Sparking Change: young women in leadership

Red:GLOW outreach programmes at Baytree centre

How can we inspire young women and girls to be leaders and agents of change in their own lives and in their communities?

Across the world and across all sectors women’s leadership continues to be underrepresented. Women must deal with discriminatory laws, institutions, and attitudes that restrict their leadership and full participation in public life. Women are also disadvantaged by unequal access to the resources needed to become effective leaders. 

Young women experience discrimination based both on gender and on age. In particular, critical gaps in funding and resources for education, skills development and mentorship impact the ability of young women to realize their full potential as leaders. We know that investing in young women’s leadership will not only change the trajectory of their future but that of their communities as well.  

Sparking Change: young women in leadership

WONDER works to strengthen young women’s leadership through a number of different approaches. In Europe, the Red:GLOW project aims to inspire and support young women’s leadership and participation as citizens. Red:GLOW brings together seven partner organisations from six European countries, each with a strong track record in empowering young women, including many from migrant, minority and disadvantaged backgrounds.   

As part of the Red:GLOW project, WONDER and the Baytree Centre invited 100 young women and girls to learn about and discuss leadership on the 13th July 2019, as part of Sparking Change. A panel of five incredibly inspiring women came together to share their own experiences of being a leader in their lives and careers and share how they have learned to overcome challenges and see new possibilities.  

“It’s really inspiring to look to women who have faced challenges in the past and today and see how they respond to it.” 

Sparking Change attendee

The panelists included: 

  • Barbara Burton, Founder of Behind Bras, an initiative that helps women to transition from prison to employment in the fashion, retail and creative industries, to reduce reoffending; 
  • Margot Heller, Director of the South London Gallery for nearly two decades; 
  • Mariah Idrissi, a British model, public speaker, and online personality involved in humanitarian work, who initially gained recognition as the first Muslim hijab-wearing model in the UK; 
  • Leyya Sattar, co-Founder and Head of Partnerships at the award-winning The Other Box, a platform for increasing diversity in the creative industries, via workshops at agencies and companies, inspiring events, and a support network for people within the industry who happen to be from underrepresented communities; 
  • Otegha Uwagba, founder of Women Who, a London-based platform that connects, supports, and inspires creative working women, and author of the Sunday Times Best Seller, the Little Black Book: A Toolkit For Working Women. 
Sparking Change: young women in leadership

Here are their top three tips for young women and girls to spark change: (1) Know your whys. Why you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing. (2) Don’t listen to others, do what you want to do. (3) Embrace everything that makes you different! 

“My main takeaway from today is just to be me, to be myself. To be more open and more creative.” 

Sparking Change attendee

Panellists and workshop leaders alike highlighted that leadership is not only about professional leadership, but also about personal success and well-being. It is about the importance of being a leader according to what is authentic to you, whether it is in the office, at school, at home or in a community. 

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