Nastassja Thomas

Work Coach, DWP

Years in Public Service: 2 years

My grandmother/mother was a…

My grandmother (mother’s mother) left school at 14 and was in the WRN’s (Women’s Royal Navy) during the war and worked away from home in Kent and Portsmouth as a clerk of some kind. Later on she worked at an insurance company in Sheffield and commuted on the train before stopping when she got married.

My father’s mother left school early without qualifications and worked in a corner shop on Tottenham Court Road, in a munitions factory during the war, and later on at my dad’s primary school and as a records clerk at University College Hospital. She continued to work even after the family were doing well enough to move out of inner city London because she said she would have been bored at home.

Despite coming from a working-class family, my mum was able to go to university in Leeds on full grants – the first generation of women in her family to do so – and studied languages. She travelled abroad as a single woman which my grandmothers never did and she went on to be a teacher and later became head of department. Recently she completed an MA in Translation which there was no funding for when she first graduated.

Me in a paragraph

I was brought up to believe that I could have the same opportunities as my brothers and there should be no limits to what I could achieve. Although I have had the opportunity to study to Masters level and have found a sustainable vocation, I have also found that the world has not matched the expectations in many ways. From a young age I got negative reactions from boys whenever I expressed an opinion about anything at school. Later on it was mine and my friend’s experiences of sexual harassment and being ignored or dismissed by male friends that cemented my strong feelings about feminism. I don’t think it is about blaming men but about awareness and striving for equality across all genders. However, I do think that there is a need for greater awareness that seemingly harmless jokes and comments about women are part of the same spectrum that allows men to believe they have a right to a woman’s body.

My role

I am a work coach in a jobcentre in deprived area of Bristol. My job involves busy days of appointments dealing with everything from alcoholism and homelessness to people with serious health conditions like anxiety and even the occasional highly-qualified professional. It is a varied and challenging job and I have always wanted to work in a role that involves working with vulnerable people. I have recently been part of the focus on race and equality across the DWP and in my current office I am taking the lead on domestic violence. I have only been in the job 2 years so I am looking forward to developing and possibly moving on to further opportunities within the Civil Service.

If I had a magic wand, what I would do to accelerate gender equality?

There are two things that I would really like to wave a magic wand to change when it comes to gender equality.

Firstly, I would like free, legal, and safe abortion to be available at least all over the UK, Ireland and Europe, if not the world.

Secondly, I would change the fundamental prejudice that judges and values a woman by her appearance before anything else. I long for the day where we can be valued in the same way that men are in the workplace and in society as a whole.

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