Words for Work: Women in Leadership’s panel event inspires 200 students across Nottingham

21 May 2021
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As part of the Words for Work: Women in Leadership programme, participating schools are invited to panel discussions to hear from different female and non-binary voices from across all different industries, ask questions and learn all about their career journeys and how literacy is key to getting to being successful in any chosen field.

We were delighted to bring five inspiring women to schools in Nottingham through an online panel discussion. Guest speakers included:

  • Genevieve Pegg – Publishing Director at Harper North
  • Soraya Sobh – Head of Creators at leading Esports organisation Fnatic.
  • Hilary Bart-smith – Professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, University of Virginia
  • Sophia Thakur – award-winning, bestselling author and performance poet
  • Suki Tonks –Partner at Browne Jacobson

The Panel discussion, led by Works for Work Senior Project Manager Hannah Hedges began with introductions to each of the speakers, who were beaming into the online panel event from across the UK and America.

The speakers all gave a little insight into their roles and how important their literacy skills are to getting the best out of their jobs and teams. Sophia explained how words have always played a big part in her confidence and how she’d like to give that gift to others. “I’ve always loved the power of words and how you can meet so many different characters as well as yourself,” said Sophia.

Suki explained how we all look at words and interpret them differently which is why communicating clearly in her role as a lawyer is so important. The other panellist agreed that literacy skills come into their roles every day in lots of different ways from educating others, communicating important information and enabling them to work with others.

The conversation was then driven by questions that young women in the audience from across Nottingham had submitted before the event.

First we heard about the panellist’s favourite things about their jobs. Genevieve explained how she loved being in that moment when she loses herself in a manuscript and get lost in an amazing story, and Sophia explained how her job as a full time writer fits her personality better than any other job could, and allows her to manage her own time and live in a way that suits her.

The panellists were then asked if they ever felt limited in their careers by being a woman. Hilary explained how she’d always had supportive teachers at school and had great female role models. Her top advice was to find someone in your environment you look up to and learn from them as much as possible. She was one of only two women in a class of 100 when she started her studies at University and always sought out people how would support her and help her grow.

Suki gave an example of how she was undervalued as a woman when she was first starting out in her career in law, but was determined to rise above it and show everyone that women can have a family and still be committed and great at their jobs.

The conversation went on to cover confidence and what advice the panellists would give to young women in the audience. Sophia highlighted the importance of believing that what you have to say is worth people listening to. She advised those watching to really believe in what you’re doing and find your intended audience.

Soraya talked about how confidence isn’t about being the best, its knowing what you’re saying is right because you have the evidence to prove it, when you know what you’re talking about that’s when you’re most confident. Hilary explained that in her role as a university educator, she finds it fascinating to see male and female students and how differently they work. The young women she works with tend to bring out the best of team work better which really lends itself to growth.

Suki said: “Never be afraid to be who you are and change to fit into your environment it’ll set you back because you are not confident in yourself. Ask questions, reading is phenomenal, you learn more from books, if you don’t feel confident to ask a question, go and read around it.”

To wrap up, the panellists told us a piece of advice they wished they had heard when they were leaving education.

Genevieve wished someone had told her not to “compare your inside with everyone else’s outside,” and how you only see what other people’s external projections of themselves are. She talked about how great teams are built on diversity and its always going to be a journey, just remember you have something to offer at every stage.

Sophia said she would tell her younger self to give the grace you would give to others to yourself. “Go to the brink of yourself, claim it as your centre and let the rest of the world meet you there,” she added.

Soraya explained how her 16-year-old self felt like she could do everything alone, but it’s better to allow people to help you and be there for you. She said: “allow other people to catch you.”

Suki said she would remind herself to only worry about the things that are in her control and Hilary would have reminded her younger self to get out of her own head and stop worrying about what other people think.

For more information and to take part in the programme next academic year visit: https://literacytrust.org.uk/programmes/words-for-work/words-work-women-leadership/