Things have just got a lot worse – especially for women, the under-25s and those in the lowest-paid jobs – so why do I still have hope for the future?

It doesn’t look good. The under-25s, women, and the lowest-paid workers have been hardest hit economically by coronavirus and associated job losses. Exams have been cancelled, and universities aren’t yet sure if they’ll open in September, allow students defer, or make them compete for places with next year’s cohort.

Internships, work experience placements, and training opportunities that typically help young people get in to work have all been called off, and when businesses do start to reopen, it’s unlikely many are going to be prioritising face-to-face interaction, nor embarking on big hiring drives any time soon.

In a time where jobs are scarce and schools are closed, I worry that the attainment and opportunity gap will not only widen in the education system, but also when it comes to getting into the job market. Previous experience, and who you know, are going to become even more important in getting a job – especially that better-paid job you’ve been working hard for over the last few years. It’s not hard to imagine who is going to miss out. Again.

No wonder 39% of our girls are feeling frightened about their future because of the current pandemic, with only 21% feeling optimistic. Their biggest worries are, unsurprisingly, what this means for going to university or getting a job.

And what about mental health? Isolation is hard for most of us, but nearly two-thirds of Childline coronavirus counselling sessions were for girls, and 77% of our girls have asked for support with positive thinking and dealing with mental health.

So why am I still hopeful?

First, because our network of more than 1,000 female mentors across the country have been incredible in supporting their mentees throughout this crisis. More than 70% of our girls have had regular virtual mentoring sessions with their mentor since lockdown began, 120 girls have connected with each other in our online workshops, and mentors and supporters have shared videos and resources for our entire network of girls about set-backs that made them stronger.

We’re also matching new mentors and mentees online, supporting even more girls and young women through this challenging time.

“In this pandemic we are all in this together and having a mentor is having a friend you can talk to about how you’re coping with these drastic changes… working together with your mentor can help you work around any issues and turn this situation into an opportunity,” said one of our girls in London

Second, in challenging and difficult times, we see the resilient and resourceful facets of human nature come to the fore, and gosh have our young women reminded us of this! Yes, they’re finding it tough, and, yes, they’re worried about the future. But they are planning online businesses, they are taking on remote working opportunities to support their development and bring in income for their families, and they are imagining a future world they want to inhabit, and their role in creating it.

So yes, I am hopeful!

This hope doesn’t however take away the increased need for support for a group of young people who are likely to be disproportionately hit by this crisis, and I feel driven to match their spirit of possibility and determination in ensuring we tackle these new obstacles as best we can.

“I think the future depends on the way we deal with what is happening now. If we just ignore it then the future doesn’t look good, but if we actually do something then we have more of a chance of actually having a good future!” – The Girls’ Network mentee

So if you feel able to volunteer your time to mentor, or to share your experiences on video, or if you want to make a donation to enable us to reach even more girls and young women at this time and in the future, please do get in touch.

Help us to ensure that, now as much as ever, no girl is limited by her background or gender.