From education to employment

The Girls Network: a charity that gives girls confidence, skills and opportunities

At Ninestiles, An Academy, where I work, I am often inspired by the talented, driven and ambitious girls I encounter on a daily basis.  However, I am also saddened that girls still sometimes feel that certain subjects or professions aren’t for them due to their gender. 

Which is why I am delighted that we have partnered with The Girls Network, a fantastic charity that works to give girls, greater access to opportunities, the confidence to seize opportunities and the skills they need to thrive.   The charity was actually established by two teachers who witnessed the barriers girls still faced in the classroom.  They decided to found a one-to-one mentoring scheme based on research showing that conversations and personal relationships could have a big impact on challenging stereotypes and expectations.

The Girls Network partners with secondary schools and colleges across the country, to match girls aged 14-19 with a volunteer mentor who is a woman.  All their mentors go through an application process and are trained by them in mentoring and safeguarding.  Once girls complete their year-long mentoring journey, they graduate and access membership to a lifelong Ambassador Programme.

Last Spring, two Year 10 Ninestiles students who had been provided with mentors by The Girls Network were guest speakers at a virtual event with Birmingham City University.  The girls discussed their experience with The Girls’ Network Mentorship Programme and shared how their mentors have helped them.  They said they had learnt how to write professional emails, try new and different things and had their self-confidence boosted.

What The Girls Network mentors offer our girls is invaluable and it’s great to see how much participants gain from spending time with an inspiring female professional.   I am so grateful to everyone who volunteers for them as they are helping inspire the next generation of girls to follow their professional ambitions.  

By Jennifer Hunt, a teacher at Ninestiles,  An Academy (part of the Summit Learning Trust), Jennifer leads on the school’s work with The Girls’ Network along with Chris Whitehurst.

Q&A with The Girls Network mentor, Pauline Dumont, Product Manager – Catalytic Generator at Delta Cosworth

When did you start volunteering with The Girls Network and what made you start?

I applied to be a mentor early 2021 and I got paired with Divine, my first mentee, in October 2021.I had been looking to volunteer with children and teenagers to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) for a while. Being a woman in engineering currently means being surrounded by men. I am keen to improve the diversity in STEM because we need people who have different ideas and see things differently. The best way to do that is to show children and teenagers that careers in STEM are exciting and fulfilling.

What do you enjoy most about being a mentor?

I am fortunate to have been supported by family and friends to be where I am today. Being a mentor allows me to give some of it back and help other people achieve their goals. I am grateful to meet great young girls and to have the opportunity to support them wherever they need.

Is there anything you have learned from your mentee?

Dream big! Divine, my mentee, is inspiring. She knows what she wants, and she is determined to achieve her future goals. It is a good reminder that I can also achieve my future goals.

How important do you think organisations like The Girls Network are to young girls?

Organisations who aim to empower young girls are critical. They allow young girls to see role models and what they can achieve professionally: « If you see it, you can be it. »Being directly involved with professionals is useful to have advice from people who have been through similar stages. I would have liked to have someone to guide me with CV, cover letters, what is important for interviews,… It would have helped with self-confidence and this is very valuable to young girls.

What message do you have for any young girls out there reading this?

You can become whoever you want to be. The sky is the limit. If you set your mind to something, you can achieve it.

Q&A with The Girls Network mentee, Divine a Year 10 from Ninestiles, An Academy

Have you enjoyed being partnered up with a mentor from The Girls Network?

So far, I have found the Girls Network program very useful and helpful as my mentor has helped me understand how to get to what I want to be in the future. She has showed me the steps I need to take to achieve my goals.

Has having a mentor from The Girls Network made you think differently about what you would like to do in the future?

My mentor has made me think differently about the future and that there are a lot of opportunities that you can take.

How important do you think organisations like The Girls Network are to young girls?

I think the Girls Network program is very good for girls who either know what they want to do in the future but don’t know how to get there or for girls who don’t know what to do in the future. I think that if there’s any opportunities that would benefit you as it can help find what you want to do in the future.

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