It's a question that can lead to some big realizations and that's what Ignite Leadership is all about. Founded by Kathleen Cronin in 2009, the organisation works with girls and young women, helping them discover their own unique potential and explore the careers that could fulfil it.
Through a number of programmes, including group coaching, one-to-one sessions and the example of many inspiring role models, Ignite gives participants the skills to navigate the world, both professionally and personally.
Kathleen has more to say on the subject…
Who is Ignite aimed at?
KC: To date, we've been working mainly with young women at school, girls focused on the next step, their immediate future. For those who don't have a supportive network around them, it's a way of building emotional resilience and self-belief. They learn how to take care of themselves and where to go for help if they need it.
So far we've been focusing on schools in South London and a lot of girls with ambitions to go to university, but we've also worked in a partnership with Chance To Change, talking to girls who have been socially excluded, are soon to be released from prison or young mums who we've contacted through housing associations.
What's the impact on the girls who take part?
KC: We're looking at values and beliefs, potentially things they've never thought about before, and it's like opening up another world. By allowing them to take a new perspective, life becomes an adventure and it's really motivating.
There's a 50/50 balance between learning practical skills and the development of emotional intelligence. Within our group sessions, we encourage collaboration and leadership, while feedback sessions within those groups improve communication skills and increase self knowledge and understanding.
How do you measure the success of what you do?
KC: The girls start out with a set of objectives and goals and then revisit them at the end of the programme to see if they've been met. We also use a 'Hope Scale' to allow them to rate how in control they feel of their future.
Evaluation happens through schools too, with girls presenting back, often in school assemblies, how they feel the programme has helped them.
How does gender stereotyping impact on young women today?
KC: One of the reasons for the pay gap are the types of jobs that young women choose to do. The majority of men work across 26 different occupational groups including management roles, whereas the majority of women work across just 12 occupational groups and those tend to include lower paid occupations. Part of the reason for this is the quality of career guidance some girls receive and the aspirations careers advisors have for girls.
Young women tell us they often feel pushed into work they do not want to do. One told us, ‘jobs can be a big thing … because everyone wants you [to go] in [to] hair dressing or health and social care.’ A young woman from the YWCA
This disparity is particularly true for vocational roles and although we see more women in professional roles and at university, there are still industries such as IT and science where women are very much in the minority.
Where will Ignite go from here?
KC: We're reactive. At the moment, as a new enterprise, it's largely a blank sheet and certainly still developing. We've put together a programme that fits into what's already out there - we're offering top-down career advice and a coaching model that places the young person at the centre.
We are also setting up the GirlsCan website which profiles women from all sorts of different careers. When the site launches, we will have interviews with the youngest British woman to climb Everest, a police Chief Superintendent, a fire woman, the founder and MD of a company of all women tradespeople and a cancer researcher.
Could you be a role model for young women?
Could you get involved?
Visit the Ignite website to find out more about what Kathleen and her team are doing...