By Angela Mitchell, Deloitte Head of Public Sector, Scotland
We need more positive female role models in business – a simple statement, but true. It’s important for young women to be able to see a clear path to pursue their ambitions, whatever they may be. Having someone they can look at and say “I could be sitting where she is” is exactly the sort of inspiration many girls need.
I was lucky. As I made my way through school, university and my career, I had the support of those around me. No one closed down opportunities and I was allowed to pursue the path I wanted, which was in the typically male-dominated world of technology. However, it’s not the same for everyone. In many cases, girls are discouraged from pursuing their goals for one reason or another.
Nevertheless, I still work in an industry where typically, women are very much under-represented. It wasn’t something I was very aware of until I looked at other, more gender balanced sectors and realised that I was the only woman in the room on most occasions.
The good news is that’s been changing over the last decade. In my team we have more or less an even split between men and women at all grades – something I think is crucial to developing a well-balanced, effective team. And with a groundswell from government and numerous firms the position is set to further improve over the coming years but it does require some positive encouragement.
Scotland’s Inspiring Women campaign is designed to do exactly this. With the objective of providing girls in schools and colleges with a better grasp of the career opportunities available and encouraging them to aim high in their chosen career, whatever that may be.
To help launch the initiative, I joined 10 accomplished women at New College Lanarkshire for a speed-networking event with 100 young girls from schools and colleges. They quizzed us on our careers and the paths we took to get where we are today. The event aimed to show a wide range of female role models to which young girls can aspire, which it certainly did with a chief scientific officer, writer, editor, politician, legal and professional services partners, university professor, and oil & gas representation. All of the girls in the room were engaged and questions were fired from all angles.
Established just last year in England, Inspiring Women has already signed up 10,000 women from across politics, business, the arts, and further afield to talk to girls and the charity is hoping for a similar uptake in Scotland.
However, it’s not just about young women. The campaign is part of a larger initiative called Inspiring the Future which hopes to connect girls and boys with professionals in all sectors. Anyone can volunteer and all it asks is that you contribute one hour every year talking about your job and career path with young people in schools and colleges.
I’m proud to say that Deloitte is one of its supporters. Since the launch event, 1,000 more people have registered as volunteers – a real testament of the support for this programme. Enabling boys and girls to choose what they want to do, with no options ruled out, will help them achieve everything they possibly can.