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Girls need 'real models' not just role models, says private school chief

Teenage girls can be daunted by high-flying women and need more "real models" as well as role models, according to the chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST). 

Girls can find it "daunting" to imagine reaching very high levels of success and need other mentors to help them to move on to higher education or start their careers successfully, Helen Fraser will tell a conference on Friday.

“Senior leaders do provide inspiring role models, but for some young women it can seem quite daunting to reach that level of success," she is due to say.

"In my opinion, we also need access to role models who are just one or two steps ahead of where they are now. So as well as role models – high-flying women who’ve reached the top of their professions – we also aim to find real models; women at an earlier stage of their career paths, who can share their experiences.

"In our experience, when we approach our alumnae to ask if they would be willing to help a younger woman, with careers advice, or work experience, they are more than happy to give their time and share their expertise.”

She will stress that a young woman at university or just starting out on her career can be an inspiration for school students – just as someone in middle-management can help those starting out on their careers. 

But Ms Fraser, who was a managing director of Penguin Books before taking over at the GDST, which runs 24 independent schools and two academies, also wants to see action from companies once women are in work:

“How can we prevent a ‘thirties drop-off’ to ensure the pipeline of able and ambitious women in their thirties and forties deliver the CEOs (and vice-chancellors, cabinet ministers and chief constables) of the future?” she will ask.

“We need organisations to focus on retention of female talent, to understand their female employees better, to take risks on women.”

The event has been organised by pupils from independent Putney High School and neighbouring state school Saint John Bosco College.

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