Nov. 9, 2021

17. Charly Young MBE


Hear from Charly Young MBE, the co-founder and CEO of The Girls Network which inspires and empowers girls from the least advantaged communities by providing them with a mentor and network of professionals. In this episode we learn how Charly uses her experience as a teacher and researcher to provide girls with a sense of belonging and a sense of opportunity for their future. Make sure to listen until the end of the episode for bonus material. 

You can find out more about The Girls Network here:
Website: www.thegirlsnetwork.org.uk
Twitter: @thegirlsnet
Instagram: @thegirlsnetwork

You can find out more about Charly Young MBE here:
Twitter: @young_charlotte
Instagram: @Charly_TGN

A transcription of each episode as well as guest profiles and much more is available on our website www.sondership.com

Credits
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Transcript

Charly:

I heard a brilliant woman speaking on desert island discs I think. I think she was head of the fire service somewhere and was homeless for a while and she talked about the embarrassment, lack of dignity and she was, I think only young at the time I have, I'm doing this a disservice the story, but, and she was sort of picking pizza out of a bin and there were people around her just watching and not engaging and, you know, if they looked to her at all, looking her and, and, and, you know, just that sense of not being seen as a person. And as you said, we could all be pretty close to that situation.

Danny:

Absolutely. Welcome to the Sondership podcast. I'm your host, Danny Attias. The Sondership podcast is all about hearing, inspiring stories from people with purpose and today's person with purpose sitting live in front of me in a recording studio, this is very exciting, is Charly Young MBE, and we must remember to say MBE every time we say your name, because you have earned it. Charly is the CEO and co-founder of The Girls Network, a charity that provides 14 to 19 year old girls, from the least advantaged communities across England, with a female mentor and a network of professional female role models. As a secondary school teacher, Charly saw firsthand how girls and young women were limited by their gender and background. And knew she had to do something. She left teaching and has since grown the charity from supporting just 30 girls in 2013, to over 1,400 in 2021, helping five and a half thousand girls and young women to date. And it continues to grow. In recognition of this work. Charly received an MBE in the Queen's birthday honors in 2021. Congratulations, Charly MBE. Charly has experience in scaling organizations from idea to reality and has supported social entrepreneurs working in the education and social justice space through Teach First, the fair education Alliance and Expert Impact. She previously worked at the Royal Society of Arts as a researcher, was a primary school governor and sits on the Expert Impact alumni board. Charly, welcome to the Sondership podcast.

Charly:

Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

Danny:

So we start all of these episodes with your sonder moment. Sonder, as I hope you now know, having listened to a few back catalog episodes is that moment of realization. That, everyone has got a story as rich and complex as your own, as someone who has dedicated themselves to something so purposeful as helping young girls and young women to have a better life and have a better outcome. I'm sure this is something that occurs to you on regular occasions and you don't just go around thinking about yourself all the time. So hopefully it was easy for you, but can you share with us your earliest or most memorable Sonder moment?

Charly:

