Historically, efforts towards more equity and equality for women have focused solely on their empowerment, but their lived experience and treatment by others, especially men, undercut that mission. It is time for a much more collective effort, many need to change how they think, talk about and treat women.
Written by Olivia Fuller – Business Development Officer
On Monday 8th March, in celebration of International Woman’s Day, Inspire held a virtual event – ‘Back Yourself’ – to support young women living in Hackney who are not in education or training, on their career journeys. We were joined by inspiring professional women from a range of industries, who took part in a mixture of talks, activities, a panel discussion and a Q&A. One of the main reoccurring challenges for many young women we work with is that they lack the confidence to pursue their dreams. ‘Back Yourself’ encouraged practical ways to build confidence, whilst helping participants to learn how to navigate the world of work in 2021. The event was a true success and we hope to continue with efforts like these in the future.
But that same week, news hit about the murder of Sarah Everard, sandwiched with surrounding protests and discussions regarding the continuous prevalence of violence against women and girls.
This tragedy has encouraged many women to speak out about their own experiences, discuss their own personal safety, and address the challenges faced in many other aspects of their lives. It served to expose the great amount of work that is still required to further the progression of women’s rights.
It has led us at Inspire to consider more closely how inequality impacts the everyday lives of women and their daily interactions, culminating in tragedies such as this that cannot be ignored. How, in fact, the barriers encountered by the young women that we support undoubtedly feed into this broader experience of disenfranchisement and fear.
How can we, as a charity, work to challenge this within our own field of knowledge and expertise?
PwC, one of the Big Four accounting firms in the UK, reported that progress for women in work is back at 2017 levels due to COVID-19 by the end of 2021.
Our Female Futures programme, funded by The Balcome Trust, works to directly tackle the root cause of these statistics. Female Futures is a mentoring and employability programme for young women aged 16-25 who are not studying or working. The young women are matched up with professional business mentors, who support them to identify their next steps and work towards their goals. The programme provides opportunities to access personalised, holistic support and relevant resources, helping them to find their own voices in order to achieve whatever they identify as their ambitions.
At Inspire, we celebrate diversity and help young people to aspire to be anything they want to be, regardless of their gender, race or background. We acknowledge and assess the realities of the young people we support, and channel this awareness and understanding into all of our programmes, ensuring that we are responsive to changing needs and contexts.
A 2018 report by the UCL Institute of Education found that children from as young as the age of seven begin to formulate ideas of what they can or can’t be in life. They can develop perceptions that certain jobs and industries are off-limits and reserved for people from particular socio-economic backgrounds, and that there are ‘jobs for boys’ and ‘jobs for girls’. Through our work, we challenge these stereotypes by introducing young people to professional role models from a range of backgrounds, at least 50% of whom are always women. This demonstrates to ALL young people that women should, can and do occupy all sorts of professional roles, industries and positions in society. It benefits both boys and girls to understand that women are just as capable and worthy of those positions.
There has been a painful historical misstep that puts the onus on women to be stronger, try harder, do better and be more careful if they want equal recognition or to feel comfortable and safe. Male attitudes and behaviours cannot continue to be the responsibility of women to navigate. We need to do a far better job of teaching boys and men how to be true allies. This will aid the collective effort to uplift and encourage young women to believe in their ability to be whatever they want to be and create a fairer society.
This is not just another call for more women to volunteer with us and take the lead as role models. It is a call for men to uphold strong standards of equality and equity when they engage with our programmes when they are at home when they are out on the streets or in the workplace. Now is the time.
For anyone keen to get involved with our programmes or to find out more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for primary schools, Freddie.email@example.com for secondary schools, and Hannah.firstname.lastname@example.org for additional needs programmes.