What an exciting and very busy day I had. The premise of this special day, for me, was to celebrate the achievements of women and girls, as well as supporting and empowering each other. So here is what I did to mark the day:
Attend an International Women’s Day event
This was organised by the London Assembly and I was really happy to be invited. It was an inspirational evening that celebrated the work being done to empower women and girls. Men, who support this work, were in attendance too. The theme this year was women in sport and speakers included the President of the Lawn Tennis Association and the Chief Executive of Sport England. All were women!
Deliver a talk at a secondary school
A highlight of my day was visiting a school in North West London to talk to girls from Years 8-12 about being empowered and why we need more women leaders, and my experience as a leader. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the girls were very appreciative. I gave them some figures on the amount of women in the workforce and the amount in leadership. I then asked them why they thought there were so few women in leadership? Here were some of the answers they gave:
- Women have babies, which may be a take up their time
- Women lack confidence
- They aren’t taken seriously by men
- There isn’t room for leaders who are nurturing
I found these answers really interesting because it made me think, ‘Is this the message we are giving them?’
I talked about my experience as a woman in the workplace and also working in all male teams. One girl asked if I found it hard working in an all male team and my response was that it was tough at first, because of the way they banter with each other. I told the girls that I learned how to stand strong, keep my femininity and throw banter at them too, and not only did it work, it broke the ice.
After I gave my talk the younger ones had to go to their lessons and the Year 12s stayed behind and asked lots of questions. One of the things they addressed, at length, was being afraid of speaking up. Their fears were:
- Getting the answers wrong
- Not making sense
- Not being taken seriously/laughed at
These were interesting statements from these girls because they were aware that girls outstrip boys when it comes to academic achievement. However, something, as we know, happens when it comes to the workplace and women’s progression. I wonder if girls, who are leaving school, have this in their minds.
Girls’ empowerment in school
I have a real sense that girls’ empowerment needs to be taught in school and that it may be much more important than academic prowess. I feel this because I left school with nothing but was quite empowered as a girl, which I think may have been due to coming from a line of strong women. At 18 I turned it around and got a few O Levels under my belt. I now have BA Honours and Master of Science degrees with a long career in leadership and management across different sectors. I have been a trustee, am currently a school governor and run my own company.
I reckon we need to start empowering girls and young women as soon as we can. Nursery???
Keep rising Queens!