On Friday 7th March 2014, we celebrated a year-long 'Women of Influence' project led by Romsey Mill and the Cambridge Art Salon. This creative showcase featured a series of interviews with women in the Cambridge community, led by a group of teenage girls supported by Romsey Mill’s Social Inclusion programme throughout 2013. It included photography, film, text and art, and documented an exploration into modern day female role models for teenage girls.
Ruthie Collins, Creative Director of the Cambridge Art Salon, said that “Women of Influence is about celebrating these women and giving young women a voice.”
Twelve ‘rebel’ women were interviewed by five ‘inspirational’ girls. For the girls, it increased their confidence, empowered them to set goals and helped them believe they can overcome barriers to achievement. Producing a video has given them team working skills and an opportunity to be leaders within their peer group. They got to think about what makes a good role model. One of the girls, Zoe Smith, thought that “a good role model can advise you on the right way, show you what’s good and not good, is open-hearted, strong-minded and tells you what you need to hear.”
For the women, it gave them the chance to reflect, to open up about their own hopes and to learn from a new generation of girls, as well as from their teenage selves. Caroline Williams from KMPG was one or the women interviewed.
“I had thought that after two years of walking up to people and announcing ‘Hi, I’m the auditor!’ nothing could daunt me anymore, but I was wrong...it turns out that a group of teenage girls is a whole different ball game. The girls questioned me on my life and career to date, my hopes and ambitions, and all of the twists and turns life had taken to get me here. They asked some fairly difficult questions!”
This special project has been about empowering young women, exploring the idea that they do not always have adequate access to role models. Positive role models can provide gateways for young people to consider a wider range of possible outcomes for their own futures. In our society, there is much emphasis on celebrity culture but little is done to highlight alternative role models. Ruthie Collins says, “There’s a gap waiting to be filled with authentic, real women that girls can believe in and trust.”
At Romsey Mill, we want to give young women hope for a good future without promising an impossible dream. We want to share practical and realistic guidance that will improve lives and widen the circle of opportunity for women.