Give young women the stage on International Women’s Day

By Mattea Sykes • 8 March 2023

Seeing the value in young women

Within my inner circle, it has always been my mum and partner supporting me. In a wider context, I don’t think anyone really supported me until I got involved with Young Women’s Trust. There, I was listened to and given the opportunity to develop my skills. They all believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. They saw value in me, even when I didn’t see it in myself. They encouraged me to think for myself, have an opinion, speak up and be unapologetically me. In fact, they helped me find out who I was and explore my identity in a safe way.

Now, I also have a couple of really good friends who support me and a manager that does everything she can to build me up. Notably, other than my partner, it has always been other women supporting me.

I honestly don’t know where I would be without certain people being a part of my life. But I think it is safe to assume I wouldn’t be as confident as I am now, I wouldn’t have had the courage or support to pursue further education or exciting opportunities.

Having a cheerleader in the corner empowers young women

Looking back, even when someone was just doing their job, having that empathetic cheerleader in my corner made a world of difference. There are a few women who I have met through work or volunteering that will always hold a special place in my heart for the impact they had on me, the support they provided and the things I learnt from them. It was me that changed my life but I couldn’t have done it without them. I think that is why I would like to work in a similar role, empowering young women to reach their potential.

For me to fulfil my dream career in the future, I need properly accessible education and training and practical support specific to the industry I am in, like a mentor of some sort. I also think that just knowing what support is already out there is a huge barrier for most people. Flexible home working is essential for my future as a disabled person as it allows me to reach my full potential and maintain a career without struggling to conform to the 9-5 office culture.

Struggles with accessibility

Unfortunately, as a disabled person, I feel like I have been held back by a number of people or systems. In school, I got penalised and later expelled for poor attendance despite being up to date with all my work and actually having the second highest grades among the entire year group.

At an informal apprenticeship, I was demanded to come into work (with a 45 minute commute on public transport) to do the office and admin work, which I could do much more efficiently from home. At another job, I was reprimanded for sitting down or leaning against walls when having to stand on my feet for the entire duration of my 6-hour shift as sitting down at a counter was deemed “unprofessional”. These may seem trivial to others, but with each one came a knock to my confidence and belief in my own capability.

Give a young woman the stage on International Women’s Day

To support other young women this International Women’s Day, I urge people to listen and amplify their voices. Defend young women, even if they are not in the room. Accept that their life experiences may be very different to your own but know that doesn’t make it any less valid. Give them the stage to share their experiences or ideas, allow them to advocate for themselves and others. Stand up for equal rights, flexible working, free childcare, accessible further education and better social welfare but also take a moment to respect the young woman in your life, what they have accomplished and imagine their potential.

Get involved this International Women’s Day

Read Young Women’s Trust’s CEO’s message on International Women’s Day 2023 – celebrate, reflect and take real action

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