Claire Bale, Director of Marketing, reviews the inspirational GDST Summit which took place on 19th September 2019.
“New rules” was the theme for the GDST Summit this year. What a rich topic to explore with some incredibly interesting and inspirational speakers, including Samira Ahmed, Dame Cilla Snowball, Justine Roberts, Dr Daniel Susskind and many GDST girls, alumnae and colleagues.
Looking around the room, full of individuals who are so passionate about educating girls and about the future, was an exciting and encouraging sight. The GDST and its friends are a true force of nature, and you couldn’t find a more committed or enthused group. We are encouraged by how far the world has come in terms of women’s shaping of it, and extremely motivated by the important goals we still have to achieve.
GDST Chief Executive, Cheryl Giovannoni opened the day with a call to arms for everyone to make the rules, to shape the world in a way that empowers everyone and to harness the energy that young people bring by thinking differently. Everyone must be involved and everyone must use their voice.
The inspiring list of new rules, which we added to throughout the day, was kick started with the following:
- Recognise your global responsibility
- Approach problems with “how” not “what”
- Focus on results not recognition
- Find something bigger than yourself to care about and to work on
- Self-interest is not negative interest
- Take charge of your own finances. Have control of your own destiny
- Don’t settle for anything less than equal pay for equal jobs
- Stop apologising
- If plan A doesn’t work out, make plan B work even better
- You belong in places where decisions are being made
Looking to the future, with these rules in mind, motivated every single of the 400 delegates at the GDST summit. Together, we form the engines of progression. We lead schools that are creative, specialist, forward-thinking and that break the mould. GDST girls develop a life-long love of learning. They find their unique voices and they use them to shape and lead the ever changing world around them. This awe-inspiring generation of young women have a great deal to be proud of. Women support each other. They collaborate. They make things happen. Their confidence is growing, which means they will close the gender pay gap as they head into the workplace.
Dame Cilla Snowball, Businesswoman and Chair of the GREAT Private Sector Council, took the baton from Cheryl, and shared her experienced and expert view on women in the world of business. Acknowledging that there is no sector where there is equal gender pay, despite the evidence that diversity brings better results, she shared her insights into the limitations that need to be broken down, and some examples of organisations that are leading the way.
Women go into the workforce with better qualifications but less money. This shocking fact has been true for decades. As educators we have the opportunity to inspire and equip girls to tackle this head-on. It is our responsibility to ensure they enter their chosen careers with confidence, life skills, courage and financial knowledge so that they have more than just their excellent qualifications. We will equip girls to change the system, not just navigate it.
As Agency Head of the Year in 2018, as named by Campaign Magazine, Cilla’s choice of advertisements demonstrated the role organisations can play in this exciting future. BT’s Take them all on and Redraw the Balance from Inspiring Futures received cheers from the crowd as we celebrated what the world is starting to look like for our daughters.
And so, Cilla added to the list of New Rules with the following fantastic principles:
- Kindness isn’t weakness
- Manners and principles are important – sitting up, not lying, not being insulting
- Hero people with integrity
Samira Ahmed, journalist and broadcaster, led a fascinating panel, with some passionate and experienced individuals; Yomi Adegoke, author and journalist, Vicky Bingham, Head of South Hampstead High School, Anna Lapwood, musician and broadcaster, Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of Mumsnet and Dr Joseph Spence, Master of Dulwich College.
Many important topics were debated, including the benefits of single sex learning spaces in instilling confidence, the importance of taking students out of their comfort zones in order to equip them with skills such as negotiation and difficult conversations, and acknowledgement that prejudice is real. Learning about the value of single sex education for boys, as well as girls, was a great addition to the discussion, with Dr Joseph Spence sharing his passion for ensuring young men are educated to care for their wellbeing, to embrace the arts and to be proud of themselves for who they truly are.
As the panel took questions from the audience, it was interesting to hear some of the perspectives of the Sixth Form GDST girls in the room. Bringing parents on board with gender equality was an excellent question, and one that led to a conversation about breaking the mould as a generation. Girls opened up about the importance of role models, and how the lack of female role models in certain industries and levels of seniority really does have an impact on societal progress. We concluded with a great discussion about future careers. We shouldn’t be asking girls what they want to do when they grow up, we should be inspiring them about how they want to be when they grow up. Employers are looking for people who are flexible, inspired, principled and above all, passionate.
Nina Gunson, Head of Sheffield High School for Girls, made everyone laugh with her energetic summary of the morning and summation of the room’s suggestions for more new rules. Some excellent additions were made to the list:
- Choose role models who deserve to be admired
- Live by your own rules
- Talk more than you text
- Celebrate all successes
- To fulfil your potential you don’t have to change you only have to grow
- Get rid of the stigma that you can’t have a family and a career
Dr Daniel Susskind, author and technology expert, gave a fascinating talk about the future of the professions with regard to artificial intelligence (AI).
His insightful perspective shared his view on why we have professions. They’re solutions to a particular problem – humans cannot know everything, so we turn to professionals to help us solve life’s specific challenges. In his view, AI can help to automate some of these. Identifying cancerous freckles, running earnings reports, managing routine legal disputes were some examples.
This great talk sparked some heated debate – it‘s certainly a fascinating subject.
One of the favourite sections of the day was the panel of GDST girls and recent alumnae. Energetic, eloquent, passionate and each with their own unique voice, it was a joy to see these future leaders on the stage.
A new list was formed to supplement the list of new rules. This one was about what the girls learnt through their GDST education.
- To take every opportunity even if it scares you
- To be fearless
- To speak up. Debating and influencing is a key life skill
- Be open and honest
- Believe in yourself
- Never stop development yourself
- Support each other. We are a unique sisterhood
What an excellent list we are all proud of – all of this in addition to excellent qualifications.
Closing the day, Vicky Tuck, GDST trustee, reflected on the excellent day full of focus, energy and optimism for the exciting future we’re all heading into. She left us with the challenge – how can we harness all of this to do more great things, to make more powerful changes and to inspire our future leaders even further? In the spirit of learning, self-development and changing the future, we all left with the fire in our bellies to take up this challenge and to enjoy every minute of our mission to equip girls for extraordinary futures.