Hackney schoolgirls inspired by International Women’s Day event

Guests at the Inspiring Young Hackney Women celebration

Guests at the Inspiring Young Hackney Women celebration - Credit: Archant

Schoolgirls were told to smash the glass ceiling at an empowering event last week.

To mark International Women’s Day, Year 9 and 10 students from four Hackney schools gathered to hear the stories of 20 successful women working in male-dominated sectors.

The event at the Tomlinson Centre, Queensbridge Road, aimed to inspire them to make it in a man’s world.

Girls from The Petchey, Clapton, Bridge academies and Our Lady’s Girls’ School were hit with a welter of shocking stats from guests, who told them equality in all aspects of life was 117 years away.

“Some of the statistics make me angry and a little bit depressed,” said Cllr Sophie Linden, Hackney’s deputy mayor. “Women across the world do not take their equal place at the table with men. But, the number of women who came forward and said ‘I want to help’, and talk to other young women, I felt genuinely inspired by that.”

Four panellists – company director Jenni Gwiazdowski, A&E doctor Ronke Ikharia, creative writer and performer Sabrina Mahfouz and inventor Martha Silcott – got the audience thinking.

“I want to impress on you that you can do it, whatever ‘it’ means for you,” Martha, who invented tampon disposal pouch FabLittleBag, told them, “but you do need a toolkit. And your toolkit is belief, passion and enthusiasm, tenacity and surrounding yourselves with good people.”

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The event, in partnership with the national Inspiring Women Campaign, also featured performances.

Artist Sabrina delivered a blistering critique on women’s self-esteem issues with a rousing poem. “Beyoncé is class and that, but still, I don’t want to look hourglass, I want to look ill,” thundered one line.

“Speed-dating”-style workshops allowed the girls to chat to a civil rights lawyer, plumber, senior civil servant, architect and medical engineer.

Naomi Iwuchukwu, 14, from Bridge, added: “My favourite part was the speed-networking. I got to personally ask women about their careers. I realised there will always be setbacks but never to give up.”