Get ready to hear about a new, exciting charity featuring a backdrop of bright yet untapped talent, a sprinkling of girl power and a big dollop of inspirational women to top it all off. (Yes please!) I'm talking about The Girls Network, a new yet already award-winning charity that I've just become patron of. This is a charity set to make a considerable positive impact for the UK's upcoming generation of girls. Their vision is this: 'That no girls shall have their future limited by their background or parental income.' And who can argue with that?
Established by Becca Dean and Charly Young (both ex-Teach First teachers) in 2012, the charity seeks to help girls from low socio-economic backgrounds; giving them the skills and confidence they need to enter the workplace and flourish. They get to work on this challenge by pairing the girls with inspirational women who they meet with regularly for coaching and mentoring sessions. Becca and Charly first started out by inviting women from their own University networks to speak to the girls in their schools. The girls loved the sessions so much that Becca and Charly asked the speakers to start mentoring 1-to-1. Gradually, more women began to hear about the Girls Network and were (naturally) keen to get on board. And the rest, as they say... (!) Now with the likes of PwC, Accenture and KPMG partnered with the charity, The Girls Network is seriously flying. Winning the Teach First innovation award in 2013 was the catalyst Becca and Charly needed to take the charity from a sideline project they were running alongside their teaching commitments to a full-time reality. With over 1000 girls now going through the programme, Becca and Charly haven't looked back and are positively buzzing about how they can ensure more unlimited futures for even more young women.
Having a bit of a light bulb moment whilst taking a group of her most able students on a trip (one of the girls piped up, 'Miss, why are those women wearing suits?'), it struck Becca that so many of the girls she was teaching were the daughters, grand-daughters and even great grand daughters of women who'd never worked or established careers. Becca had presumed that due to this particular student's natural ability she would be applying for University in a couple of years, but after chatting with her further she discovered that she'd never been around professional women before and (perhaps) consequently, had no desire or essential know-how to get to University or start carving a career path. This gave Becca a considerable kick up the backside. Knowing that she needed to do something to change this and other girls' similar situations and believing too that the most important and transformative life lessons usually take place outside of the classroom, Becca set off to create the innovative and goosepimply good charity, The Girls Network.
So what are the nuts and bolts of this transformative charity? Well, the selected girls (TGN take those they believe will benefit most from the programme, choosing from those who've been identified by their schools as coming from low socio-economic backgrounds) are matched with inspirational female mentors from all walks of life and career paths. The charity aims to remove the barriers between success and those taking part in the programme. Now operating in London, Liverpool, Portsmouth and Brighton, The Girls Network team are determined to match every girl with their perfect mentor, hosting workshops, networking events and experiences that their backgrounds would have otherwise not provided.
I'm getting involved 'cos quite simply TGN addresses a matter close to my heart. I, like Becca, taught for two years on the Teach First graduate scheme and similarly to Becca saw how important it is for aspirations to be raised and how students need to literally see, feel, talk to, be amongst (etc.) 'success' to develop the drive to pursue their ambitions and dreams. To give this transformative gift to those girls who might not otherwise have received it is truly an amazing thing. Over the moon to be working with you, The Girls Network. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuXDYtT4QRw