Positive role models

An online database is connecting girls to inspiring career role models through their schools.



Working mums have tended to get a bit of a bad press, although the tide has changed a little in recent years as the numbers have increased. We’ve all heard about working mums’ guilt, but what about the benefits that being in work can give?

Being an inspiring role model

One such benefit is the ability to be a good role model to your children, particularly to girls. An Education and Employers Taskforce initiative allows career women to inspire whole groups of girls by inviting them to spare just one hour a year to go into secondary schools to speak about their career path – and in May, the Inspiring the Future: Inspiring Women initiative will be extended to primary schools.

Bringing employers and schools together

Inspiring Women is part of a wider programme aimed at bringing employers and schools together. The reasons for setting it up include research which shows that by the age of six children are already classifying jobs as either male or female and by the age of eight are beginning to reject non-gender stereotyped professions.

By age 16-17 60% of girls aspire to stereotypically ‘female’ jobs. The campaign cites figures showing three quarters of women are working up in either cleaning, catering, caring, cashiering or clerical work. In terms of work experience, school records show over 90% of engineering and construction placements were taken up by boys while 90% of hair and beauty placements were completed by girls.

So what shapes the jobs they do? Some 68% of school students know someone personally who does their first or second choice of job, 83% of women who set up their own business know someone else who has done so and 55% of girls aged 11 to 21 think there aren’t enough female role models.

Two in three girls says they would be tempted to train for a job usually done by a man if they had more information about the kind of work they could be doing. The campaign says it is clear that personal, informal contact with different people in different professions is more influential than formal careers advice.

“It is clear that for girls and young women, it’s ‘who you know’ that influences career aspirations and choice. They rely on female role models from a range of sectors, positions of responsibility and stages of their life to broaden their horizons and help to combat stereotypes about occupations. This is what Inspiring Women aims to do,” says the Inspiring Women leaflet.

Online platform

Inspiring Women, which is supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, is free and is part of the Inspiring the Future Campaign, launched in July 2012. Volunteers and schools are matched up via a secure, online platform built by Deloitte. In its first year over half of all state secondary schools registered to use Inspiring the Future.

Carol Glover, Communications and Campaigns Manager at the Education and Employers Taskforce, says 8,000 female volunteers across the country have signed up to Inspiring Women so far and the aim is to have 15,000 by Christmas and to reach 250,000 girls. “It takes around two minutes to sign up and you just have to write a paragraph about the job you do and select where you want to do your talk. Schools register on the other side and we put the two together like an online dating site.”

Volunteers only have to agree to give up an hour of their time once a year and they can select on the database the local authority areas they are willing to cover, which may be near their home or their workplace. They are asked to talk about what they do, for instance, an average day, how they got to where they are now, what advice they would give young people hoping to get into their field and what they wished someone had told them when they were 14 or 16.

Volunteers can also tick a box on the database if they are willing to conduct mock interviews with students to give them interview practice or CV help if they want to help pupils understand what a good CV looks like. No CRB checks are necessary as the volunteers are always with a teacher.

The campaign’s first careers fair, with career women including Nick Clegg’s partner Miriam Gonzalez and Clare Balding, was held last month at a school in Basildon [pictured].

Find out more: inspiringthefuture.org

Follow the campaign on Twitter: @Edu_Employers and on Facebook

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