Absolutely. And I hope I'm not cheating here because I feel like I've sort of got three, so you can tell me off. So it was, for me, it was really interesting having a word to put to this sentiment and feeling because actually for as long as I can remember, and particularly when I was visiting different places, I remember looking at people and imagining what it was like to be them and not all the kind of like dramatic things just the kind of mundane everyday occurances. What was, what was their sort of journey like? What was work like? Who were they? Who were they married to? Who were there, all of these things. And so I think I've always found this fascination in that concept. As I got older, I think probably the empathetic side came out more for me, and a moment really strikes me being about 17, I think, and realizing, in my local town, the levels of homelessness around and feeling just this acute sense of, distress at their situation, really feeling that sort of god how difficult is life' and the helplessness and the hopelessness with it all. And I think at that point, not really knowing how to channel that, but just really, really acutely feeling that, and then I think I began to realize that there were things I could do about it. So, Our school had a little tuck shop that used to have a tuck at lunch outside of the canteen. And so we would do take overs over breakfast, for example, and use that to raise funds for charities, working with the homeless or doing international development work as well. And so I think that's when I started to realize, okay, in response to these feelings and this empathy that comes from that Sonder moment, there was something I could do and a way to channel that. But I suppose the moments that stand out most for me and probably the most recent ones and the ones linked to the work that I'm doing now were as a teacher, I remember having a conversation with two really bright dynamic, 15 year olds in my classroom about what they want to do. I think it was during exam season. So most of the kids were out of the class. And so as a teacher,you were like, okay, well I've now got four students. How do I, how do I use this time? So we were talking about futures and I remember one girl wanted to be a criminal psychologist and another, an archeologist. And I was fascinated and excited by this. And, we started talking about it a bit more and I asked them just, you know, you know, what do you think you might study? How how's that gonna look. And their response was Miss, we're not really going to do that. Someone like me doesn't do that. We're going to do our GCSEs or maybe get a part-time job or start a family. And it was this recognition that they really didn't believe that they could do those things that they really wanted to do. And I remembered how it felt being their age and feeling like, I mean, I was not aware of half of the things I could have done, but still feeling a sense of possibility and that the world was open to me. And just recognizing that sense of these doors are shut, I don't get to do this was a real moment for me of a mixture of sadness and anger, actually the injustice of it, and really feeling that sense of limitation. and then coming out of that space, I suppose, and recognizing that from where I was standing, there were things I could do that it was harder for them, but actually it didn't mean it was impossible and some of those doors could be opened. So I guess for me, that's probably the strongest moment and certainly the one that's had the biggest impact on my life.

Danny:

That's a really, it's a really good story. And you've got, some of the themes that we talk about are taking your privilege, and turning it into allyship. So you're, you're kind of sitting there and you're saying, well, hold on. I haven't felt like that. I've, I've had the benefit of not feeling restrained from my capabilities and, not feeling restrained from what options are available to me. And, you're saying, well, these girls shouldn't feel like that either they should, they should be able to see the art of the possible, I suppose. And also you talk about how you turned your empathy into, purpose and, and help, helping make a difference. It, clearly from a very young age as well. I mean, you're still incredibly young, so it's, you know, the MBE, uh, uh, gives an indication that you might be older than you than you actually are. and I I've listened to one of your Ted talks, um, which was a good few years ago and you tell this lovely story about, taking a school trip out. And did you want to share that? Because that was really quite

Charly:

moving, of course. So, um, we sometimes take students out, on sort of, trips to explore opportunities, to open their eyes to the, the future jobs they might have and, get them out into the city as well. So we took a group of students on a little walk around some of the buildings in the city, pointing out where they might be able to work. You know, I think there's something about being able to visualize what a place looks like, experience being in the city. What does that feel like? and we were with a group of our students there and a girl, turned and said, Miss, why is that woman wearing a suit? And there was just no concept that actually, as a woman, you could wear a suit and go to work just like the men were doing. And it was that realization that for many of them, they saw nobody like them doing that. They didn't have the role models in their, their communities to look to, to aspire to. And you know the, the addage, you can't be what you can't see. You know? I mean, it's not strictly true. There are some amazing people that paved the way and break barriers all of the time, but actually it is an awful lot harder. And for these girls, for some of them, this was just an alien concept. And how on earth could they begin to aspire to do things that they might end up loving if they couldn't see it.

Danny:

Brilliant. And, you mentioned at the beginning, Charly, you, your hometown had a lot of homeless as well. Where was that? Where did you grow up? What was, what was growing up like for you?

Charly:

