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Meet the founder of Girls Out Loud – inspiring the next generation of powerful women

Girls Out Loud are inspiring the next generation of Manchester's female leaders 
Girls Out Loud

Jane Kenyon, the CEO of Girls Out Loud (GOL), is a force to be reckoned with in the realm of women’s empowerment.

With a background in personal development and entrepreneurship, she has dedicated her life to helping women recognise their potential and excel.

Her journey led her to establish Girls Out Loud, a social enterprise focused on inspiring and empowering teenage girls to believe in themselves, find their voice and embrace their potential

Girls Out Loud

Over the past 14 years, GOL has worked with more than 70 schools in the Northwest and Dubai, impacting the lives of over 30,000 girls.

Oh, and they’ve also raised a gargantuan £1.8m to help make this happen.

The past decade and post-COVID have seen the demand for their work explode, but funding for GOL’s work continues to be a challenge.

They are hoping that by continuing their invaluable and in-demand work, they can continue to invest in the next generation of female managers, leaders and entrepreneurs.

Jane’s journey began with the realisation that many women faced common issues such as imposter syndrome, fear of failure, and lack of confidence.

Well Heeled Divas

Determined to make a difference, she founded Well Heeled Divas in 2003, offering workshops, peer groups and coaching programmes across the UK.

However, after observing recurring patterns among teenage girls, Kenyon recognised the need to address these challenges at a younger age.

In 2009, she conducted a pilot program in a school in Blackpool, working with 14 girls at risk of permanent exclusion.

This experience was a baptism of fire and solidified her commitment to empowering young women, leading to her founding Girls Out Loud the following year.

Girls Out Loud pilot programme

Reflecting on her journey, Jane shared: “Motivated to make a difference, I conducted a pilot program in a school in Blackpool in 2009, working with 14 girls at risk of exclusion.

“Despite the challenges they faced, I was determined to support them and help them make better life choices.

“After completing the program, which I initially named Girls Out Loud, I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to empowering teenage girls.”

Jane acknowledges the evolving landscape that young people navigate, particularly with the advent of smart technology.

She highlights concerns such as excessive screen time, exposure to explicit content, and the rise of misogyny within schools.

Uplifting young women

Despite these challenges, Jane remains steadfast in her mission to support and uplift young women.

She emphasised the importance of building trust and providing a safe space for girls to open up and receive guidance.

Jane has witnessed remarkable transformations once rapport is established, reinforcing the significance of believing in every individual’s potential.

Jane said: “It’s essential to delve deeper into the challenges girls face in navigating their environment. Ten years ago, this landscape was vastly different from what it is today.

“There have been significant changes affecting both boys and girls, but I’ll focus on girls as it aligns with my work.

“Firstly, smart technology has revolutionised how young people interact, communicate, and even bully each other.

“It’s a constant presence, with adolescents spending up to 14 to 16 hours daily on their gadgets.

“This excessive exposure often leads to issues like addiction and exposure to inappropriate content, including sexual exploitation and mental health challenges due to lack of sleep.

“The normalisation of pornography, readily accessible via smartphones, further complicates matters.

“Adolescents, both boys and girls, are inundated with explicit material, shaping their views on sexuality from an early age.

“Moreover, there’s been a concerning rise in misogyny within schools, influenced by various online personalities, the media and gaming culture.

“This lack of respect towards girls and female teachers poses significant challenges for educational institutions.

“Reality TV, along with its portrayal of relationships, sex as a commodity and body confidence issues adds to the pressure.

“They’re bombarded with messages equating their value with their physical appearance and willingness to conform to certain standards.”

Confiding in adults

Jane added that many girls feel unable to confide in adults about their struggles, be that teachers, parents, or anyone close to them.

Through mentoring programs and coaching, GOL provides a safe space for girls to open up and receive guidance.

When trust is established, remarkable transformations occur.

Girls gain confidence, make healthier choices, and start envisioning brighter futures for themselves.

Despite the challenges, they have witnessed incredible success stories, reaffirming the importance of believing in every individual’s potential.

Girls Out Loud on International Women’s Day

For International Women’s Day, GOL’s focus will be on inclusion.

Every year, the team celebrate the exceptional contributions of women in our society.

This year, they are asking their ‘big sisters’ to reflect on inspirational female role models they had while growing up.

