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She Can Be: problem-solving, a panel and a pledge

10 February 2020
Katie Yates, interviewed by Lucy Pert
Katie Yates, interviewed by Lucy Pert

She Can Be… important. 
She Can Be… empowered.
She Can Be… anything she wants to be.

Lucy Pert, Trainee Investment Manager, speaks to Katie Yates, Programme and Communications Officer at the Lord Mayor's Appeal and the Project Lead for She Can Be...

Katie, can you tell me a little about your background and your role within She Can Be…?

Having studied English Literature at university and with no clear understanding of what I wanted to do, I found myself working in a variety of roles - from retail marketing to an Arts charity. However, I had trouble reconciling my interest in selling things, so I decided to have a complete change of scenery by spending two months in Japan. Travelling alone is challenging in ways that were different to the challenges I’d faced before; I came home a more resilient person, with a greater understanding of what I cared about, and where I should work. Serendipitously, the role at The Lord Mayor’s Appeal came up, which felt much more aligned with my values. I started as a Project Officer supporting on some of our other diversity and inclusion campaigns and I now lead on She Can Be…

So, what is She Can Be… and how did it start? 

She Can Be… is a one-day event which seeks to empower young women between the ages of 15 and 18 to make informed decisions about their careers. Now in its third year, the event originally came about to tackle the perception held by 64% of young women that men were more likely to be employed over women. The young women at the event come from a range of different backgrounds and are mostly from areas of high deprivation, recruited through our charity partners Place2Be, Teach First and OnSide Youth Zones. The event forms part of The Lord Mayor’s Appeal’s strategy to help 1 million people thrive and, although it operates with inclusivity at its heart, it falls under our Skills pillar. The day is all about emphasising the skills that young women already have that they can use in the workplace.

We ask organisations to present roles from all aspects of the business, proving that you do not have to be a lawyer to work in a law firm, or a banker to work in a bank. Essentially showcasing the variety of different roles that are really exciting within the City. I know this is something I personally could have done with when I was younger.

The day is split into two parts: in the morning, small groups of young women visit different organisations for immersive workshops; in the afternoon, everyone comes together for a plenary session, which involves problem-solving, a panel, and a pledge.

How do corporates support the initiative? 

Corporates can get involved in She Can Be… either by hosting a morning session or attending the afternoon. Hosting is really special and extremely supported; I run workshops throughout the year to ensure that companies are suitably prepared to run sessions for the young women who visit them.

What do you think the partner businesses take away from the event? 

I hope that the partner businesses take away a sense of awareness of the generation that will enter the workforce in a couple of years' time. I also hope that they feel more informed and equipped to ensure their workplaces are inclusive spaces for everyone.

Why do you think She Can Be… is such an effective way to engage with young people?

I think it is effective because it shows them the variety of opportunities that exist in business. In my experience, careers advice was quite limited at school so I didn’t know that there were so many amazing different things that I could do if I wanted to. It’s also important that the City has a pipeline of brilliant talent – and this brilliant talent won’t apply if it doesn’t know about it!

Are you able to share some examples of the ways that She Can Be… has helped some of the young women involved?

One example is a young woman who stayed in touch with the business that she visited and joined them in the summer for a weeklong work experience placement. This one day spent in the City had a tangible impact for this young woman, who was excited to return.  Staying in touch can also be valuable for the young women as a way of reconnecting with the people they meet on the day, although we restrict this to LinkedIn connections only.

How long has the Lord Mayor’s Appeal been running? 

The Lord Mayor's Appeal has been running as a permanent team, with our own strategy, for about five years, with support from each Lord Mayor. Before this, the Lord Mayor had a one-year pop-up appeal for their year in office. This new permanent strategy is much more effective in maintaining relationships with City businesses and having a larger impact on the City itself.

Our ‘Better City for All’ strategy has 4 pillars: Healthy, Inclusive, Skilled, and Fair. Each pillar has its own initiative – although you can see how She Can Be… might fall into two or more of the pillars. This is the case with all of our initiatives as we hope to help 1 million people thrive.

Through our membership of #includedAWM, LGT Vestra is proud to support She Can Be… On 13th February 2020, representatives from the firm will participate in the annual event in Canary Wharf and host an interactive mock-trading session to offer the young women some insight into the stock market.