We were thrilled to be able to invite a group of mentees and ambassadors to 10 Downing Street to celebrate International Women's Day earlier this year. Here Maddie, one of our Ambassadors, tells us what she enjoyed about the day and shares some of her fellow ambassador's thoughts about their experience.

Getting the invitation

When I first became involved with The Girls’ Network, not for one second did I think it would lead to me visiting 10 Downing Street! 

I remember when Rabina asked if I wanted to join the trip, I couldn’t believe it. 

I sat at my desk in shock! Then of course I called my parents and excitedly (and quite incoherently from excitement) told them the news. 

It took a bit of time for reality to set in, that I was actually going to go to Downing Street! 

A girl from a small town in the North East of England, about to visit the centre of the British Government. 

Into Downing Street

As if being invited wasn’t enough, I had the insane opportunity of being able to knock on the front door on behalf of the group! That alone will probably go down as one of the most surreal moments of my life. 

Walking inside for the first time felt like something from a movie. I had no idea what to expect! It’s a lot more grander than I expected it to be! It’s one of those places that you’ve seen so much on the TV, you can’t quite believe it’s actually real when you’re there. 

The atmosphere 

One of the things I actually found quite funny inside, was walking up the stairs. To most people, the main staircase in Downing Street is home to the portraits of previous Prime Ministers. 

To a movie fan like me, it’s the staircase Hugh Grant dances down in Love Actually. That was something I couldn’t get out of my head every time we passed them!

Aside from that, the atmosphere inside Downing Street was a lot calmer than I expected it to be. You would think everyone would be quite tense and serious, but it was actually one of the most inviting and calm environments I’ve been in. 

Supporting each other 

Something so beautiful about the day was how supportive all of the ambassadors were of one another. 

Some of us (me included!) were more nervous than others, and having ambassadors there to share and calm nerves was amazing and so comforting. It really helped put the nerves at ease! 

Additionally, I think the fact that most of us couldn’t quite believe we were there, that we had been open with each other about how we felt, really helped to reassure everyone!

Memorable networking 

I met so many amazing, inspirational women at the event that it’s hard to speak about particular individuals because of the impact each of them had on me in different ways. It was truly wonderful how open and vulnerable each of the women I spoke with were, and how willing they were to share advice on how they overcame various different challenges they faced.  

No matter how successful the women I spoke to were, they had all encountered bias due to their gender at some point in their careers. Whether it was because they were in industries not typically populated by women or because they had extra pressures placed on them because of their gender, it was so interesting to hear about the different struggles they had faced. 

Final thoughts 

One of the things I have reflected on since my visit to Downing Street, was just how many of the women I spoke to, spoke of their struggles with impostor syndrome. 

Impostor syndrome was something I had been feeling since first entering Downing Street. “Why am I here? What did I do to deserve to be here?”

Hearing nearly all of the women who I spoke to say that at some point, they had had those same thoughts (and sometimes still do!), was something that was incredibly reassuring.  

I really loved the entire day!

Not only for the opportunity of getting to visit such an iconic place, but for getting to speak about a topic I care so much about (girls and young people’s experiences growing up in the North East) and for getting to spend a day with my fellow ambassadors.

The day and the people I met were so amazing and so inspirational and made me excited for what the future holds.

Here’s a few thoughts from other Ambassadors...

I really enjoyed meeting so many women with such a diverse range of skills and experiences! I left feeling really motivated and empowered. I just wish we could have spent more time getting to know everyone.

It was a good networking event, to meet inspirational women from various professions and careers.  Not everyone follows a traditional journey change so it's always a  bad thing, valuable career changes, not following the crowd,  Meeting these business women at Downing Street did me give the opportunity to understand the routes they all took and the challenges they faced.

 I really liked talking to different women at 10 Downing Street from various industries and hearing their journeys - when you hear their stories it becomes real and I could relate.  The woman who did the jewellery was friendly and who was really interesting.  

 It was an absolute privilege to be present at 10 Downing Street and be surrounded by such talented and inspiring mentors, mentees, ambassadors at staff, I really enjoyed networking with the professional mentors and I gained an in-depth insight into their lives and gained a lot of advice that I could implement into my life. One thing I found quite inspiring was how each and every one of the mentors had a struggle of their own throughout their careers and that is what made their story stronger. Thank you to The Girls Network for organising this day! 

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to attend the International Women’s Day event at 10 Downing Street! I really enjoyed connecting with such amazing and inspiring women as I got to learn something valuable from each of them. I’ll be sure to listen to all their advice and words of encouragement when I enter the world of work myself!

Walking up those plush stairs with all the former Prime Ministers staring down from mellow yellow at us reminded me of key political moments like when David Cameron resigned.

I found the rich diverse range of business women at the networking event insightful and inspiring.  It was so nice to speak to successful and strong women of colour at the event from writers, business women, fashion designers and musicians. 

I was intrigued by the historic decor of 10 Downing Street with previous Prime Ministers leaving their legacies behind.  Like Margaret Thatcher who included in the corner of the ceilings of her room a small hay thatch and Tony Blair left bees, representing a member of each of his family.  We saw Winston’s Churchill’s chair that he travelled with - though I wasn’t inspired to sit on it. 

It was a great day and everyone came away feeling inspired by the women they got to meet. A huge thanks to all involved for giving their time to make the event so memorable.