As part of our Empowering Women in Construction series, we’re broadcasting stories of amazing women across the country. On this week’s episode, we spoke to Charly Young MBE, who has dedicated the last nine years of her life helping young women realise their potential.
Charly is the CEO and co-founder of the Girls Network, an organisation dedicated to inspiring and empowering girls from the least advantaged communities. They achieve this “by connecting them with a mentor and a network of professional role models who are women.”
“It’s one thing saying you can do this, but it’s another thing supporting someone in doing it.
“I founded the charity in 2013 with my co-founder Becka, when we were both teachers. We taught through Teach First, which is a programme that focuses on people from more disadvantaged schools across the country, and tries to close the educational attainment gap.
“We knew we would be going into an environment where young people would be facing additional challenges; some of our young people for example hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning, or had to look after siblings before they could get themselves to school.
“Fairly early on we both also recognised what we call the ‘double disadvantage’, that the girls in our classroom faced. The expectations that they and other people had about who they were, who they should be, how they should look, how they should behave.
“They were expected to be pretty and neat and compliant and not make too much noise.”
Mentor programmes span multiple industries, and the Girls Network has connected girls nationwide to those in the construction industry.
“We have amazing partners in the construction industry, who help mentor the girls we work with, and spend time talking about their work and their life…
“It might be that the girls go ‘ok, this isn’t for me’. But for many of them they’ll go in and say they hadn’t even considered what a job in construction meant. They might not have understood that they wouldn’t just be on a site; you might also be working in an office doing HR, or planning partnerships…
“We’ve got great relationships with organisations such as Sigma. As another example, we’ve got a relationship with a great chemical engineering company in the North West. One of our girls went in for a week of work experience. She was so inspired that she went on to study engineering, and has come back and been offered a job with them.”
Ultimately, Charly wants organisations to be more inclusive, and understand fully what the barriers are to women entering the industry.
“In terms of attracting new women, they need to look at the language they’re using, and make sure they’re appealing to as diverse an audience as possible. There are ways of designing a job description, by making it clear you’re open to different kinds of experience.
“It’s all about outreach. How do you show the amazing opportunities within your organisation? And how do you showcase a diverse range of role models at different levels working within your organisation. If it’s not visible, a young person isn’t going to think ‘I could do that. That could be me’.
You can listen to the full episode below: