Giving Young Women and Girls a Voice Competition, 2013
19 April 2013
‘Just go for it’!
I am so pleased to have the chance to judge this NCW competition and always delighted to do what I can do to help young women achieve their potential. I will be very interested to read what the entrants want Government to do, since they are the ones best placed to know what is needed. It is often the case that a competition like this will produce ideas that have not been previously thought of, but can be really successful.
Government needs to hear from young girls and women what they really want, the things that would make their lives better. I do hope large numbers take the chance to enter this exciting competition. It is really important that they put themselves forward for such opportunities. Too often young girls are frightened, or feel they have no chance of winning, but the more you enter, the better the chances of success.
Women under 30 still face significant challenges in many aspects of their lives. Women’s role as childbearers will obviously affect working lives and the demands of caring responsibilities can be a barrier to progress in some spheres. Women still face barriers in some of the more male-dominated professions, which have not yet embraced the demands of women’s lives and sometimes encourage men more than women in more senior roles. Nevertheless, the situation has certainly improved over the years, particularly in professions such as media, HR or retail – I do hope these advances will pave the way for other industries to follow. Things have, of course, improved significantly for women in the City, relative to the 1980s when I started. There are far more women in senior positions, but still not nearly enough at the top of financial firms and banks. There is a long way to go to achieve gender balance.
I became an ‘activist’ by chance, when I met a group of people who had been terribly wronged and needed an ‘expert’ to fight their cause. They were ordinary people who had never protested about anything in their lives, they were people who valued their privacy, kept themselves to themselves, but had suddenly lost everything. In the impenetrable world of pensions, they could not fathom what had happened and how it could be put right, but I managed to help restore much of their losses, which was a real privilege. Standing up for what one believes in is so important and being willing to fight for what’s right can be difficult – but also extremely rewarding.
If you’re thinking of entering this competition I have four words of advice ‘Just go for it’! If you don’t enter, you can’t possibly win and your views are valuable. You should have just as much chance as others of making your voice heard. I will be looking for practical suggestions, preferably without much cost attached. Either suggestions that could make a huge difference to a few lives, or perhaps small improvements to huge numbers of young women. Young women can make a difference – why not give this a try.