Ooooh how exciting! Our first ‘proper and official’ session today where we had to be in ‘full’ mentor mode. Mrs Rana and Ms Gill from Arden School had been as efficient as ever and prepared the room, the refreshments and the resources for a great session. As mentors, we were all keen to get started and made sure we all sat on different tables so that we were shared out between the girls and mums.
I think every single one of us had great big smiles on our faces when we could hear the excited chatter of the girls as they were on their way in! The girls quite naturally split up, some staying with their friends and spread out throughout the room and it was obvious that they were happy to be there.
The girls were given their Discovery books, which they were keen to dive into! We worked together in small groups on the first activity, which looks at what they’d job they’d like to do when they’re older. I was working with 2 very highly ambitious girls who wanted to be doctors, opticians or pharmacists. They had older brothers and sisters who were at college and university and they were keen to do the same.
It was really great to see how at the age of 9 and 10 the girls already had plans for their future. They asked me what I had wanted to do when I was older, and I shared that I had wanted to be a journalist or social worker when I was younger and that led to a short chat about how plans can change.
As a whole group, we talked about the different jobs that people wanted to do and jobs they could think of. It was great to see such a variety of jobs being thrown out and recorded on the flipchart by Ms Gill who had to write really fast! We had everything from doctors, pharmacists, authors, fire-fighters, builders, hairdressers, football players, singers…
And then came the interesting part! The girls were asked which of the jobs they thought were more done by men and which by women and I don’t think there was much surprise at some of their conclusions. Men’s jobs were the builders, fire-fighters and sporty jobs and the women’s jobs were things like nurse’s hairdressers and beauticians.
Some of the mentors shared their experience of doing non-traditional jobs they’d done such as roofing and this seemed like a big deal to the girls, who were very impressed. We had some really interesting conversations about the work that men can do, even within the home, and there was quite a range of experiences within the group.
Some girls didn’t think that men could cook or iron while other thought it was quite natural. Other girls seemed surprised that women could put up a shelf or change a tyre on a car, but seemed more open to that than men changing nappies! It was a loud and interesting group discussion and a great opportunity for the girls to see and hear how men and women and do any roles.
The Big Sister posters were a really effective way of showing real life women who have achieved success in non-traditional jobs. The posters worked really well with the mums too. Once again, they were excited to be in the session, and there was a really good turn out with most mums present. They were all happy to be there and the groups were mixed up so the mums got to work with different mentors.
There were a couple of mums whose English was quite basic so as mentors, we split up to make sure or language skills were put to use. It seems like such a small thing but being able to involve a mum in the big group discussions by talking to her and letting her know she is part of the group, makes a massive difference to her confidence levels. It’s also a way to build a trusting relationship from a mentor’s perspective as they know you are their side and are there to support them.
The mums really enjoyed the lively discussion on what they are good at doing and also the jobs that men and women can do. Some mums struggled to find something they were good at and they concentrated mainly on the things they do at home like cooking and looking after their families, which was fine. It was really positive for them to identify the things they were good at doing in any field.
It was really great to hear the discussions taking place that challenged traditional stereotypes and got the girls, moms and even the mentors thinking about the different roles that men and women take on.
As a working mom myself with children at school, I was really proud of the moms who have made the commitment to themselves and their daughters to full take part in this course. I had to leave this session early to pick up my own children from school this week, but I left with the sound of lively discussions and laughter in my ears.
These mums have a lot to say and it looks like they found the right place to say it all!