Some of us women are lucky enough to grow up believing that anything is possible for us to be and achieve. Whether that’s true or not is a matter for debate, but when I was 6, 16 or 26, I had no sense that there were certain jobs for men and other jobs for women. In fact, at the age of forty something I’m still working out what I want to be when I grow up and I won’t be constrained by my gender!
However, sadly not all girls grow up with this conviction, and even now data shows that by the age of 10 many have absorbed stereotypical views on the ‘role of women’. This was highlighted to us by the not for profit organisation I Can Be, which introduces school girls aged 7 and 8 to women from a diverse range of professions. Lois, Becky and I were delighted to get involved with I Can Be and started by hosting 9 girls from St Paul’s Primary school in our London, Threadneedle St office this week.
It started with a call from reception to say, “your guests have arrived, and they’re all little girls!”
On greeting them in their very bright yellow cardigans and nervous smiles, some hiding behind their ‘best friend’ and others coming forward with a firm handshake I couldn’t help feeling how tiny they were in such a ‘big’ place but also strangely how natural it was for them to be there. We chose the best meeting room in the building - the round one on the corner of level 5 that looks out to the Bank of England. The girls pretty much felt at home immediately - running to the window to marvel at the street below.
After introductions they all asked their prepared question, ranging from “what is a Venture Capitalist?” to “what’s your favourite video game?” You can imagine which one was easiest to answer and in fact we could have easily spent the following 50 mins discussing whether Fortnite is better than Roblox! Given current trends I couldn’t resist imagining whether, for this generation, these platforms will be open marketplaces for all things financial?
We moved on from gaming and the girls did a Dragons’ Den exercise, which we borrowed from the ‘24hr Start-up’ training course we run to prepare our colleagues for working with portfolio companies. We asked the girls to come up with a business idea and decide what they would like to sell to whom, then design a website to describe and pitch their idea to us all. The results were impressive! One group chose to sell works of art to grandparents. I was surprised not only by their creativity but also commercial savvy. Who would have thought 7-year olds could come up with so many pricing, discounting and loyalty schemes! My team decided to sell movies to parents and spent a long-time debating romance over adventure genres and then pricing between £5 and £5000 per ticket.
After lots of photos and quick goodbyes they were gone. We hope they had fun and will go back to school with at least a small sense of what we do and a big sense that, if they choose it, this career is open to them.
We’ll be running another session in May with a different school, and we’d strongly encourage anyone who’s interested in making a difference to get involved with I Can Be!
By Emma Huntington