Big sisters are the mentors who work for Girls Out Loud, and the little sisters are the young women being mentored.

“I’m quite interested to see who our big and little sisters pick! Particularly those in the public eye – it will be very intriguing to see which celebrities are popular with young people.

“While some choices may be expected, such as the Kardashians, others might surprise us.”

Helping Girls Out Loud funding

One of the biggest problems GOL faces is fundraising.

There is a huge demand for their service across the country, with inquiries dropping into their inbox from around the country nearly every single day.

Unfortunately, the current government does not fund them, and local authorities have so far not provided funding either.

Even schools, facing financial constraints of their own, very rarely contribute.

Jane said: “For us, funding is the cornerstone of our operations. It’s what drives everything we do. Recently, we’ve expanded our reach to include our first school in Liverpool, with several more expressing interest.

“However, the reality is that most schools lack the necessary budget to implement our programs.

“Each big sister program we establish in a school requires approximately £25,000 in funding.

“This covers our overheads, including staff salaries, training resources, mentor support services, workshops, and ongoing program management.

“We prioritise quality over quantity, ensuring that each program is well-supported and effective.”

Jane said that she spends the vast majority of her time pitching the benefits of GOL to potential investors, mainly businesses that have a vested interest in investing in the next generation of female leaders.

It’s not just about benefiting the girls; it’s also a development opportunity for the women who mentor them.

Taking Girls Out Loud National

We would love to become a national service but this would require substantial investment in our team and HQ

Jane also talked about the need for schools to change their approach, and include GOL programs at an earlier stage at a curriculum level to ensure support is available as a preventative measure not when turned into a crisis

But she added that this burden should not be placed on the teachers.

She said: “Teachers are trained to educate, not necessarily to fulfil the roles of social workers or coaches. They rightly acknowledge that they lack the specialised skill set required for such roles.

“Moreover, it’s crucial to recognise that issues affecting pupils often involve conflicts or tensions with teachers themselves.

“Many girls may vent frustrations or express grievances about specific teachers, which can impede their learning experience.

“Our role is to help girls navigate these challenges, providing perspective and mediation where needed.

“Teachers, however, face time constraints and must prioritise classroom instruction and administrative tasks.

“They simply can’t address these deeper emotional and social issues effectively.”

Jane added that the issue lies in external support.

“By engaging individuals with the necessary skills and experience, we can provide the tailored guidance and support that pupils require.

“This interventionist and objective support system is essential for fostering a positive learning environment and addressing the complex needs of pupils.”

The I Love MCR Emmeline Pankhurst Award

Jane won the Emmeline Pankhurst Award at the I Love MCR Awards in November last year, for her incredible work with Girls Out Loud and women over the past 30 years.

Speaking about the event, she said: “Receiving the I Love MCR Award was an incredible moment for me. I was genuinely shocked but thrilled.

“As I reflected on the significance of the award, I couldn’t help but feel deeply honoured to have my name mentioned alongside Emmeline Pankhurst, a true icon in the realm of women’s rights.

“The recognition encapsulated the essence of my work, which extends beyond empowering girls to encompass advocacy for women’s issues as well.

“Having dedicated three decades to supporting and working with women, the award felt like a validation of my lifelong commitment to gender equality.

“It was truly a memorable experience and a night I’ll cherish forever.”

Some of the main aspects GOL work on with girls are:

  • Personal Identity – helping girls get a sense of self, who they are and what they stand for, finding their voice, and recognising their greatness.
  • Introducing them are introducing them to powerful role models in the media and their community, with a view to them becoming role models for other girls.
  • Encouraging them to recognise and embrace enterprise as a career option now and in the future.
    Shifting the focus away from external body image and the unrealistic media hype of looking perfect and helping them re-align their self-image.
  • Improve confidence, self-esteem, self-respect and emotional resilience.

You can find out more about Girls Out Loud on their website by clicking here

Girls Out Loud is looking for volunteers to take on the big sister roles, mentoring young people who need it most.

You can find out more by clicking Big Sister Mentoring – Girls Out Loud

You can find out more about Girls Out Loud on their website by clicking here

Girls Out Loud is looking for volunteers to take on the big sister roles, mentoring young people who need it most.

You can find out more by clicking here

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