I spent most of my adolescence and childhood in, High Wycombe, just outside High Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire. Really interesting place because there's an awful lot of affluence there, but there's also a lot of poverty, not the extremes you see in someplaces. It really struck me that, you know, I didn't go up particularly affluently, probably lower middle class is what I would class myself as, certainly in growing up. But, we saw a lot of poverty and a lot of homelessness and real issues in particularly the town center issues around drugs. And I felt that really acutely. I think I've always had a strong sense of empathy for other people, and it really hit me hard and I would spend time talking to people, not sitting on the streets, not really knowing what I could do. Not really knowing if I was doing any good, but just feeling compelled to, I remember once sitting in, High Wycombe bus station, which at the time was a really dingy, smelly space. I know, I know it was, it was at the point when we'd go on shopping trips to Reading and the way to do so was to sit on a bus that took about two and a half hours and went through all the little villages. And I was sitting there for a while and there was, a homeless man sleeping on the bench. They were clearly quite uncomfortable, his head sort of at a crooked angle against the wood of the bench. And I just felt for him. And I couldn't, I just didn't know what to do about it. And then I was like, Hm, I've got this jumper I'm not wearing. It's just tied around my waist. So I did this weird thing on my head, I was like, right. If the bus hasn't arrived in 10 minutes, I'm going to give him my jumper as a pillow. And it didn't. So I gave him my jumper as a pillow. I'm not entirely sure he knew what particularly to do with it or what to make of it. I'm not sure it probably made that much difference to him, but it was the thing I could do at the time and so I did it.

Danny:

That's, that's, really nice. I'm sure we've all experienced walking past someone on the street, which in a different set of circumstances could quite easily have been us as well. And that's a bit, I think we sometimes forget. But most often I think, I'm generalizing here. Most people will say. What can I do? And then keep walking because they don't know, you know, what to do other than buy a sandwich or a coffee or give them money. But we know, we know from homelessness and shelters and so on, there is, there is much more that needs to be done and actually sitting down and having a conversation is a really, really powerful thing to do to make a difference.

Charly:

I think so. And I think it's where I end up now is that I will have a conversation or at least engage and make eye contact and connect. Try to recognize them as another human being, as they are. Which I think is really important. I can only imagine how difficult it must be being ignored.

Danny:

And is that what drove you to be a teacher?

Charly:

Good question, my mom's a teacher, my dad was a teacher. And they say that teaching runs in the family much like other professions. I think for a while I fought being a teacher, I didn't want to be a teacher mainly because I didn't want to just follow in their footsteps. I studied philosophy and then once I'd realized that no one was gonna pay me to think things that I thought were clever. I started working out what it was I wanted to do and unsurprisingly, I was drawn to the third sector, and to education and to poverty. Those were sort of the areas that attracted me. For a while, I worked at the Royal Society of Arts, and we did some really interesting work there, working with young people, I was working in the education department. And one of the big bits of work we did was the area based curriculum and it was taking the idea that, we shouldn't have deprivation models of areas. And, we're working at the time in Peterborough, in Manchester. Peterborough had a very transient population that a lot of migration there, very diverse, huge amount of poverty also. And so there were lots of different cultures and there were lots of different languages spoken, but the history of the rail works and the brick work. So it was an awful lot of value in that community, but really the attitude was, well, if you want to be anything, if you want to succeed, you need to get out to get through school, and actually the theory goes, that's not a great way of people valuing themselves, their communities or an area. And actually, if you can take the value from whatever's going on and you can feed that into, the curriculum, hopefully young people can start to see and feel that value. So I spent quite a lot of time there, particularly working with young people, thinking about how can we track and measure the impact that this is having on them and, their view of themselves and also the networks they have, who they know and how well they know them. How useful is that to them? So I was doing that for a little while. And I think for me that was, uh, another insight into the reality of deprivation, what that looks like and how it impacts particularly young people, but some of the things that work to change that, and also some of the attitudes I think is important to have in that you're not, placing fault with the person because obviously it's not their fault. And actually it's like, where do we find value and how can we build you up. I then started also working for an organization called Whole Education, which was connecting really good practice in education, looking at how you don't just provide knowledge, but also skills and qualities and develop those in young people so that they can thrive in their futures. And that was funny, a lot of time going to school, speaking to her teachers, mostly in this country, but some internationally who are doing really exciting, innovative, impactful work, and trying to share that and looking at how networks work. And I just thought, it's quite rich sitting down with the head teacher saying, this is how you should run your school. Having not actually trained as a teacher myself. So it was that that spurred me on to go and train with Teach First, and become a teacher myself. So eventually the education called me.

