Recognising the importance and value of female volunteers in our Education programmes

Written by Rachel Bell and Merossa Cofie, Project Managers, Education Team

On 8th March 2021, we celebrated International Women’s Day. This year’s theme was ‘Choose to Challenge’ with the hope that where comes challenge, change will follow. For the Education Team plans were different this year, with the intensity of students going back to school and lockdown still in full force, volunteers were not able to physically meet students to share their stories. However, the appetite from the volunteers was still there, with women expressing interest in sharing their professional career stories.

Within the Education Team we sent out a portfolio of profiles, exhibiting ‘A Day in the Life’ of female volunteers from various companies, roles and levels of seniority. This was made possible by the inspiring women who volunteer their time to share their career journey, the setbacks they have experienced and what they have learnt along the way. We hope to encourage female students to pursue their dreams and give them the confidence to know it is possible.

The importance of role models cannot be underestimated. The interactions between our female volunteers and female students can help play a part in raising the latter’s aspirations and believing they can be successful and thrive in the workplace; succeeding in a male-dominated industry and/or occupying positions of leadership. Communication, confidence and resilience are some of the key skills developed through our opportunities such as our mentoring programme and workshops, with a significant number of our beneficiaries being young women.

This year marks the 10 year anniversary of one of our partners and Clapton Girls’ Academy, an all-girls school based in East London, on our Mentoring Works programme. This month, we launched the Sixth Form mentoring programme with the school and company. We are proud of this long-running partnership as it continues to go from strength to strength.

Every year, ELBA facilitates prefect interviews for the Year 10 students at Sarah Bonnell Secondary School, who are interested in becoming a prefect for their final year. Corporate volunteers will ask the students questions around leadership qualities, resilience, making decisions and setting an example for the younger students. This is a great opportunity for the female students to progress and recognise their own strengths and skill sets, with the upcoming interviews taking place in April 2021.

This conversation and the celebration of women cannot be contained to a date in March, it should be a topic of discussion year-round, and a focus for all workshops we deliver. Gender networks within corporate companies, highlight these issues and provide a safe space for growth and development. Having our male colleagues as advocates will encourage more to join, and create inclusive and diverse teams, which will enable innovation of change.

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