To achieve gender equality, change needs to occur at every level: from our everyday interactions and grassroots movements, to the structure and culture of large employers and wide-reaching government policies. Any organisation or company that partners with us is actively working to create a more equal world. Wesleyan is just one of our many partners showing commitment to our mission of unlimited futures for all young women.

Becoming a Partner

Louise Lee is a Corporate Social Responsibility Officer at Wesleyan and has been instrumental in establishing their partnership with The Girls’ Network.

It’s no secret that financial services have poor representation of women – especially when it comes to women in senior positions and board level-positions. There’s a whole raft of research out there which tells you that this isn’t right… you’re not reflecting your customers nor are you having real diversity of thought. As a company, we want to change that. We’ve come to recognise that there are a number of challenges with developing a pipeline of female employees and recruiting more women into financial services. As a city, Birmingham is known as the city of 1000 trades. The opportunities and culture you get as a result are vast. But we need to widen the local pool of talent going into the professions that are out there – so that we’re not just selecting from the same people year after year. By supporting The Girls’ Network, we’re having a very real and local impact in Birmingham.

The Girls’ Network has been so amazing. It’s given girls role models and better networks. It’s helped them with their CVs. On a deeper level, our mentors are also saying to these girls that there’s nothing stopping them from doing whatever it is they want to do. I feel privileged that we’re making a difference in other people’s worlds, by supporting young women through the work of The Girls’ Network. It aligns with my values. And it’s one of the big reasons why I love working at Wesleyan.

Mentoring Experience

Once Wesleyan became an official partner for The Girls’ Network, Louise Beards was one of the first employees to sign up to become a mentor.

I’d been lucky as a child. I’d always had opportunities given to me. But I still look back and I wish that I’d worked harder. I know I can’t turn the clock back and change how I should have done things. But I like to think that I can help others realise the importance of school and working hard.

The Girls’ Network helped [my mentee and I] to get to know each other. So, in that first session we had, we just talked about her family – and her sister who she loves to pieces. I found out that she loves dinosaurs. We both love cats. Because we had the time to get to know each other, it's meant that the rest of the sessions have become more useful to her. All of that’s helped her to really come out of her shell. She’s become happier sharing ideas. Which I feel is because she trusts me a lot more.

Best of all, I can see that I’ve helped her open doors to other ideas and career opportunities; and that she has a clearer idea about where she wants to go and how to get there. Ultimately she’s believing in herself more and I’m so proud that I could be a part of that.

Working with Schools

Like many corporates, Wesleyan works with local schools to provide opportunities to young people, and they are responsible for introducing The Girls’ Network to Four Dwellings Academy. The school reports that mentoring has had a significant impact on the girls.

Vice Principal Olivia Burns has noticed a sizeable difference between girls and boys when it comes to the aspirations they have, and the kind of subjects and careers they think they can pursue. In some cases, there’s still a perception that girls should only do certain subjects and careers… because many of our girls won’t have friends or those at home who can help drive their interest in subjects like computer science. … That’s why we were immediately excited to hear from The Girls’ Network. Our girls are now getting a constant dialogue with a like-minded mentor and role model. This has really changed things. It’s opened new doors, new ideas and aspirations. It’s incredible to see.

Emelia, a student at Four Dwellings, would like to one day go into law. Her mentor, Alyisha– who herself is pursuing a career in law - has been instrumental in giving her the confidence to believe that she can do so too, and that it is not just a career for men. Emelia says that her conversations with Alyisha have led to her having more confidence and a greater determination to do well at school.

Because she’s doing law, she knows what she’s talking about. Because she’s a woman, I can see that law isn’t just for men. It’s good knowing that others like her - like me - can be successful

Ayischa – another mentee from Four Dwellings - wants to become a paramedic, owing to her first-hand experience of seeing paramedics help her sister, who has had seizures. Ayischa says that she has very few role models, which is why she enjoys the conversations with her mentor, Gemma, a physiotherapist. These conversations, Ayischa says, have led her to her having a greater understanding of the subjects and skills she needs to pursue a career as a paramedic.

She can tell me about the skills I would need to be a paramedic. She can tell me about the work experiences I should have and the kind of subjects I should do at college. She’s more relatable, too. I don’t have many role-models who’ve been successful like her

By working in partnership with The Girls’ Network, Wesleyan has been able to both strategically work towards its wider organisational goals around diversity and inclusion, and recruitment, while also making a greater positive impact in its local community.

If you’re interested in partnering with The Girls' Network as a business please contact [email protected]. If you’re interested in partnering with us as a school please contact [email protected]

Interviews and story by Very Telling