Inspire North – a great day to be part of the GDST

2nd July 2019

Director of Marketing, Claire Bale, reflects on an inspirational day in York with the northern GDST schools.

Year 10 girls from the ‘Northern power houses’ of the GDST got together at York University this week for an inspirational day of connecting, sharing, networking, and setting themselves up for success in the exciting years ahead of them. The largest gathering of GDST girls in its history, it was an incredibly empowering day and the girls left energised and enthused about everything they experienced.

GDST CEO, Cheryl Giovannoni, welcomed everyone with an inspiring talk to remind us of the four ‘difficult’ women who founded the GDST in 1872 to ensure girls had the opportunity for an excellent education. We took a moment to reflect on the fact that GDST girls are privileged to experience this education that these women worked so hard to bring about, and with that comes a responsibility to make a positive difference in the world around them. That, in fact, was a theme running through much of the day. How our individual stories, unique talents and the way we support each other can be an incredible and powerful force to influence our individual success, and to make the world a more accessible, positive and inspiring place.

Next, we met Moj and Pernilla from Push. Their comedic and authentic style helped the girls really think about what they want to do in life and how they will harness their personal qualities, stengths and ambitions.

We were in hysterics as we played the game of ‘Waffle’ and followed tambourine rhythms. It was a powerful reminder that ‘failure’ is no bad thing, that having a sense of humour goes a long way towards resilience, and that most of us get our energy from having fun. Speaking from the heart, Pernilla also shared the ten top tips she would give her 15 year old self:

  1. Be you
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others. Focus on what you’re doing, not the noise around you.
  3. Fear is a good thing, it helps you to grow.
  4. Failure is a lesson, it’s no reason to stop. Fall nine times, get up 10.
  5. Be specific about what you want, and be flexible in how you get there
  6. Be kind.
  7. Laugh. Surround yourself with positivity.
  8. Ask for help. People will help you. As women, we support each other, make the most of the amazing network of the GDST.
  9. Life is a long game. It’s not a race.
  10. Love and look after yourself.

Push’s session ended with an insightful look into the concerns and thoughts of the girls, with them throwing anonymous notes onto the stage about their worries. The empathy, understanding and support in the room was truly empowering for them. They realised they are a tremendous network of like minded individuals who will all support each other.

After lunch, the girls stepped out of their comfort zones for some official networking. Armed with questions to gather answers to from colleagues at other schools, they soon learnt that meeting new people is fun and that, often, people have more in common than they do differences. By the end of the session they had all made new friends, learned something about each other, and started to create that powerful network that will stay with them throughout their school years and beyond.

An opportunity to learn even more about each other, many girls presented in the afternoon. They all shared some of their personal stories, and presented impressively to the audience of around 600 delegates – a brilliant, confidence-building experience.

We learnt about the female CCF at Belvedere; the eco initiatives at Shrewsbury; the inspiration to grab opportunities at every chance from our own Head Girl, Anna, who learnt so much on her trip to Costa Rica. Newcastle High girls tackled the issue of performance anxiety and a Sheffield High School alumna shared her pearls of wisdom as she heads into her career as an MP. Alongside the inspirational talk from a wonderful Belvedere student who was born with missing fingers and toes, and taught us the value of embracing who you are, all of the girls made us feel proud to be part of the GDST.

Our final session was as memorable as it was inspirational. The Rap Project, founded by a former sex crimes prosecutor, presented a powerful talk about sexual safety. Delving into many areas that subconsciously affect the world’s perception of women, we saw how the advertising industry often portrays women as highly sexualised, how the media prioritises sex and looks over intelligence and positivity, and how social media can be a vehicle for comparison and low self esteem. We learnt that social media can be at its most powerful when it’s used for good – #metoo, #everydaysexism and everyone left the room feeling inspired to support each other, not compare each other. In a world where more people applied to be on Love Island than to go to Oxford University, it’s encouraging to know that young women from some of the top schools in the country, are learning about this and making positive, powerful decisions about how they are going to live, consume media, and treat each other.

It’s days like this that make us feel particularly proud to be part of the GDST. A family of 25 schools which not only educate girls to achieve exceptional academic results, but a sisterhood that also inspires and equips young women to make a positive difference in the world.

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