Women in Financial Services Blog

Today is International Day of the Girl - What did you want to be when you were little?

Today is International Day of the Girl - What did you want to be when you were little?

Tina.Freed / 10 Oct 2018

Today is International Day of the Girl – we asked our members to recount what they had wanted to be, who supported them and what stood in their way. 

Today is International Day of the Girl, a United Nations’ day of observance to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, whilst promoting their empowerment and fulfilment of their human rights.  

This year, the UN’s theme is ‘A Skilled GirlForce’, looking at how we, as a global community, can ensure that girls have access to education and opportunities so that they might gain fulfilling employment in adulthood. 

At E2W we think this is an important subject and to mark the day, International Day of the Girl, we have produced two pieces, this one looking at girls of the past and the other looking at women leaders of the future.

We wanted to be nostalgic but also reflective:  we wanted to take both ourselves and you back to when we were all children, remembering what it feels like to have dreams and to make us wonder what could we do differently today? We asked our community to answer the following questions.

No need to be serious, what did you want to be?

We really wanted to capture those innocent goals that children have and we were not disappointed.  Thank you to the E2W member who was honest with us and revealed that she had wanted to be a clown!  As you might expect, she did not achieve this and instead became a barrister before moving to financial services.

Joking aside, most of the respondents did not end up in the careers that they thought they wanted as school girls: TV producers, medics, dancers, aviation enthusiasts, police women. 

“I really wanted to be a surgeon; I even wrote the aspiration in an envelope to open when I grew up!”

A few members did achieve their goals as careers:

“Having all these odds against you makes you stronger and gives you the determination to do even  better, so I ended up being the top of the batch and being awarded the ‘Most outstanding student of the year’ at Kingston University London securing a scholarship to do my MSc  as well as securing a job offer at the University. As impossible a task may seem the more exciting it becomes.”

“My dad got me some work experience within the BBC which got me inspired.  I worked with some wonderful people over the years who continued to inspire me that this was the sector I wanted to work in.”

Most other people realised that there were reasons they wouldn’t succeed – more on this later – and decided to follow other career paths, some pursuing childhood dreams as hobbies, dancing and flying being the two that really stand out.

“My eyesight was below the requirements at the time either for a pilot or a navigator and so I decided to play to my strengths and trained as a chartered tax adviser & US tax preparer; then a little later saved up and took flying lessons to get my private pilots’ licence.”

Who supported you? 

We at E2W believe that supporting women is critical in achieving success: it’s at the core of what we do and it’s what we advocate to financial services’ firms.  Women in financial services need support from mentors and sponsors to help them navigate their career paths, give them the tap on the shoulder about an open role and achieve the right exposure. 

And children are no different.  It was lovely to read how many of us had support from our families.  Support doesn’t always mean saying “yes”, though, and quite a few of the responses included parents being realistic about the world of work and helping children achieve their potential, even if that motive didn’t seem clear at the time. 

There were tales of women striving out alone too, going with their gut instinct and seeing where it took them; and women remembering great bosses and mentors who have inspired them along the way.

What hurdles did you have to overcome? 

The answers to this question were a real mixed bag which highlighted to us the non-linear form that careers can take and also, an issue which crops up time and time again.  

Some people were made redundant and so had to change direction, others realised that the career really wasn’t for them - too squeamish to be a doctor; others faced discrimination. 

The clown-turned-barrister (there’s a line I thought I’d never write!) explained how The Bar was traditional and competitive at the time she joined and that financial services presented her with new challenges:

“… the negatives of large corporate life were challenging.  I had not experienced micro-management, poor communication or office politics … “

There was a recurring theme, though, and it’s one that we discuss with our members all the time.  We urge the financial services’ sector to acknowledge this as an issue pertinent to women and to be creative with ways to address it: a lack of self-confidence.

“At senior school I decided that studying medicine would be extremely challenging and I honestly didn’t believe I was intelligent enough in the science and maths fields.  If I could go back to my teen self now I would say, ‘You can achieve anything you want.’”
“…myself limiting my success, my own imposter syndrome.”

Thank you to everyone that participated.  It was great to read about your childhood dreams and learn more about the direction you took.

600 million adolescent girls will enter the workforce in the next decade.  Reflecting on your own dreams and aspirations, what can you do to support the next generation?  

 

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