Seven pearls of wisdom from the GDST Summit

Thanks to a terrific line-up of speakers at the recent GDST Summit, it was a day full of thought-provoking comments and insights. Here’s our listicle of the seven things we learnt from the day.


1. The meeting room is not the colosseum. And, you are not Russell Crowe…

Cheryl Giovannoni, CEO of the GDST said, “Today’s successful women have often succeeded because they have played by men’s rules. The successful women of tomorrow will be the ones who change the game and make their own rules.” She said that women exhibit many traits associated with effective leadership, and that colosseum style ‘trial by combat’ boardrooms rarely see the best results. For more, read Cheryl’s full speech.


2. You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion

Karen Blackett OBE, Chair of MediaCom UK and WPP UK Country Manager, once did a job swap with an intern. She said: “I had to sit on my hands to stop myself from taking over,” but by listening to what was going on, she spotted ways they could be working better. Her advice? “Be open to feedback and go looking for it.”


3. Character traits can be taught

Nicky Morgan MP asked why some people have a strong character that helps them to flourish, and others don’t. Nicky argued that schools can teach important traits like resilience, determination, curiosity and kindness by having good role models and the right extra-curricular activities. She used Putney High School’s ‘positivity cards’ as a great example of a school actively nurturing gratitude in its pupils.


4. Failure doesn’t mean failure

Dr Emily Grossman, science broadcaster and alumna of Oxford High School explained how her path to success wasn’t straightforward. When things didn’t go to plan, she didn’t give up, instead she carved out a unique new career for herself. “My schooling instilled in me the belief that I could do anything I put my mind to… even if, after a catalogue of failures, I had to go and create a career for myself.”


5. It’s not all about exams

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading said that a good education needs to be well-rounded, focusing on more than just grades. He said: “we need accountability, but not to the extent we knock the soul out of education.”

Simon Henderson, Head Master of Eton College added: “We should overtly value things other than exams and take performance tables with a pinch of salt. It’s just one metric, not a full measure of a school.”


6. Success isn’t “man-shaped”

Award-winning writer, Afua Hirsch said: “Feminism is teaching people that success isn’t man-shaped. We need a critical mass of woman in positions of power and we need to normalise women as power holders.”


7. Don’t be held back by ‘good girl syndrome’

Nottingham Girls’ High School alumna Jenny Raw said: “Although I was never explicitly told ‘you can’t do that because you’re a girl’, I was quite quiet as a child and thought that saying what I thought would get me in trouble.” When she joined a GDST school, she was pleasantly surprised to see other girls speaking out and voicing their opinions so freely. Nikki Kerdegari, a Sixth Former from Norwich High School, added: “Being in an all-girls environment really helped me to learn how to project my voice and made me feel more comfortable sharing my ideas.”