The Girls’ Network
A former Portsmouth woman reveals to Charlotte Pearson how her charity aims to inspire the future generation.
While girls dreaming about embarking on a career as a doctor, teacher or accountant may not seem out of reach, for some even the concept of working is not on their radar.
The Girls’ Network was set up by Becca Dean and Charly Young during International Women’s day on March 8, 2013.
The award-winning charity matches girls from low socio-economic backgrounds with inspirational female mentors from all walks of life.
“Both Charly and I were Teach First ambassadors working in schools in London,” explains Becca. “I was at an all girls school and took my class out for a trip.
“We were doing a tour of the London law firms and had stopped at The Gherkin, when one of the girls tapped me on the shoulder and asked why there were women in suits.
“I replied they were going to work and they just looked so confused.
“For some of them in their families they have three generations of women who have never worked.”
So the idea was born.
Becca managed to convince her head teacher to let her hold a speed networking event one evening where the girls could meet professional women.
“It was a massive success,” enthuses Becca. “It made the girls realise that what they were doing at school was a stepping stone which could lead to further education or careers that before they had never considered.”
After careful consideration Charly and Becca knew they were on to something and so decided to take a leap of faith, quit their jobs and dedicate their time to The Girls’ Network.
What started with 50 girls has grown to nearly 600, and has gone from a couple of schools in London to work with a range in Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Brighton, Chichester, Bognor Regis and Liverpool.
But it isn’t just great at showing girls the possibilities career-wise, it also helps them in other ways.
“For some it is about increasing their confidence,” explains Becca. “There have been girls who have been painfully shy and not able to look someone in the eye.
“One mentor had a girl and during the sessions they went to a coffee shop and built her confidence so she could eventually order and pay for her own coffee.
“On the last one she turned up with two cups of coffee for them.
“After the sessions teachers tell us the girls are more likely to put their hand up in class and voice an opinion.”
Mentors come from a range of professional fields from doctors and firefighters, to accountants and engineers.
“It shows the girls how maths and science can be developed into a career,” explains Lori Douglas, Portsmouth network manager.
“If some people are unable to be a mentor their organisations can offer work experience for the girls.”
The network works with girls aged 14 to 19 as Becca explains this is when they start to think about their GCSEs and what the next step may be for them.
So how do they match the girls up?
“We meet the girls and explain what the programme involves,” says Becca. “We ask them if there is a particular career they are interested in so if they want to be a doctor we would match them with a doctor.
“The teachers and head teacher also feed into what the girls are like.
“For the girls that don’t know what they want to do we have the networking event.
“Each girl has about four or five minutes and they have some questions and prompts.
“Afterwards we talk to the girls and see if there is anyone they have chemistry with.”
Each of the mentors receive training, and it not only provides a network for the girls but the mentors also make connections as well.
“The plan is eventually for the girls to go off to uni, or have careers and then come back to the network, maybe even as mentors,” says Becca.
“The support doesn’t end when they turn 19, we are always on hand for them.”
As its popularity has grown Becca and Charly have found schools coming to them requesting sessions, which includes workshops, networking events and experiences.
“Schools have money called a pupil premium which is additional funding given to schools to help close the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers,” she says.
“We take a percentage of that to run the courses.”
Having grown so much in two and a half years it will be interesting to see just how far the network spreads in the future.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor, would like to offer work experience through your organisation or would just like to find out more information, you can visit the website www.thegirlsnetwork.org.uk
October 6, 2015 Business and Investments