Students with The Female Lead, Volume II
Challney High School for Girls (CHSG) in Luton held a fantastic Women’s Festival Careers Event, and were kind enough to invite the Female Lead to attend. The event had a panel or inspirational speakers including Sarah Owen, MP for Luton North, Vicky Farleigh, Football Coach at Luton Town FC, Amna Khan, CHSG Community Governor and Qualified Accountant, and I was thrilled that they invited me as The Female Lead’s Schools Societies Ambassador to offer my input.
I was privileged enough to meet some of the amazing students, already dominating the activism space by proactively engaging in their Female Lead Society. Ranging from year 8 to year 10, the students were bold enough to question societal expectations that may be placed on them in the future, and they spoke candidly about what they wanted for themselves in life, both personally and professionally.
As panel members, we discussed highlights from our careers and offered advice to students. If you as a reader have your own Female Lead Society, a feminist society in some shape or form, or would just like someone to answer the question “how on earth do I decide what I want to do for the rest of my life?!” - - perhaps the below can help.
What was the turning point where you realised what you wanted to commit your career to?
Family and your general home environment will undoubtedly have some influence on what future careers you consider. This is a key tenet of The Female Lead – we believe that seeing is believing. For example, if everyone in your immediate sphere is a doctor, you’ll understand that being a doctor is achievable. If women in your family do certain types of roles and men do different ones, as a woman you might be more inclined to follow in the footsteps of female members of your family because you’ve seen that it worked well for them. So, an epiphany of what you want to do in life might appear even in childhood. But for most of us, we don’t just wake up and know what we want to do – it takes a lot of trial and error, internships and volunteering, boredom and excitement, success and room for improvement, good bosses and bad bosses, to know what we actually like doing, what we’re good at doing, and if these two elements are even answered by the same career.
Have you had experiences where people didn’t approve of what you wanted to do?
Let’s say you’re dead set on a career that you’ve never seen anyone who looks like you doing. Vicky explained that in the early stages of her career pursuing football, people of all genders struggled to understand why she would want to play football – how could she, a woman, be any good at it? Sarah elaborated, adding that as a woman of colour, envisaging herself in the House of Commons was not something that came easily to members of her family.
These familial and societal expectations often come from a place of love, e.g. “I just don’t want you to have a hard time.” But unfortunately, these good intentions can backfire and act as barriers to diversity and inclusion, translating into a perception that perhaps your family don’t believe in your abilities, which can be a major hurdle.
How did you overcome hurdles that stood in the way of you achieving your goals?
We all agreed as panellists that a certain type of mindset was vital to succeeding even when those around you thought that you couldn’t. You have to dare to be different, being a leader of any type means being the first to do something, which means that by default you’ll stick out. So when someone says “you can’t do it because I’ve never seen anyone like you succeed”, your response needs to be “until now.”
I had such a wonderful time at CHSG and I cannot wait to see more from their Female Lead Society.
If you would like to set up a Female Lead Society at your school, or you’d like a copy of our book that profiles 60+ inspirational heroines, get in touch here.