As a young female professional, I know how important it is to have female role models in your sector. They act as an inspiration for women starting out in their careers and offer something to aspire to as careers progress, in short having women visible at the top of the sector can only help those following to navigate their way upwards.
So when I was invited to attend the Network of Women Chairs’ Christmas event, as an ‘under 30’ guest of Walsingham Support’s Chair of Trustees, Heather Benjamin, I jumped at the chance. The network works to encourage women from all ethnic and social groups, and of all ages to become trustees, chairs and vice chairs. As someone who has a genuine interest in becoming a trustee, it was great news to hear that my age would not be an issue, as I had assumed it would.
The event was opened by Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of the charity Childline, who spoke about her experience as a chair and trustee; the exceptional achievements she was able to make with her colleagues, and the challenges she faced in providing support to vulnerable children. Sharing her experiences, both as Chair of Childline and as a patron of 19 charities, with the room was the catalyst for a broad range of exciting and challenging conversations.
The event certainly lived up to the Network’s goal to “share experiences and learning through networking with fellow women chairs and vice chairs of trustees thereby improving charity governance” as myself and the other delegates talked about a variety of topics including the constant need to focus on the people supported through a charity, and not to lose sight of this, despite being faced by daily challenges. We talked about the need to be open and honest about our shortcomings so that we can acknowledge our weaknesses, how to identify the strengths that will make our organisations stronger and the benefit of combining different cultures and ideas to promote new ways of thinking.
Everyone I spoke to showed the passion and zeal of a sector newbie; that desire to change the world despite the obvious adversities and challenges. With the one constant being the desire for young trustees, not from just a few organisations, but echoed by everybody in attendance. I was told the combination of fresh ideas, enthusiasm and being open to new ways of working makes younger trustees an ideal fit for many charities.
Without doubt female mentorship is invaluable for the female workforce in the charity sector, and for the successes of the charities we work for, and events like this are of huge benefit. Would I change anything? Yes, open the door to more young women. Surely inspiring them now will help lay the foundations for them to deliver the great things of the future.