As a society, we’re struggling to close the gender pay gap. We simply don’t have 168 years1 to slowly claw back the inequalities and edge our way towards a more gender balanced world. We need to see significant change over the next couple of generations if businesses and organisations are to be as innovative, agile, and productive as the digital age demands.
While it’s easy to feel despondent, there is a lot of good work that business leaders and charitable organisations are doing. There are positive news stories to be found among the shocking statistics to which we risk becoming immune. One such story is that of Inspiring Girls, a charitable organisation set up by lawyer Miriam Gonzalez Durantes.
What is Inspiring Girls?
Research tells us that between the ages of eight and 14, girls’ confidence falls by 30%. This is therefore a make or break period in a young girl’s life and the Inspiring Girls team is making it their mission to have a positive impact on life-changing decisions about future education options and career paths.
It’s a relatively simple idea that puts two superpowers at its core: storytelling and technology. In business, we are now well versed in the benefits that storytelling can bring – be it to tell the story of the brand, bring a product to life, or motivate a workforce. By combining storytelling with tech, Gonzalez Durantes and her team hope to be able to introduce millions of 10-15 year olds to ‘the full variety of careers and options in life – and inspire them to aim high’.
The charity connects female role models with school-age girls, providing a platform from which the youngsters can hear about possible career paths and jobs that they may otherwise never have heard about. The role models come from all walks of life and the stories they tell are honest and relatable. A CEO that followed an unconventional career path. A prominent politician who encountered setbacks and challenges along the way. A firefighter who stood up to entrenched gender stereotypes to carve out a fulfilling career.
So far, this impressive work has taken place locally, by the team going into schools and spreading the word about aspiration, confidence, and all that falls within the realm of possibility. Technology is now enabling the group to move their work to another level.
The launch of the Video Hub at the Global Summit 2019
Last week, at Google HQ in London, the founder and her team, including CEO Vicky Booth, launched the Inspiring Girls Video Hub. A small team from AchieveForum was invited to attend the launch, as a result of the work taking place around the role of L&D (and specifically leadership development) in driving a gender balanced workplace culture.
The event itself was clearly a moment of immense pride and joy for all those involved. Over 100 videos are already live – each one lasting no more than 6 minutes, and covering a wide range of sectors and roles, from Beauty and Aviation, to Politics and Telecoms. Guests were treated to a few of the videos – a mix of high-profile role models, and some unknown faces telling their own inspirational stories.
There were a number of touching moments, such as hearing from 16 year old Ana Claudia, who was selected by Inspiring Girls to fly over to London to speak at the event. This was her first time out of her hometown of Sao Paolo, let alone flying half way around the world. A handful of school-age girls had the experience of conducting live interviews on the stage with classicist Dame Mary Beard and Syrian activist Muzoon Almellehan, before joining their peers for a ‘speed dating’ style event where they could quiz a group of women about their career choices.
This is a global project – and therefore a pretty ambitious one. Cultural norms vary enormously between geographies and communities, but Inspiring Girls is up for the challenge. Already making an impact in South America, and in pockets of Europe and Asia, the organisation is set to open its doors in Africa and has its sights set on launching similar partnerships all over the globe.
They know that the role-model approach works. Latest research from Inspiring Girls reveals that 70 per cent of girls feel differently about their futures after hearing from women role models.
Tackling gender inequality through collaboration
AchieveForum became involved with Inspiring Girls through Lee Chalmers, a member of our network of expert leadership development facilitators. Lee has, for many years, been pushing for more women to enter politics.
A growing number of us have submitted our own stories to the Video Hub, and are now encouraging our clients and partners to do the same. (See how to add your own video – it’s actually more enjoyable than you might think, and takes very little time.) We also recently recorded a podcast with the Inspiring Girls CEO, Vicky Booth, which you can listen to here to find out more about the organisation.
The link to our own mission of raising the bar of leadership success, is clear. A gender balanced culture is where everyone has equal opportunities to reach their full potential, regardless of their gender. It is a culture where inclusion is the default – and not the exception. As Gonzalez Durantes reminded us at last week’s Summit event, women tend to wait until they are 100% qualified for a role before applying, while for men, that figure averages at just 60% qualified. We need to be promoting inclusive leadership behaviours and making sure that as the younger generations enter the workplace, they are actively encouraged to fulfil their potential as leaders in their field. For too long, capable women have been deterred from leadership roles by systems, attitudes, and workplace cultures.
Let’s tackle this global problem as a collective – each focusing on the elements that fall within our sphere of influence. The current school-age generation will soon be joining the workforce and we must pave the way for their success.
1 At the current rate of progress, it will take 168 years to close the global gender gap in North America https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-gender-gap-report-2017