Inspiration and optimism ruled the roost at the GDST’s Annual Summit
The GDST’s 2019 Summit was a roaring success. A great wave of optimism and excitement swept through Kings Place in London’s Kings Cross as speakers, guests and alumnae took to the stage to discuss ‘New Rules – Preparing Young Women for a World of Radical Change’.
The Chief Executive of the GDST, Cheryl Giovannoni, opened the day with a rousing speech, exhorting girls to tear up the old rule book, write their own rules for the future, and “Be the lawyer your mother always wanted you to marry.”
“The future will be more female”, she told the assembled GDST students in the audience, “you belong in the places where decisions are being made”.
Cheryl Giovannoni said the GDST will always champion women. “Our schools are engines of progress,” she said. “The most important thing that a great education can give a girl is the ability to be her own agent of change. Education gives you control over your own future. It is quite simply that powerful.”
Dame Cilla Snowball gave a keynote speech about the realities of the working world and the pressing need for greater gender equality. While GDST girls learn without limits, she said, “the reality of the world of work is that there certainly are limits”. The issue for the future “is how best we can equip girls to change the system, not simply navigate the system”.
A discussion on The Future of Education followed, chaired by the BBC’s Samira Ahmed. On the panel were author and journalist Yomi Adegoke, Vicky Bingham, Head of South Hampstead High School, Anna Lapwood, musician and broadcaster, Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, and Dr Joseph Spence, Master of Dulwich College.
In a wide-ranging conversation covering technology, work, mental health and gender inequality, the panellists agreed there is an urgent need for people to have ‘ethics training’ to understand the decision-making process behind changing technology. Dr Spence spoke eloquently about how “men must be allies” for the future and Yomi Adegoke said people need to “be aware of difference”.
After lunch, Nina Gunson, Head of Sheffield Girls, displayed her comedic skills with a brilliant improvisation on some serious and not-so-serious New Rules, offered up by the audience.
Dr Daniel Susskind then gave a fascinating keynote speech about the impact that AI will have on the future of the professions.
One of the day’s highlights was the final panel discussion between five recent GDST alumnae, chaired by Samira Ahmed, called What I’ve Learned. There was optimism and laughter as the girls discussed their views of the world, their hopes and dreams and what the New Rules mean to them.
Amelia Ellis-Baumber, who is doing an apprenticeship with Rolls Royce, described how she is one of 40 students – and one of only eight girls – a very different experience to her time at Norwich High School. But she said: “Going to a GDST school has taught me to take every opportunity you can and I have taken that into the work place. Maybe it scares me but I’ve still gone and done it.”
Eloise Richmond, who recently started reading Classics at Durham University, agreed: “We were taught at Norwich High to be fearless but also to be fun.” She said she’s hopeful about the years to come. “We should help each other because we are the future so we might as well work together.”
Helen Stephens, an alumna of Sutton High said that it’s important to remember that you are in charge of your own destiny. “If you don’t like something, don’t be scared,” she said. “Just change it, life’s too short.”