Danny:

So you fell into that, generational gap that you were destined to be a teacher. You mentioned Royal Society of Arts, it's a, organization taking a little diversion here because I've always been fascinated by really fascinated by it and definitely wanted to get much more involved with them. Can you just tell us a little bit about who they are and what they do? Because I just think that they're just a wonderfully well kept secret.

Charly:

Yeah, absolutely. So they've been going since the enlightenment, and so they take a lot of their ideas from the enlightenment. And I'm sure actually, since I've left they've their thinking's evolved even more. But the idea originally was looking at how can you use particularly design to improve society? It was a lot about social justice, social mobility. So they would have a prize where you could design something and they'd give you money if you won to go make that thing. So for example, the sliding Fireman's ladder, that was, an RSA prize winner. And so fast forward a couple of hundred years or so, and they're thinking, what does that mean today? What does that look like today? They then have their research team, which is what I was part of, thinking about as an organization, how can they do some of the piloting and modeling and research to think about what does that look like? What are the things that work? I think they're now called the action research center. But they used to describe themselves when I was there as a sort of think do tank. So we do the thinking, but we actually try it out, and then they have, a series of events bringing sort of top thinkers in to spur conversation and ideas. And then how do they engage this network of people that really care about this and start to change society? I think as with many societies, there was a history of old white males. Many of whom are excellent and do a lot of that work, but actually I think over the years they've been looking at where else do we recognize that passion and talent and purpose and impact to bring into that fellowship.

Danny:

Brilliant. Thank you for sharing that. So, I was going to say, well, your path seems quite linear, but I was, I was told off for saying that by Debbie Forrester MBE, she might be a relation that both MBEs. And she's like, yeah, it looks linear from the outside, Danny, but it's not linear because there's a kind of natural empathy. And then you kind of worked with, education, society and you kind of worked your way in, and now you've ended up with these girls and then mentoring. How did that jump happen from, from teaching to The Girls Network?

Charly:

So as I, described the Sonder moment, being in the classroom, spending time with the girls. It was recognizing that challenge and realizing there were things that could be done and just feeling the sense of, I mean, how can I not do something and, and why not? So to start with, we brought in some women that we knew from other jobs from university, doing lots of different things, sort of persuaded them to come and speak to the students. And just had a couple of hours doing a speed networking event where the girls could talk to the women and find out more about who they were and how they got there. And that was an amazing evening because the girls were speaking to women, they could relate to, and suddenly they weren't, these alien figures, they were real relatable people and they started to see a link between where they were and where these women were. And it was just that sense of possibility I could do this. It switched something in the way they were thinking. And we just thought, do you know what, if you can do that in a couple of hours, how much more could you do if you extend that relationship over a longer period of time? You know, the women were saying, what more can we do? We know people in the thing that she wants to do, I could bring her into work. She can have some experience with me. And so that sort of started the ball rolling. We did a bit of research to see, well, you know, A, is this a problem beyond our classrooms? What does the situation look like? And we found, yes. I mean, currently there's something like 163,000 14 to 19 year old girls in England eligible for free school meals, as best as you can, you can calculate that. So that's, that's a big problem.

Danny:

Take a moment to take that in. That is a, that's a colossal number.

Charly:

And, you know, this number is growing. We know over the last couple of years with everything that's happened with the pandemic, we know, it's become much harder for those families from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, people are struggling. And the metrics for measuring free school meals have changed. So actually fewer fit in that category. So this is a problem. And the work that we do focuses on that demographic. Actually, there are young people that need support that maybe don't quite fit there, but have other challenges. Yeah. But even without that, that's a big number of young people. and our, thought was actually everybody would benefit from a mentor. Right. But those young women, with particular challenges could benefit most from this kind of support and this kind of opportunity. So that was the first Stage. I also spoke to professor Becky Francis, who for a while was my, head of department at the RSA. And she's an expert in education and gender and expert in education and ethnicity as well. So she seemed like an ideal person to sit down and have a coffee with. And something I've learned, I think over the years is sit down and have conversations with people because you just don't know what you're going to pick up.

