Inspiring the women of the future

I have covered a few Inspiring Women events in the last year – events designed to encourage girls to consider a multitude of career options. I have always attended as a journalist.

Never as anyone inspiring. But I have been promoted this week. Yesterday I attended a speed careers event for sixth formers at a girls’ school in Brentwood.

“What are you doing today, mum?” asked daughter two, uncharacteristically interested in my work, although the underlying motivation behind the question was to ascertain whether I was going to upgrade my phone and give it to her. There has been an almighty battle going on between daughters one and two over my phone.

I’ve tried to extend this battle as much as possible as all compromises have failed and because during the interim period while I have been deciding everyone has been being very nice to me.

But I finally visited EE at the weekend and the upgraded phone [which is really a downgrade since I’ve gone for a cheaper version] is in stock this week.

Anyway, back to daughter two’s question about what I was doing on Tuesday. “I’m being inspiring,” I replied. No response.

I admit that my day of being inspiring did not kick off too well. I was up until around 1am the night before trying to catch up on work after a heavy weekend of Spiderman parties and the like. I was slightly late on the school run, in part due to the fact I had borrowed daughter one’s shoes so I could look more inspiring as the only pair I currently own are red trainers.

Daughter one’s feet are one size bigger than mine. Ideally, I needed to leave home by around 12.15 to get to the venue on time for lunch before the event.

Of course, the phone rang at two minutes to and I got slighty off schedule. There were roadworks en route and I couldn’t find the car park then had to park on the 10th floor and run to the school in the oversized shoes so arrived 10 minutes late, but in time for the event.

There was a hall full of tables with lots of sixth formers around them and around 13 women ready to inspire them. We had seven minutes per table to talk about our careers.

About halfway through I began to feel very, very old as I have done quite a few different jobs in the last 25 years. I wanted to leave enough time for some questions. And the questions were good. There was a very detailed one about discrimination against women, for instance.

There were a lot of questions about whether my A Levels had had an impact on my future career, if going to university was important and whether it was necessary to do a journalism course.

Quite a few of the editors I have worked for have been what I might call fairly dismissive of anything like media studies – an inquiring mind was more important, they always said although perhaps not quite so politely.

But I confess that I’m not sure what the current state of play is, given that a lot of journalism is about technical skills these days. However, most of the technical skills I have acquired have been learnt on the job.

I was asked for general advice several times. I’m not great on advice, but I think I must have said the words “do something you love” quite a few times. I’m not sure this was in any way helpful.

I did big up modern languages. Not only had it got me some great jobs, but I also got to know my partner because I was the only person at the party we met at who spoke Spanish.

“Have you interviewed anyone famous?” I was asked. My mind went a total blank. I am pretty sure I have interviewed famous people, but maybe not the kind of famous they had in mind. Most of them have been academics or writers.

My partner has been perpetually disappointed that none of my jobs has ever led to me interviewing Martin Gore from Depeche Mode.

I left, having spoken to maybe 40 or 50 students. I’m not sure what they made of it and whether it was in any way inspiring, but I think I would have liked something similar when I was at school.

As it is, I spend a lot of my life talking to people about their career trajectories and I always find it intensely interesting. My own career path has been fairly winding.

I have more or less followed what has interested me at the time and been lucky enough to do very stimulating, although not perhaps the best paid, jobs. What is success though?

I came home and told everyone that they had an inspiring mother. Cue a lot of repressed laughter. “Please don’t come to my school,” said daughter two.

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