The Inspirational Women Conference is the culmination of a project undertaken by the Billericay School in conjunction with Creative Partnerships. It takes place on Tuesday 22nd March 2011 from 11am-2.00pm at the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford Essex. It will feature talks by inspirational women and presentations, displays and performances from students. Speakers include Sam Baker (Red magazine editor), Bridget Minamore (Write Here Right Now), Sarah Parmenter (you know who design) and Naomi Williams (‘Because I’m A Girl’ Plan UK Campaign). The audience will consist of year 10 and 12 girls, female family members and a range of women from different careers, backgrounds and experiences. The whole event, for around 350 people, has been organised by a small group of 21 year 10 girls and their year 12 assistants. An important part of the day is a networking lunch where all the students will get to meet a range of women with different careers and experiences. So, why is this so important?
Part of the initial stages of the project involved the girls deconstructing the media aimed at them and coming to the conclusion that much of the diet that they are fed portrays women negatively- i.e. focuses far too much on their appearance, relationships and ‘celebrity’, rather than their talents, serious achievements and accomplishments. The girls were surveyed about their hopes, aspirations and role models. All the girls cited their mums and other female relatives as their role models (compared to the boys who all named a variety of men in the public eye). This isn’t because they don’t have any career aspirations but rather that they simply don’t know of any women who are doing the sort of things they’re interested in. In the magazines and TV programmes they consume, they have to look far too hard to find any examples of females they can really look up to and aspire to be like. After showing them some inspirational talks by ordinary women the girls wanted more. We decided to try and introduce them to as many inspirational ordinary and extraordinary women as possible.
The girls are benefiting immeasurably from learning from and about real women. We did a workshop with them and their mums (or other female relative) where they researched and wrote to women they admired. They chose a huge selection from soldiers in Afghanistan to Macmillan nurses to writers, performers and designers. Letters of advice and inspiration as well as signed photos are arriving every day from women like Dame Kelly Holmes and author Emma Kennedy. In January the girls took part in a Meet Professional Women ‘speed dating’ event. Every hour 6 women arrived and spent 10 minutes with a group of 5 girls telling their career story and answering questions before moving on to the next group. There were 3 sessions in all and by the end of the day they had met 18 fabulous role models from a wide range of different professions. The girls were left inspired, excited and motivated. These events, including an Army Assault Course, have helped the girls learn much about themselves.
The impact of these activities has been huge. Consequently the girls want to replicate this experience for their peers. They want ALL the year 10 and 12 girls in the school to be inspired by talks and meet real role models as they have done. They have therefore organised the Inspirational Women Conference and we are consequently inviting as many fabulous, inspirational women as possible to this event.
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