20/01/2019 2:00 AM AEDT

HuffPost Her Stories: The Brexit Story You Might Have Missed

Plus: (Another) female virtual assistant rolls out in India.

PA Ready News UK
Tulip Siddiq (above) delayed the scheduled birth of her son to be sure her vote in Parliament against Theresa May's Brexit deal was counted.

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Dear reader,

Amid the avalanche of Brexit news this week, there was one story in particular that had me do a double take. Did you see the picture of Tulip Siddiq, a very pregnant member of Parliament waiting in a wheelchair to cast her vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal? Did you see the headlines about how she delayed the scheduled birth of her son to be sure her vote was counted?

It seems I wasn’t the only one completely baffled by the news, judging by the number of articles seeking to explain (and criticize) why this woman with gestational diabetes was at Westminster and not a hospital.

The Evening Standard explained that, typically, “heavily pregnant MPs, those with newborns and the sick are able to be ‘paired’ with an opposition party member who also cannot vote so the overall result is not affected.” Siddiq lost faith in these types of unenforceable arrangements, the article added, after witnessing a colleague get burned. Last summer, a Conservative MP cast an important Brexit vote despite being “paired” with the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats who couldn’t vote — because she was on maternity leave.

“He insisted it was a mistake,” HuffPost U.K.’s Jasmin Gray said. “But it shows that something needs to change in order to ensure the voice of female MPs are heard.”

Some MPs, including Siddiq, have been pushing for proxy voting, which would allow sick or pregnant MPs to nominate people to vote on their behalf. In the meantime, Jasmin said, “pregnant women are still forced to choose between putting their health at risk, or potentially losing out on their vote altogether.”

Siddiq returned to Westminster again on Wednesday night to cast a vote of no confidence against May and was scheduled to deliver her son on Thursday. I’m hoping her silence on Twitter is an indication that all is well and that she finally feels it’s safe to unplug.

Until next time,


For more on Brexit, follow HuffPost’s @JasminGray2, @singharj, @nedsimons, @paulwaugh, @REWearmouth and @HuffPostUKPol.

Robot Receptionist Joins Siri, Alexa As Latest Female Assistant Ready To Serve

Gopal Sathe
Setting up the Mitri robot.

HuffPost India reported on Mitri this week, the latest addition to a Bengaluru co-working space. The robot receptionist wears pink, answers questions and will eventually take up light janitorial work, like vacuuming. The CEO of Invento Robotics, the company that manufactures Mitri and her male counterpart Mitra (who is being groomed for car dealership work) explained that their gender roles are determined by “what our customers want.” This aligns with reports about why default voice settings for virtual assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, tend to be female: Research shows that customers seeking helpful guidance respond better to women’s voices. CEO Balaji Viswanathan told HuffPost India’s Gopal Sathe not to “read too much into the whole gender thing,” but Gopal does, thoughtfully addressing the sort of messages these gender decisions send both to — and about — the people using them.

Survivors Of Former USA Gymnastics Doctor Speak Out In Seven-Part Anniversary Series

JEFF KOWALSKY via Getty Images
People react as Larry Nassar listens to impact statements during his sentencing phase in Ingham County Circuit Court in January 2018.

It’s been a year since a judge in the U.S. state of Michigan effectively sentenced Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University trainer, to life in prison on multiple child sexual abuse charges. HuffPost U.S.’s Alanna Vagianos reported on the staggering number of accusations against the once-famed doctor before his case dominated national news. For the anniversary of his now-historic trial, Alanna returned to survivors to report a seven-part series commemorating the seven days it took for 169 survivors and their family members to read victim impact statements to Nassar in court. It’s a powerful body of work that analyzes the extent to which the university and USA Gymnastics have righted their wrongs and how survivors — and their family members — are moving on.

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