Last Monday I was extremely privileged to be invited to be part of the Michelin Inspiring Women event. My lovely writer colleague, Mel Sherratt had attended the event last year, and this time she passed the baton to me so I could have a go at inspiring young girls aged 13-15. Ten ladies were on the panel, and it was our job to make sure that the girls went away feeling like they could do anything! We ranged from racing car drivers to blacksmiths to consultant gynaecologists, luxury car engineers and crucial cornerstones of local business. There were ten tables of girls from local schools and the plan was that the guest speakers all took turns to visit each table, in a sort of speed dating style, to answer questions about what we did for a living, our backgrounds, and what inspires us. Before that began, we had to stand at the front of the room holding up a number and the girls played a stereotype quiz. We didn’t speak but stood there while the girls tried to work out from a list provided which of us ladies did which job. When that was over we started the table visits.
Of course, like all the ladies, I was fascinated to know what they had got me down as. Two tables had an unfair advantage, as I had already done an author visit for their school and they already knew me! The other guesses included the racing car driver (two tables), the consultant (two tables) and the music service director. Some couldn’t decide but nobody thought I was the engineer, so clearly I have nothing about me that says ‘I can fix machinery’!
I loved talking to the girls. Even though many of them weren’t particularly interested in writing or reading, they still asked great questions about my profession and were very interested in me as a person and my career journey. I did meet one girl who wanted to write, and we had a great chat about that. I also sat at one table, pulled out a copy of Runners and a girl immediately said ‘I’ve read that!’ which made me so happy.
My fellow panellists were all incredibly interesting and amazing too and we got the opportunity to eat lunch together and swap tales about our professions. I was mesmerised by all their journeys and what their jobs entailed, and I will endeavour to stay in touch with them. I found that listening to their stories inspired me too, so I’m sure that the girls who came for the event took away as much, if not more, than I did.