The First Women Awards, now ten years old, have showcased senior-level businesswomen and professionals who have excelled in their field. This community of trailblazers was brought together for the first time at the inaugural First Women Summit on 4 February when discussions ranged from boardroom quotas to flexible working.One panel discussion which was very much forward thinking was “Tomorrow’s women – How do we create the next generation of female leaders in business?”. Bringing together females from the worlds of engineering, construction, transport and education, the debate looked at whether there has been progressing education, what is being done about under-represented sectors, how issues such as confidence can be dealt with and how change can be enacted faster. Shauni O’Neill, police liaison officer/project officer at Transport for London, wanted to see more careers advice in secondary school – as early as pre-GCSE selection. O’Neill, who was named National Apprentice of the Year in 2011, added: “It shouldn’t just be a case of ‘fill out this application’, which will tell you where you want to be – mine told me I should be a truck driver. “At that point you can present the opportunities available and explain to young women that it is not just the traditional university route that is available, such as apprenticeships.” Julia Waters, who has first-hand experience of what it is like nurturing the next generation of female business leaders though her job as headmistress at Wimbledon-based Ursuline High School, countered by saying that careers advice and education in school had come a long way. Her school has two full-time careers advisors, who recently held a speed dating-type event to provide information on jobs. “It is about finding your passion. Girls don’t often have networking opportunities, so one thing we say is ask your employers to give you half a day to go into secondary schools – paid half days off in the public and private sector to give those girls role models,” she said. “It’s very difficult for young people to make their choices about careers, and puts pressure on them early on. We have to make sure we get that balance right. Girls also say that they want more inspiring teachers, and that is a dilemma in the UK.” Read more from the First Women Summit:
- First Women Summit: Are quotas bad for business?
- First Women Summit: Flexible working requires a cultural change to work
- Voice of RB First Women: “Don’t be a naysayer”
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