Girls mean business

Encouraging girls to develop the entrepreneurial spirit is vital, argues Rachel Kerr from the Girls’ School Association

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in independent girls’ schools. For those in the Girls’ Schools Association, projects to get their students interested in running and leading businesses are now commonplace.

As far as Alun Jones, head of St Gabriel’s School in Newbury, is concerned, introducing girls to the concept of business is a priority. He’s made sure that every one of his sixth-form students has a mentor from IBM.

It’s a proactive approach that’s in full swing at Moreton Hall in Lancashire, where successive sixth-form students have been running an eclectic mix of on-site businesses for the last 25 years for the school’s business arm, Moreton Enterprises. There are seven on-site retail outlets, including a Ryman stationery store and a Barclays Bank, and the team typically generate an annual turnover of around £50,000.

Earlier this year some of the young women even saw their own Jack of All Flavours sandwich go on sale in Subway stores nationwide. At the time, the girls spoke out against the EU’s plans to force companies to increase the number of women on their board. Instead, they said that women should succeed in business on their merits or not at all.

Moreton Hall business studies teacher, Karen Booth, said: “Girls need to experience the reality of business while they’re still at school. It’s critical to expose them to the kind of risk-taking and quick decision-making that real business demands if they’re going to thrive in the commercial world. Being part of Moreton Enterprises gives the girls an outstanding insight to business and has been the starting point for many successful business women.”

Across the Pennines, Harrogate Ladies’ College launched the HLC Business School back in 2010. Its all-female pupils study economics, accounting, business studies and psychology in a state-of-the-art business-like environment which helps prepare them to play an active part in business in an increasingly global world.
The results have been profound. In two years pupils studying business-related A levels increased from 24 to 63; every girl in the school has been offered an enterprise opportunity; 63 per cent of lower-sixth pupils are directors of an enterprise company; 30 per cent of year 7-9 pupils have participated in the HLC Apprentice Challenge; all lower school pupils have participated in at least one enterprise challenge; and pupils have been introduced to the realities of the commercial world by a number of entrepreneurs and senior executives.

Further north in Newcastle upon Tyne, inspiring young women to pursue leadership roles is high on the agenda at Newcastle High School for Girls. Their students have recently been networking with their peers in the third North East Women Leaders (NEW Leaders) conference, which aims to inspire and help 16-18-year-old girls from across the region to focus on the importance of developing their leadership characteristics and skills, as well as helping to raise the aspirations of young women in the north east.

The conference saw some of the region’s high-flying women and emerging talent come together to offer guidance on how girls can make it to the top in whatever context they choose.

Headmistress at Newcastle High School for Girls, Hilary French, said: “The importance of developing leadership skills for women cannot be overrated and it is crucial to start developing these skills early. It is essential that education in school is about more than exam results. We want to champion young women and provide them with the tools they need to grow into inspirational leaders who will define their own routes to success and make it on their own terms.”

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