GDST Summit – New Frontiers: Equipping Girls for the Future

On 13th June, over 300 guests gathered for the annual GDST Summit to explore how we, as educators, can equip girls for the future.

Cheryl Giovannoni, GDST CEO, set the agenda for the day with a galvanising speech. “If the girls in our schools are to storm new frontiers like never before,” she said, “we have to equip them to change the world and create a better future, for the benefit of all.”

On the subject of women and leadership, she spoke of the need to “create a modern world where powerful feminine traits are equally valued and expressed by both men and women.”

This, she said, contrasted with today’s reality, with boardrooms being seen as male-dominated theatres of combat – “The meeting room is not the colosseum. And, frankly, you are not Russell Crowe.”

Cheryl ended her speech with a rousing call, affirming that, “We will work tirelessly to help GDST girls overcome any limitations imposed on them. To be progressive and pioneering. To reshape the world for the better… and the world is going to have to listen.”

Guests were then treated to an inspiring talk by Karen Blackett OBE, Chair of MediaCom UK and WPP UK Country Manager. She highlighted the importance of personal branding and the qualities required for great leadership, through an exploration of her own remarkable story.

She advised that, “Trust and empathy are critical to building a sustainable career… emotional intelligence is more important than IQ.”

Emphasising the importance of soft skills, Karen added that, “The ability to public speak, talk and be able to communicate effectively needs to be a really big focus for schools.”

The meeting room is not the colosseum. And, frankly, you are not Russell Crowe.
Cheryl Giovannoni, GDST CEO

Next up was the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee and former Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities. She spoke eloquently about how her education shaped her (including her brief stint at Wimbledon High School!) and how schools shape society.

She said, “At its heart education is about human flourishing.” She continued, “There shouldn’t be a list of approved character traits the government says pupils must develop, character shouldn’t be assessed but character traits can be taught and not left to chance.”

The afternoon gave guests the opportunity to ask questions of an expert panel featuring Afua Hirsch (journalist, author, broadcaster), Dr Emily Grossman (scientist, broadcaster, writer), Simon Henderson (Head Master, Eton College), and Sir David Bell (Vice Chancellor, University of Reading).

Topics included the effect of social media on children, the role of men in bringing about gender equality and the role of exams in recognising the achievements of schools and pupils.

The Summit ended with the Inspiring Females panel, chaired by Kirsty Von Malaise, Head of Norwich High School, featuring an impressive line-up of students and young GDST alumnae. These included Jenny Raw, Nottingham Girls’ High School alumna, who has recently represented the UK at the UN. Using their experience, they offered terrific insights and advice on a swathe of issues that impact upon girls and young women at school, university and in the workplace.

Many of the themes from the day rippled well-beyond the confines of the Summit with coverage in The Times, Marie Claire, the Mail and TES.

At the evening reception which followed the Summit, Dr Nirupa Murugaesu was named Alumna of the Year for her pioneering work on the 100,000 Genomes Project, which is transforming cancer treatment in the NHS. Nirupa’s success, and those of her peers, is a fitting reminder of how we’re equipping girls for the future.

Thank you to Miranda Green for chairing the event and to all of our speakers, panellists, students, and alumnae.