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Girls Talk London – Workforce Development Program

By May 24, 2016


Author: Vanessa Sanyauke, Founder and CEO, Girls Talk London

On the 3rd February 2016, Girls Talk London officially began their partnership with Salesforce to deliver a 6 week mentoring programme for 12 female students in London. Three schools (St. Paul’s Way Trust School in Tower Hamlets, Leyton Sixth Form College in Waltham Forest and City of Westminster College in Westminster) were invited to participate exclusively on the programme.
Female students in Year 12 (aged 16-17) from these schools were invited to apply for places and targeted assemblies at students who studied STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects were conducted during December 2015 and January 2016 to encourage applications.

After a competitive application process 12 students from the 3 schools were officially offered a place on the programme.

70% of these students come from low income households and would be the first in their family to go to university.

Many of these girls did not have corporate work experience and some had never stepped foot inside a building like the Salesforce Tower.

Pairing with a Mentor

12 mentors from various functions across Salesforce were selected to mentor a student. The overall aim of the mentoring programme was to provide support, advice, skill development and encouragement for female students to pursue their desired careers but introduce them to Sales and STEM sector jobs. We also wanted students to understand their options whether it be a school leaver opportunity or a relevant and applicable degree at university.

The students played an active role in deciding who mentored them by taking part in a speed networking session with all of the mentors. Afterwards each student provided feedback to Girls Talk London on their top 3 preferences. These suggestions along with the application forms and mentor profiles helped Girls Talk London match each pair-The matches were deemed successful by students with all students stating that they felt they were matched with a suitable mentor.

As part of this programme students were tasked to create a 5 minute presentation on a topic of interest relevant to their A-Level subjects. They had to present this at the graduation finale event on Wednesday 16th March.

Growing in Confidence

Throughout the 6 weeks there was a gradual change and shift in the girl’s confidence and behaviour. They went from being intimidated by the big building, reception area and registration processes to confidently meeting their mentors on their own-towards the end of the programme you would see the girls huddled in small groups after their sessions comfortably hanging out in the open plan kitchen areas buzzing about their sessions with their mentors.

As relationships developed, students became more relaxed meeting their mentors in a working environment and began to understand what it takes to be professional-they focused on areas such as how to conduct themselves in an interview, meeting and how to write a CV. Students also communicated with their mentor via email outside of the scheduled 1-2-1 times and this greatly enhanced their business communication skills.

“The experience is great because it helped me find out what I want to do in the future.”

The programme allowed female students to understand what it takes to succeed in a male dominated sector and how soft skills such as time management and sticking to scheduled meetings would help their future career ambitions in a major way.

Students also worked closely with their mentor to prepare their presentations which took place on Wednesday 16th March. A panel of judges watched each presentation and decided on a winner for the best presentation who was Alexandra Gliti Jones. Alexandra won 3 days’ work experience at Salesforce on the 25th April, 27th and 28th April spending time with the Customer Briefing Centre, Sales, Alliances and Marketing Cloud teams.

This challenge enabled students to develop a wide range of employability skills as well as gaining confidence and having their voices heard-something which can be challenging for young girls.

The finale on the 16th March was a bittersweet end to the mentoring programme and students were able to reflect on their journey and expressed the below sentiments:

  • “It has been a great programme that has benefited me in different ways. Lovely mentors and leaders who were involved with the set up.”
  • “I enjoyed being able to share my ideas and thoughts about the future and receiving help in organising my ideas.”
  • “I really enjoyed this programme.”
  • “The programme was brilliant as it had allowed me to fulfil a strand St Paul’s Way wants every student to achieve – networking.”

The Salesforce employees who participated also expressed a great deal of enjoyment and fulfilment from being on the programme with one mentor commenting:

“This was an excellent experience for me as a mentor and I hope that my mentee feels the same. We were quickly able to establish a rapport, set guidelines and working goals starting with getting organised through to the group presentation. I think I learned as much from my mentee as (I hope) she was able to learn through the Girls Talk mentoring experience with me.
The legacy of this pilot is in full effect with half of participants committing to continue the relationship in the up-coming months.”

Find out more how you can get involved with Girls Talk London on their website >>