GDST and LSE Generate partner to launch new diploma to inspire the female founders of the future

The GDST has launched its LEAD Programme – Leadership Enterprise Advanced Diploma – to encourage its Sixth Form students to create real change for the future. Elements of the pilot programme will be provided in partnership with LSE Generate, the entrepreneurial arm of the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE).

The pandemic has presented both opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurs, with research showing that self-employed women lost around 20 percent of their income during the pandemic, compared to 11 per cent of self-employed men. In addition, The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship also found that a key barrier to female entrepreneurs starting or scaling a business is a lack of relatable role models and access to networks, sponsorship and mentorship opportunities through which they can gain relevant advice and insight.

Therefore, LSE Generate’s Mentorpreneurship programme, which is in partnership with OakNorth, will be a key feature of the course to enable our young women to learn about key elements of mentorship and entrepreneurship, whilst developing their own leadership skills.

LEAD builds on the success of the GDST’s Guided Home Learning Leadership programme, which was introduced as part of a series of inspiring new courses for A-level students when exams were cancelled during the first national lockdown. Potential young entrepreneurs will access an online self-guided interactive Leadership course. Module 1, Introduction to Leadership, will cover topics such as the effectiveness of different leadership models, awareness of varied personality types, overcoming imposter syndrome and building effective teams. In the second module, Preparing For A Fast-Changing Workplace, students will learn about unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion, artificial intelligence and shared parental leave amongst other relevant topics. The thread running through the LEAD programme is the power of mentoring, and the difference that a mentor can make to a start-up enterprise initiative.

Cheryl Giovannoni, Chief Executive, GDST, explained the rationale behind the launch:

“An important part of our ethos is to be forward looking, and the past couple of years have demonstrated how important it is for our girls to be resilient and proactive about developing the skills and knowledge they need to cope in any situation.

The International Monetary Fund’s prediction that the pandemic could roll back 30 years of economic progress for women if action is not taken, coupled with The Prince’s Trust’s finding about the gap between young people’s entrepreneurial ambitions and their action to enter self-employment, highlight the need to actively inspire the next generation of female founders.

I am pleased that the Leadership component of LEAD looks specifically at recognising strengths, developing new skills and learning from mistakes. In learning about the power of mentoring, including being mentored by both LSE Generate and GDST alumnae, our students will have access to specialist insight and targeted business advice, whilst honing transferable employability skills.”

As part of GDST LEAD, students will be tasked with setting up an entrepreneurial initiative, conceiving a sustainable product or service, with proceeds going to their chosen charity. Along the way, they will access mentorpreneurship tools including podcasts, audio series and bootcamps, guidance and check-ins with LSE Generate mentors, as well as virtual speed networking sessions with GDST alumnae.

Jacynth Bassett, Sydenham High School alumna and founder of inclusive fashion brand The Bias Cut, will be one of the speed networking mentors. She commented: “I thoroughly enjoy being involved with these initiatives. As a speed networking mentor and judge, it will be great to see how each business develops from the idea stage to the final business plan. Creating a strong business, whilst juggling A-levels and the pandemic will need commitment, resilience and passion – and I am confident that the GDST girls will deliver.”

LJ Silverman, Head of LSE Generate, said: “The pandemic has been a hugely challenging time for startup businesses but it has also presented opportunities to think about the type of innovation and support needed in order to make a real difference in society. The launch of this programme comes at a time when the need for human-to-human collaboration and mentorship is fundamental, to not only navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, but in creating real change for the future. We believe that entrepreneurship should be the great equaliser; no matter what challenges the world presents, or where you are based, with the right support, access and materials, an inclusive startup culture that benefits a global community can flourish. We are thrilled to be piloting our schools initiative with GDST, and inspiring the change-makers of tomorrow, today, in being part of this innovative programme.”

In addition to regular mentoring support, students will attend two in-person bootcamp events, where they will hear from inspirational speakers, attend creativity workshops incorporating social sciences, arts and humanities, to develop their ideas, and tap into the perspectives of their peers competing from across the GDST family to carry out market research.