Danny:

I do that every week

Charly:

Wonderful, its's the way to do it. So that was really helpful because she said to me, look, there's 40 years worth of research showing that often girls were overlooked because overall they outperform boys at GCSE, but there's a real challenge, gender stereotypes are perpetuated in schools, in society. I mean, this is a conversation we're much more familiar with now, even So, that I suppose was what we needed to recognize this is a problem. And then the second piece was, well, what works? And we had an instinct about that, about that connection. But we did a bit of research. There was an Ofsted report looking at girls' career aspirations, and that, and others found that some of the things that made the biggest difference in changing young people's expectations, particularly girls expectations about what they could do were one-on-one conversations with professionals, mentoring experiences, and experiences in the workplace. And to my mind, that's always been because those are the things that require you to engage on an emotional level. You know, you have a conversation with somebody, it takes something of you emotionally, you're connecting on some level, you have to, to have a one-on-one conversation. If you're in a physical space, you have an emotional reaction to it, be it positive or negative. And it's that, that emotional reaction. I think that then changes how you think about something. And so we built a program initially, just while we were teaching to run with the girls alongside what we were doing, that consisted of matching them with women as mentors, doing some training to think about, well, what are the skills? What's the knowledge, what are the conversations that are going to be helpful to help them recognize what's possible and support them through that? And then separate to that has always been this idea of the network, the people that they know. You know, the old boys network is a phrase we know, and was part of the inspiration for our name, right, what's the counter to that. But actually people will always use their connections to get to the places they want to go. Of course they will. It's natural, it's human nature. So rather than trying to stop that, why not try and provide the similar network for everybody and our girls and young women that don't have access to those kinds of networks with that kind of capital within it. And so that was always an aspiration. So we did that for about a term and a half, maybe two terms

Danny:

Is that with the professor.

Charly:

So she sat on our board. She became one of our first trustees. This was my co-founder and I did this, while we were teaching. Okay. Turns out that's quite hard teaching and running something else alongside it, which won't be a surprise to any teacher. Um, and we had interest through the Teach First network and from others. And, it just seemed like if we don't do this, it might not happen. so we handed in our notice and that was a bit scary.

Danny:

Yeah. So how do you put food on the table? not now, but I mean, in that moment, you're quitting your job, but you're going to do a social venture, a charity. How do you, that's a pretty big leap.

Charly:

Yeah. I mean, something I've learned about myself is I think I'm quite comfortable with risk. I was fortunate enough to be able to go and live at home for a bit. and I took on a part-time job for a bit, and we just made it work. I'm really aware that there are many, situations in which it wouldn't have worked. And goodness knows what I would, have done then perhaps come back into teaching.

Danny:

I was having this conversation quite recently and this guy wants to take a big risk and he was like, well, it could work, and everyone was saying to him, well, you know, it might turn out great and it might do this and this might happen, and I said to him, what's the worst that could happen. Give me the worst, worst case scenario. And then he kinda map out like kind of true doomsday scenario. And I go, will you have grown if all of that happened or will you have grown more if you didn't take the risk, he goes, this is a risk worth taking because even if it turns out bad, I've learned so much I'll have stretched myself to the limits. I've learned more about myself and then I can, you know, you've got that luxury that you have that option going back into teaching. You've got that education and that background. And I think you're saying. I've got this, you used the word privilege a lot and it's probably a better word for it, but I've got this, this opportunity where I can make a difference in other people's lives. And this is worth that risk to try and have that impact on other people's lives.

Charly:

Absolutely. And I think, you know, privilege a lot of it it's just choice isn't it. I was able to make that choice and that was a luxury but I'm so pleased that I did.

Danny:

You said we a few times. who's the other half of The Girl's Network. What's the story there?

