In 2016, Norwich High School for Girls launched the Inspiring Females (IF) programme, with the mission to prepare young women for their futures, while creating platforms to explore their questions and represent their voices. With an ambitious team made up of Kirsty von Malaisé - Headmistress of Norwich High School, Siobhan Eke - Entrepreneur and an amazing steering group of girls, the first Inspiring Females event was created – a three-day conference where over 30 fantastic women volunteered their time to speak to, mentor, work with and ultimately inspire over 190 young women who attended from Norwich High, Framingham, Earl and Flegg High School.
Through its own organic momentum, the Inspiring Females programme has grown well beyond it’s original vision. The feedback from both everyone involved and the people in the community who have since heard of what we were doing to develop girls’ authentic voices and confidence has not only been extremely positive, but also very useful for shaping what we deliver under the name of ‘Inspiring Females’. Following this feedback and with two new steering groups of girls, we created the following events for 2017:
- Inspiring Females of the Future – an afternoon panel session with young women who shared their experiences since leaving school, whether still at university or in the first steps of a new job.
- Inspiring Mums and Daughters – a tailored, celebratory event for both mums and daughters (and grandmothers), building on the spirit of the first conference and providing a taste of what we offer the girls through Inspiring Females.
- Inspiring Females on Tour - ‘hands-on’ live projects hosted by previous Inspiring Females panellists, giving young women the chance to give something back to the guests who had previously volunteered their time to the Inspiring Females programme.
- IF Summit 2017 - Following a year of excellent feedback about the IF programme, we created a bigger and better three-day Inspiring Females conference. An amazing 40 inspirational women volunteered their time over the three days, to mentor, inspire and deliver unique workshops for over 300 young women aged between 12-17 from six schools across Norwich and further afield. Headlining the event were Cheryl Giovannoni, CEO of the Girls Day School Trust and award winning BBC journalist and presenter Samira Ahmed. The Summit included representatives from organisations such as Google, BT, Aviva and the University of East Anglia, as well as Jessica Noy, Suffolk’s Young Chef of the Year 2017, and Carly Rowena, fitness blogger and This Girl Can ambassador.
Inspiring Females aims to prepare young women for their futures, creating platforms to explore their questions and represent their voices. IF is unique thanks to all of the opportunities it provides for young women to be able to have a voice in so many ways. Our goal is to offer all girls the opportunity to interact with inspiring women from all walks of life in a myriad of different ways, maximising the ‘possibility’ of empowering each and every girl involved. We strategically and thoughtfully create a mix of ‘inspirational’ learning experiences; we recognise that every girl is individual, and will be inspired by different women, in different ways, at different times.
The overall mission of Inspiring Females is to Inspire, Educate and Empower
“Key to the ethos of Inspiring Females is presenting the authentic experience of women at all stages of their career and life journeys – we have seen with our own eyes how powerful it is when women of all ages share their challenges with each other and spur each other on to succeed.”
- Kirsty von Malaisé, Headmistress of Norwich High School for Girls
Inspiring Females was born in 2016, following a meeting between Kirsty von Malaisé (Headmistress of Norwich High School) and Siobhan Eke (Entrepreneur). What they had in common, and have since heard echoed in many women involved in the project, is a sense of several lost years for young women; how great it would have been if they had known what they know now about their strengths, how great if they had known what was possible in the world of work, how great if they had been given opportunities to develop their confidence and buoyancy whilst still in school, and had been asked to reflect on them.
Following this meeting, the first Inspiring Females steering group was formed to shape the initiative and first Inspiring Females event. Since the success of the inaugural event, the programme has continued to develop, following the qualitative and quantitative feedback received from each event.
Key to the success of Inspiring Females, are the amazing women who have volunteered their time and expertise to inspire, educate and empower the many girls who have attended each IF event. Over 80 women have been a part of Inspiring Females over the last academic year. Our inspirational women represent a diverse range of professions, from Acting to Law, and Engineering to Sport. Over the course of the Symposium, key themes such as collaboration, confidence, creativity and courage were covered in keynote presentations, workshops, networking sessions and much more, all delivered by these fantastic Inspiring Females.
Inspiring Females is grateful to OPEN Youth Trust for providing a fantastic and professional venue for the IF Summit in June 2017. The programme is supported by the staff and girls at Norwich High, with the majority of events taking place at the school, in the many facilities available.
The programme has a dedicated website which can be viewed at www.inspiringfemales.org.uk
“I think that holding the Summit at OPEN was a fantastic idea, making and creating a professional feel for all. Cheryl [CEO of the GDST] inspired me incredibly with her inspirational talk.”
One of the girls who attended the IF Summit 2017
A key aspect of the IF programme is to continue to grow and develop. Therefore, it has been essential to gain feedback from all girls who had attended each event, to discover what they had learnt, what they enjoyed, and what could be improved upon.
From surveys sent to girls after each event we have gained quantitative and qualitative feedback, such as:
· When asked what inspired them, the majority of girls highlighted an individual woman or they workshop they led.
· Several girls cited that the programme has helped them to decide upon future learning and career options, from as young as 13 years old, with a similar percentage stating that Inspiring Females had challenged their thoughts and beliefs.
· When surveyed, over 80% of the girls found the Inspiring Females experience really enjoyable
When asked what girls had learnt from Inspiring Females, responses included
- That it's okay to fail and take a chance!
- To always be nice to people on your way up because you will need those friends on your way down.
- You should follow what you believe in and keep trying.
- That failing is a way of seeing where you can improve and that you should try again
- That it is possible to have both the career that you want and a family.
- That it's possible for women to succeed in work
“The Question and Answer sessions with the panel were really interesting, but also just networking and meeting other young women at the event was my favourite part.”
One of the girls who attended.
Key to the success of Inspiring Females is the IF Collective, who meet weekly to shape, plan, prepare and deliver IF events. The Collective is made up of a group of young women aged 13 to 18 who use their experiences and ideas to drive the project. In 2016, Flegg High School were also involved in the shaping of the first conference – and we are open to partnering with other schools to shape future Inspiring Females events.
Inspiring Females continues to inspire and mentor girls with its ambitious programme of events throughout the year, with a new programme being worked on for 2017/18, designed on feedback received from girls over the first two years.
Our IF steering group, made of up girls aged 13 to 18, meet each week to plan, devise and deliver these core aspects of the IF programme. The group are also working towards an even bigger and better IF Summit in June 2018.
The next Inspiring Females event will take place on Monday 16th October 2017, with a focus on the Arts as volunteer panellists from across the arts and charity sector speak live from Norwich High on BBC Radio Norfolk.