware of it.
The verb to tackle will be very familiar to most of you football lovers and I know we’ve covered this before, but I thought that this was a nice example of an authentic use of the verb in a general English context. In general English to tackle means to try to solve a complex problem. So in the interview, Jess was talking about the problems of gender bias and made some suggestions about ways that the problem could be tackled or dealt with. So, it’s most similar to try to solve and as I say, it’s commonly used with complex problems and big issues like the climate crisis that we are all facing or issues in society like discrimination.
I hope that you have enjoyed this interview and learned some important vocabulary. I suggest that you rewind the podcast or rather go back to the beginning of the interview and listen again to hear the language in context.
Now it’s time for your task. As this podcast is about International Women’s Day and this year’s theme of break the bias, I would like you to think about your own biases and perhaps what characteristic and jobs you associate with women and men. I would be delighted for you to share your views and for you to read and reflect on each other’s comments. The questions this week are going to be more difficult than normal because this week’s podcast is about a serious topic, but it would be great to hear your ideas and it will be a good opportunity to practise using some of the language I have focused on in this podcast. Please feel free to answer one or all of the questions.
Here are the questions.
Are there jobs that you associate more with women than men?
Can you think of any qualities or characteristics that you think are positive in men and negative in women or that are positive in women and negative in men?
Are there any female role models in your country that have challenged the way people normally think about women?
What do you think the best way is to promote gender equality?
OK, it’s time for our football phrase. If you’ve not listened to the podcast before, every week we set our listeners a challenge. We explain a football phrase or word and you have to guess what it is.
When you know the answer, go to the podcast page on the Premier Skills English website or the review section on Apple Podcasts and write the word or phrase in the comments. If you’re correct we’ll announce your name on next week’s podcast.
This week’s football phrase is quite a tricky one. The phrase is **** ****. The phrase means playing a game in an honest and truthful way - always following the rules and treating everyone equally. Nobody should cheat or try to trick the referee. I think it’s really important because footballers are role models and **** **** on the pitch sets a good example for young people.
If you have a football phrase that you would like us to use in the podcast, just get in touch and let us know.
Before I finish, I just wanted to say that I hope you found this lesson useful and I hope all of you stay fit and healthy and safe.
Bye for now and enjoy your football.
International Women's day
In this activity, you need to match the words from the podcast with the descriptions.
As this podcast is about International Women’s Day and this year’s theme of break the bias, we want you to think about your own biases and what characteristic and jobs you associate with women and men. The questions this week are going to be more difficult than normal because this week’s podcast is about a serious topic, but it will be a good opportunity to practise using some of the language from the podcast.
Question 1: Are there jobs that you associate more with women than men?
Question 2: Can you think of any qualities or characteristics that you think are positive in men and negative in women or that are positive in women and negative in men?
Question 3: Are there any female role models in your country that have challenged the way people normally think about women?
Question 4: What do you think the best way is to promote gender equality?