`There is an issue of self-confidence in women and girls'

But Miriam Gonzlez Durntez says boys lack assurance too

Successful female role models should visit schools to boost girls' self-confidence and aspirations, according to leading lawyer Miriam Gonzlez Durntez.

But the wife of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has called for more male teachers to work in primary schools to fire up boys' ambitions as well.

Ms Gonzlez Durntez is the founder of Inspiring Women, a campaign to match 15,000 professional women with local schools to improve female students' understanding of the world of work and encourage them to pursue ambitious careers.

Many women of all ages continued to suffer from a lack of confidence, she told TES. "I've spent 18 months now crossing the country, talking to girls [in schools]. There is an issue of self-confidence for women. It even comes with our volunteers - very often you will have fantastic women and they say: `Do you think the girls will want to hear from me?'

"We say: `What are you talking about? You're amazing, why wouldn't they want to hear from you?' There is an issue of self-confidence that applies in particular to women and girls still. But I think that the issue is across genders and I'm finding more and more young men approach me now and say: `That thing you say about the [lack of] self-confidence, I have it as well.' "

The predominance of female teachers in the primary sector - just 14 per cent of primary teachers are male, according to figures published by the Department for Education last year - was also an issue that needed to be addressed, Ms Gonzlez Durntez added.

"If you look at teachers, I think we have a wider gender issue," she said. "At my children's primary school, for example, it's all women. I know there's an issue in primary schools as to whether the boys have role models they can relate to.

"So if you talk to me about the ideal scenario, it will be that everything is much more balanced because that's how society is."

`We all need to chip in'

The Inspiring Women programme, Ms Gonzlez Durntez said, allowed volunteers to provide valuable support to teachers by offering detailed and up-to-date careers advice.

"There's a limit to what [a teacher] can do, which is why we all need to chip in," she said. "This initiative is just that. Let's chip in so that we can help to give an additional resource to cover a need."

Giving students of both genders a confidence boost could bring benefits to their academic attainment as well, she added. "There are some children who have a lot of self-confidence but not all of them have the level of ability, and there are other children who have the level of ability but do not necessarily feel confident.

"I have been in some schools for girls where pupils achieve outstanding results, and they still feel a little bit less than some boys from some of the private schools. And you just wonder why. There is no reason whatsoever. Eliminating that gap is probably the biggest challenge, but one of the best things that could happen."

Inspiring Women

Inspiring Women is part of the Inspiring the Future initiative, which connects state schools and colleges with employers and people from the world of work.

The next major Inspiring Women event will take place at the Tate Modern in London on 23 April. The speed networking event will give 850 schoolgirls the chance to speak to 150 women who work in the arts sector.

For more information, visit www.inspiringthefuture.orginspiring-women

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