Whilst I was at the One Young World Summit in Pittsburgh I attended a Breakout Session called ‘Companies should have quotas for women on their boards’. The session turned into a debate between the women in the room and there were some key points that came up that I strongly agreed with. Here are a few examples-
There are not the same opportunities for development for women as there are for men
Women think they need to act like a man in order to be successful
Most men wouldn’t like the thought of a woman being on their board because women think differently to men (due to maternal instincts etc.)
The corporate world is not one which is attractive to a young girls
A successful career is not discussed with a female at a young age
The expectation on women to start a family takes priority over a promotion or career development
The reason I agreed so strongly with these points is because at no point throughout my time at high school (an all girls school) was a career discussed with me, especially not a successful or prosperous one! After doing my GCSE’s I joined my school’s Sixth Form with the idea of been an R.E teacher (I’d attended Catholic schools all my life, education and religion were all I knew so I think it’s understandable now to see why I wanted to be an R.E teacher, I wasn’t aware of any other career option!). I left Sixth Form after three weeks because I decided it wasn’t for me. I had no sense of direction or any great passion to get a full time job, I was happy to carry on my part time job at New Look. I’d underestimated my own capability and it wasn’t long until I realised I needed more of a challenge, so I then went on to be a claims advisor at Lloyds bank before starting my apprenticeship at Telefónica in September 2011!
Telefónica is a very male dominated business, this is understandable due to it being a digital services company (that’s a very stereotypical thing of me to say, but it’s true!). When I first started with Telefónica I was 17 and found the environment I was working in was an intimidating and competitive one. I did struggle in the first six months as I felt outnumbered by the males and although I’ve always been treated as an equal I sometimes felt that I wouldn’t have the same opportunities as my peers because they were men and I was a young girl!
It wasn’t long until I began to realise that I had just as many opportunities as the males did and that in fact we are all equal. I realised that it was up to me to seek out those opportunities and that no one else was responsible for what happens within my future career other than me!
After sitting in the Breakout Session at the One Young World Summit, it struck me that I wasn’t the only one who had once had no drive or sense of career progression. It’s obvious that within the UK we’re not very good at motivating our young people to get into careers from a young age and be as successful as they can be! We now have 958,000 unemployed young people living in the UK.
I have decided I want to make a change to this, I want to change the way young females (aged between 14-15) think about their future career, I want to help them build their self-confidence and self-belief but most importantly I want to inspire them to find the drive to lead a successful career.
I have put together a scheme called ‘Inspiring You’. The idea of the scheme is to run workshops with young females and speak to them about the skills and qualities they have that will be valued by an employer. I have prepared a workbook with activities in it that will accompany the workshop. The workbook will help them pick out what their key skills are and they can use it as a point of reference for when they are applying for jobs or writing a CV. Throughout the day I have also arranged for female guest speakers from around the business to come along and discuss their background and career up to now. They discuss how they got to where they are, what they’re doing within the company, the struggles they have faced along the way and how they have got through them, for example juggling work commitments and a family. I also plan a tour of the office for the girls as the Telefónica offices are very exciting and interesting so it allows the girls to see what goes on inside a large corporate office.
I believe that providing young people with opportunities like this, alongside companies providing job opportunities such at Telefónica’s Talentum, will help to drive youth unemployment down in the UK.
As well as working with females aged between 14-15 I would also like to work with young unemployed people as I believe building on confidence, self-belief and providing a little bit of inspiration is all a young person needs in order to give them the drive to go out and join the working world!
I ran my first event on Monday 25th February and it was a great success! I have the next one scheduled in for Friday 24th May!