GEMS at Aviva

York Cares contacted us this year, a group of women who have delivered workshops to teenage girls on raising their aspirations for the last 5 years, to run a session for school girls to offer support and insight in to women working in business. My colleagues and I relished the opportunity to work with Year 9 school girls to raise their awareness of skills and roles in business and show them there are opportunities for everyone. I personally jumped at the chance as I find it extremely rewarding to use the skills and experience I have accumulated throughout my working life to support future female working generations.

It was a very open and honest session discussing our career journeys (the good, the bad and the necessary), helping them to identify the skills they have now and where they might be able to use them in the future. A presentation on roles in I.T. by the Aviva Women in Tech Group also moved the girls thinking on whether they could have a role in I.T. from initially one girl being interested, to at least five girls post the session.

It wasn’t all work though, a session on mindful eating with strawberries and chocolate certainly enthused them in the post lunch slot! We also discussed hints and tips for bringing positivity into the day through setting your computer password as a positive phrase, ways to improve confidence and how to manage performance through understanding their menstrual cycle, which was fascinating and well received. 

A couple of colleagues expressed how they felt about the day

‘I think back to when I was 14 and the advice I received at school, it wasn’t the greatest “you could work in a nursery” . Being able to give better advice to these girls felt amazing, the challenges they are going through are very similar to myself at 14, but they have social media to contend with as well which, very rarely focuses on the skills Women have, usually it’s what they look like or wear’ (Nicola Winter – IT Risk Manager)

‘Spending the day talking to the school girls who attended was one of the best days I’ve had working at Aviva.  I felt I got as much out of the day as they did as it was a great opportunity to think about what I would have told my 14-year-old self, if I could, and be able to share that with the girls.  I also learned that girls this age have so much to offer society through the very thoughtful and mature conversations we were having and Iwas very impressed on how much they were embracing this opportunity and joining in the activities.’ (Menaxi Mistry – Business Intelligence Manager)

Not everything in life is like an Instagram photo looking perfect and out of reach for many of us. Through sharing our own personal career stories, we aimed to inspire them to have a go as there are usually ways to achieve what you dream of even if the journey is full of obstacles. We also encouraged self-compassion and for the girls to not be so hard on themselves or each other – supporting one another is a great way to move forward and have fun too, which is a key to success in my day to day life. Having this opportunity to encourage the girls to raise their aspirations, seeing that anything is possible, was a gift all of us at Aviva wanted to share in. We had a brilliant day, a great group of girls who in turn, inspired us to want to do more. (Joanne Thompson – Risk & Controls Project Manager).

Joanne Thompson, Aviva.