Women do not shout loud enough about their achievements. Across all areas of life, women are breaking new boundaries and this needs celebrating. We need to highlight what women are achieving to show that everyone has the opportunity to be successful.
I’ve been very fortunate to have been surrounded by inspirational women for most of my life. I grew up during the era of Margaret Thatcher, and whether you agree with her politics or not, it is undeniable that she changed the face of politics for women. My head-teacher taught me that nothing should hold you back, that it is vital to find something you are passionate about. These influences helped me to succeed, and I hope that in turn I can help other women to do the same.
We all need role models to give us advice, encouragement and confidence to pursue our chosen career path. This week I attended the Women of the Future Awards held in association with Shell, where the room was filled with inspirational women excelling across their fields, from engineering to law to journalism. Dr Vanessa Ogden was named as Mentor of the Year for her work at Mulberry School for Girls, Tower Hamlets, and her campaign for the highest quality education in inner city schools. Mentoring and role models are vital for not just young people, but all of us, to show us what we can achieve and how high we should aim.
The government’s Get Mentoring Project has funded over 15,000 mentors from the small business community, of which almost half are women. Wouldn’t it be incredible if everyone who has had someone more experienced to guide them could pay it forward and pass this capability onwards?
I am proud that there are more women working now than at any point in history – we now have over 14.4 million women in employment. I want all women to have any career path open them, and the option to juggle this chosen career with their family if they want to return to work. For this, there needs to be access to good quality childcare and to workplaces that are supportive. I want it to be just as acceptable for men to take time off to care for children as it is for women – this will help us to create a society where there is no reason for women to be held back.
At the awards I met a number of women who have smashed through these barriers. I was delighted to present an award to Claire Angell, who became one of the only female senior tax advisors to the UK oil and gas sector – a notoriously male dominated industry.
I want to applaud all of the winners and nominees from the awards, who are paving the way for others to follow. However we also mustn’t forget the number of women that are pushing forward and go unrecognised. It is up to all of us to applaud and reward achievement. We need to boost the confidence of women everywhere, show that it is possible to succeed, and reward success at every opportunity.
Nicky Morgan is a supporter of the 2014 Women of the Future Awards.