Last Thursday at RMIT Melbourne we launched the first event in our new ‘Young Women’s’ series in order to empower the next generation of young women to succeed.

How refreshing it was to see diversity in our panel, in both opinions and values, as well as diversity in our audience ranging from business leaders, community organisations to young school students and staff.

Gold Award recipient and passionate speaker Georgia Weymouth Large opened the event with an inspiring recap of her journey through the Duke of Ed before we delved into thought-provoking discussions on what gender equality really means and how we can educate and equip young women to succeed.

Facilitated by leading Sports Presenter Tiffany Cherry, our Panelists included:

  • Anoushka Gungadin, CEO, Duke of Ed Victoria
  • Lynda Ford GAICD, CEO, Enterprising Partnerships
  • Bareetu Aba-Bulgu, Gold Awardee and Alumni, Duke of Ed Victoria
  • Claire Merquita, PR Manager, Pozible
  • Vicki Macdermid, Partner, Pitcher Partners

Taken from a survey of event attendees, some of the top issues we found facing young women today are:

  • Personal confidence and lack of self-worth
  • Not having other female role models to look up to.
  • Maintaining a healthy body image when surrounded by unrealistic portrayals of women
  • Having an equal voice to males
Image L-R: Georgia Weymouth-Large, Lynda Ford, Vicki Macdermid, Anoushka Gungadin, Claire Merquita and Bareetu Aba-Bulgu

We covered several topics in the forum and here we share our top 3 takeaways:

1. Don’t underestimate your self-worth.

“I am astounded that so many young women struggle with self-confidence. We are worth far more than we think” exclaimed Vicki Macdermid, Partner at Pitcher Partners.

With society placing so much pressure on young men and women, it’s important not to lose sight of who we are as people, as human beings. Believing in ourselves is crucial and where does this confidence come from? It comes from within.

Pozible PR Manager Claire Merquita agrees, “It’s so important for young women to build their self-confidence and find what they are truly good at.” Her advice to young women? “Don’t live out someone else’s life, hopes and dreams.”

CEO of Enterprising Partnerships Lynda Ford added to this, “we are in control of our destinies, we own our futures.” So very true.

2. Mentors are invaluable.

“Mentoring is much more effective than capital” voiced Anoushka Gungadin, “if you surround yourself with the right people then you will see the results.”

At 19 years of age, our youngest panellist Bareetu Aba-Bulgu shared her experiences of having mentors and how it has helped shaped who she is today: “I have had many mentors throughout my life, both formal and informal. The value has been incredible.”

The depth and breadth of the benefits of mentoring is wide. From confidence to career development, the benefits on each person as a whole are unique and vary from relationship to relationship.

Bareetu also shared how she met with her mentor just the other day. Something she has been battling with lately is the need to seek recognition. After having an honest, open conversation with her mentor his advice was “ditch the tiara”. Rather than chasing appraisal and trying to please everyone, aim to be the best version of yourself. This is something that Bareetu has taken on board and is thankful to have the support of her mentor.

Bareetu talks about the power of mentoring

Through mentoring, young people grow as leaders and often learn a huge amount from their mentor’s experience which can shape their journey in a big way. Mentors often get a lot out of giving back and investing in young people too, and are generally energised and inspired from the relationship.

3. Challenge expectations.

“Our backgrounds determine what we’re comfortable with” Vicki Macdermid revealed. “We are brought up feeling comfortable to assume all girls want to play with dolls, and all boys want to play with trucks.”

Vicki shared a classic example with us, she remembered her son once saying how he wanted to grow up and be a fireman “just like my dad”, Vicki challenged him and asked “Why don’t you want to be an Accountant like your mum?” to which her son replied “I can’t be an Accountant – that’s a girls job.”

The role of stereotypes is often overlooked in regards to shaping our beliefs about how men and women should (or shouldn’t) behave. It is these stereotypes that underline certain expectations about gender and continue to be reinforced by social and cultural norms.

Tiffany, who works in a (still!) very male dominated industry, shared an example from a few years ago when she asked her boss for mentoring in order to commentate football. Her boss laughed and exclaimed “a women will never be able to commentate the football.” How wrong he was.

We need to stand up and challenge these views. Because that’s all they are, views.

“If you feel strongly about something, then do it” expressed Anoushka Gungadin, “don’t hold yourself back if it’s not what’s expected.”

How is Duke of Ed Victoria committed to empowering young women?

We are committed to strengthening our Award programs so that every young person, both young men and women, advances to equitable gender relations. For this, we need to create more opportunities for young women in the short run. This year is going to be exciting as we are launching the following three projects to set up our young women for success:

Young Women's Series

The large amount of positive feedback received from our first event confirms that this is a much needed space. Stay tuned as we will be bringing more panel events throughout 2015.

Go for Gold! Young Women’s Mentoring Program

We will be the bridge between corporate Australia and young, confident and skilled talent. The mentoring program is open to young women who are currently undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award before heading onto their career or further studies, they will be matched with a mentor with the right fit and with alignment of both their expectations.

Dukes Young Women Ambassador Program

Did you know that 2 sisters, Ramla & Lucky, the first women in the world to be volunteer life savers in a burquini (a swimsuit covering the entire body except, hand, feet and face) are Gold Awardees from SA! Read more here. We have an incredible line of role models who are able to tell their stories and empower others. This program will be a platform to tap into this invaluable resource, creating a network of past Alumni and current Participants.

Interested in getting involved? Whether you’re keen to speak at one of our events, join our Mentoring Program as a Mentor or Mentee or you may wish you inspire others by becoming an Ambassador, shoot us an email and walk with us to empower young women: info@dukeofedvic.org.au

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