Charly Young: Empowering Young Girls From the Least-Advantaged Communities
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hi folks! I’m Spiffy, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth, back with a new guest. Charly Young, the co-founder and CEO of The Girls’ Network, is a London-based changemaker committed to creating a difference in gender equality in the world. Read on to find out how!
Spiffy: It’s wonderful to meet you, Charly. I’m curious about the challenges your company is addressing. What can you tell me?
Charly: It’s great to meet you too, Spiffy! Thanks for having me. To answer your question - not all young people have access to the same opportunities, be that educational, work-related, or wider experiences. This is often related to the income of a family or an area, but it can really hold a young person back. They may not be given the same opportunities to learn. They also might not know people who can help them achieve what they want to. Combined with this, society and individuals hold unfair beliefs about what people can achieve based on their gender. Girls and young women are often told that they have to look and act a particular way, and that there are only certain jobs that they can do. This is not true; nor is it fair! We match girls with professional women from lots of different jobs to show them that it is possible!
Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?
Charly: I started The Girls' Network when I was a teacher. I saw how brilliant the young women I was teaching were, and it made me angry and upset to think that they (and other people) didn't believe they could succeed. So, I introduced the girls in my classroom to amazing women from lots of different jobs and backgrounds. This helped them to see that their dreams were possible, and that there were women willing to help them get there!
Spiffy: Talk about awesome! I’d love for you to elaborate on what you feel is the impact of your work.
Charly: Women from across England volunteer their time for a year to work one-on-one with a young woman. This helps girls to feel confident and like they have something valuable to share. It helps them to develop the skills they need to do really well at school, in the workplace, and in society, and connects them to people who can help them get there. It creates a generation of young women who are empowered to know that they can achieve what they set their mind to. One girl said to us the other day, "my mentor makes me feel safe in my own skin."
Spiffy: That’s beautiful. Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative and its effect on your community.
Charly: We have worked with more than 7700 girls over the last ten years, and now some of the girls who were mentees on our programme have come back to be mentors for younger girls. They have gained in confidence and self-belief and know that they have lots to offer the next generation of girls and young women, to ensure unlimited futures for all.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Charly—it’s been an honor!
Charly Young MBE is CEO and co-founder of The Girls’ Network – a charity that provides 14-to-19-year-old girls from the least-advantaged communities across England with a female mentor and a network of professional female role models. As a secondary school teacher, she saw first hand how girls and young women were limited by their gender and background, and knew she had to do something! (First published on the Ladderworks website on December 14, 2022.)© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.