“Inspiring Women” campaign launched at Google
South Dublin County Partnership seeks 1,000 female professionals to speak with underrepresented school students from disadvantaged areas about succeeding in their career
Inspiring the Future Ireland (ITFI), an initiative run by South Dublin County Partnership, has launched its ‘Inspiring Women’ campaign, which aims to give young school students from disadvantaged areas a chance to hear from successful female role models working in a broad variety of roles and industries.
Inspiring Women is seeking 1,000 successful female professionals to give one hour of their time to speak to school children about their career to date, the challenges and opportunities they’ve encountered, and how best for young people to achieve their dream profession. Volunteers interested in participating in Inspiring Women can sign up via www.inspiringthefuture.ie.
The campaign was launched on International Women’s Day (8th March) at The Foundry at Google, via a ‘career speed networking’ event where 250 young women heard from 25 female leaders in business, education, science and the arts.
Young girls in particular can benefit from seeing women excelling in professions that might be more typically thought of as ‘male’ roles, and engaging with successful female professionals from a wide variety of sectors can challenge stereotypes and raise aspirations among young women.
A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests there is a particular need to increase the number of interactions between young women and successful female professionals working in a wide variety of jobs. The study gives an example of girls trailing boys in mathematics tests due to reported lower levels of self-confidence higher anxiety in approaching the subject. However this gender gap in performance disappears when self-confidence and anxiety levels are equal, suggesting a clear need to build girls’ self-confidence not only in mathematics but other subjects and extracurricular life in general.1
Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, who provided the keynote address on the day, commented, “I believe it is vitally important for young girls who are considering any career to have female role models in their chosen fields. Representation is key to success – you need to be able to see yourself in those roles you are aspiring towards. And, I believe this can be achieved through building such relationships as we are here to establish and creating positive networks between young women and professional female role models as envisioned by the ‘Inspiring Women’ Programme. That is what this network can and will provide – it can show all of us what is possible as we hear from women who are succeeding and exceeding their own expectations in the workplace.”
A 2015 survey by the Education and Employers charity in the UK found that three-quarters of respondents who had engaged with volunteers working in different jobs through their state school felt that they had learnt something new and useful about jobs and careers from the experience. The three things these young people most commonly said they had gained from such interactions were a better understanding of: what they would need to do to get the sorts of jobs they were interested in (55%), jobs and careers they were already interested in (46%), and different ways into jobs like apprenticeships or going to college or university (46%).1
Sharon Murray, Inspiring the Future Ireland Coordinator at the South Dublin County Partnership, added, “The Inspiring the Future Ireland initiative involves volunteers from all backgrounds – from apprentices to CEO’s, archaeologists to zoologists – pledging just one hour a year to volunteer in a school near where they live or work to talk to young people about their job and career route. We are looking for 1,000 inspiring female role models who can pledge just one hour of their time a year to visit primary and secondary schools to talk to young people informally about their career and the route they took to get there. By engaging with school-age children across Ireland, we aim to eradicate the obstacles – real or perceived – they may encounter on the way to their dream professions.”
Fionnuala Meehan, Head of Google Ireland, said, “It is often said that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, and this is particularly true of women in the workplace – visible role models are critical to enabling the aspirations of young people and challenging preconceived perceptions. Google has been a supporter of the Inspiring the Future Ireland initiative since its foundation here in 2017, and we are delighted to host this special Inspiring Women networking event for this year’s International Women’s Day. By meeting leading professional females in person, it is hoped that career success is not an abstract notion to young girls, but instead something that is very much achievable with the right mindset. It’s an exciting day which I was very excited to be involved with.”
Patty Clement, EU Chief Operating Officer at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said: “As the dialogue about diversity and inclusion evolves, we are steadfast in bringing forward conversations about gender, race and social equality to the business. We are guided by our ambition to be part of a broader solution for social mobility, which forms a vital part of our responsible growth strategy. We believe through education and mentoring students will be motivated to realise their ambition and look forward to encouraging female professionals to join this progressive and exciting programme.”
Inspiring the Future Ireland is managed by South Dublin County Partnership with support from Google and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. For more information visit www.inspiringthefuture.ie.
1 OECD. 2015. The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence. OECD: Paris