You can't be what you can't see - how The Girls Network is inspiring girls 14-19 to reach further

empowering women gender equality mentoring the edit issue 6 Mar 06, 2020

By Nat Rosetti, Head of Communications and Impact

“I now know my worth.” Aida, The Girls’ Network mentee

The Girls’ Network aims to inspire and empower girls aged 14-19 from the least advantaged communities by connecting them to a mentor and a network of professional role models who are women. We believe:


  • That no girls should have their futures limited by their gender, background, or parental income


  • That all girls should be supported to realise their ambitions, to discover their self-worth, and to develop their capacity to shape their world and their future


  • That you can’t be what you can’t see and that all girls deserve to learn from and be inspired by relatable role models who are women 


We reach girls via relationships with schools in London, Sussex, Portsmouth, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, the North East and Liverpool City Region, and support over 1000 girls each year. Volunteer mentors are trained by our team and meet their mentee at least once a month for a year. Across the country, our mentor and supporter network is made up of women at different stages of their careers in the arts, STEM, transport, construction, media, and more. At any given time, there are over 3000 women and girls in our network, all brought together by the desire to support each other and make a positive change.

 The Girls’ Network was founded by two teachers, Charly Young and Becca Dean, who saw first hand the multiple barriers facing the least advantaged girls in their classrooms: the pressure to conform to ideals, a lack of confidence or self-belief, and a lack of professional female role models in their networks. They established a 1:1 mentoring programme for 30 girls in 2013 based on research showing that conversations and personal relationships could have a big impact on challenging stereotypes and expectations. The Girls’ Network was soon in high demand. 

The importance of role models is really evident anecdotally but also through research demonstrating that it’s hard to become someone or something without examples of people like you doing it. Research shows that speaking directly to professionals in certain jobs is one of the biggest influencers in challenging your own stereotypes on what you can and can’t do. So diverse role models are key: people you can relate to by gender, ethnicity, sexuality, career choices, background. This is particularly important for young people. 

At the end of the mentoring journey, our mentees become ambassadors of The Girls’ Network: a free lifelong membership enabling them to continue accessing the network, and offering them a platform to have their voice heard. In a few years, we hope to see ambassadors return as mentors once they’ve entered the world of work, helping us create a self-sustaining social movement with the goal of achieving unlimited futures for all young women. 

 In the words of one of our ambassadors, reflecting at the end of her mentoring programme: "When I joined I was terrified, but I've learnt to talk to people I don't know anything about. You won't learn new things unless you try." Mentoring has a positive impact on mentors, too. One told us: “I was surprised by the confidence boost mentoring gave me – it helped me realise how far I've come & that I'd like to move into a management role.”  

Our latest impact statistics show that 93% of girls say that their mentor has improved their confidence, 96% of girls believe their mentor has helped them to feel more positive about their future and on average girls feel 20% more confident that they will achieve the goals they set for themselves. Further, girls feel 22% more comfortable making decisions and girls feel on average 20% more comfortable being interviewed for university or for a job.  

If you are a woman and you are based and work in one of the regions we work in, you can apply to become a mentor with us. If you can’t commit to a full year of mentoring but would still like to be involved, you can support us in other ways (e.g. by running a workshop, providing work experience to some of our girls or fundraising. These are great options for men who want to support our mission, too!). 

We also work with corporate organisations to create bespoke and mutually beneficial partnerships, with the ultimate aim of securing unlimited futures for all young women. Benefits include being part of a network of highly successful and inspiring women across sectors, supporting and developing a pool of future female talent, brand recognition, and opportunities for employees to develop skills and build their confidence through mentoring.

 The Girls' Network