Charly:

Yes, so Becca Dean that's my co-founder Becca Dean, MBE also, I should say. So Becca and I met doing Teach First, on the training and I mean, I think when you've trained to teach it pulls you together because it's a very intense experience. And then in our second year of teaching, we ended up living together. And prior to this, we'd been having conversations about the things we were seeing in our classroom and, this is where the kind of concept of The Girls Network came from, and we were working on this together, and then when we were living together, it was really handy because it meant that we could sort of run into each other's bedrooms. And, I remember setting up our Twitter account, sending our first tweet, and Becca running in and be like, so that was very exciting. And it was a wonderful experience having a co-founder. I think there's a lot said about co-founders and setting things up on your own or with somebody else. And for me, I think it was amazing to be able to share the highs and the lows to always have somebody to bounce ideas off. And to, to experience everything together. And, and I think we brought different things. You know, in some ways we were similar but, I think Becca has this incredible ability of drawing everybody into her and making them feel so heard and part of something. And that was a really remarkable skill, and very quick learner, she'll pick something up like that. And I think for me, I was probably more analytical, perhaps sometimes more logical in my thinking, and I think that combination was really useful for us, and helped us to set up, the charity effectively, and to engage in other people, you know, there are two of us and to do things two of us to go and speak at things. Yeah, but obviously co-founding is hard as well. I think we learned what communication really had to look like, how easy it was to think you'd have the same conversation and then realize you've taken something completely different from it and particularly as we started to have a team that became more acute because where we thought we were given the same message, fundamentally we were, but it sometimes was heard differently. We weren't always quite giving the same message, and so we spent quite a lot of time thinking about how do we refine our working relationship? How do we essentially get inside each other's heads? I think it was probably as, intense as a marriage in many senses. Okay.

Danny:

So you're raising a baby together?

Charly:

Yes, absolutely. Very tiring, no sleep. I got married during that period of time. So it was interesting having the parallel of essentially my two marriages. I think that was a really interesting learning journey for us. We had some joint coaching for awhile, which was also useful counseling marriage counseling. Absolutely. So, you know, I think it was a really interesting learning journey, and then I think we got to a size and scale where actually being co-CEOs, which we always insisted on. Actually, I think there was, for me, there was a sense of, I don't see why we can't be co-CEOs if we can make it work, you know, we don't have to fit into the pigeon hole of COO and CEO, for example. So I was always very resistant to people trying to put us in those boxes. But it did get to a stage where I think for both of us, we weren't able to step into our full potential as leaders when we were both doing that role? I think Becca had a real heart for the early stage startup. This sort of small scale grassroots getting things going, and I had an excitement and a passion for this next stage. What was it going to look like? How are we going to grow it? How are we going to scale it? How am I going to up-skill as a leader in that capacity. And so Becca decided that that was the point at which she was going to, embark on something different. And remain a co-founder of course. So she always will be an advocate and an ambassador for the charity. So it's been a, it's been a really interesting journey and I think I've learned a lot from it. And it's very interesting now having conversations with people that are co-founding things and just sharing our learnings and the things that I think are important in establishing a really good working relationship when you are working just so closely with each other.

Danny:

Thank you for sharing that, Charly. I mean, it's not all easy. That's part of the reason we listen to this podcast is the challenges that people have to overcome and the, and the highs and the lows, and it's all part of that learning journey and co-creation is incredibly rich by getting different people, thinking in different ways, creating something that maybe on their own would have looked slightly different. So thank you for that. And, we'll be hearing from Becca on a future episode of the Sondership podcast. So you can look out for that also. So what is next for Charly Young MBE?

Charly:

What a question? I mean, I have ambitions for The Girls Network, as I said, there are 163,000 girls that would particularly benefit from this, and we're working with 1400 a year, you know, that's less than 1%. It's amazing. And we're having a bit of impact, but there's a lot more to do. For me, one of the things I'm passionate about is ensuring that the girls and young women's voices and experiences are heard throughout this and thinking about how can we be a platform for that? How can we help amplify what they're saying, but also how can we enable girls to be in positions where they can talk to people in power. Those with the leaves of power. How can we disrupt that power flow? So actually those that are making decisions in organizations, or wider society have the voice of a young girl from Peckham in their ear? Talking about what that experience is like, what it's like to grow up there, and how they experience the police force or, accountancy firm that they're working in all these things. So for me, I think it's a really exciting next step thinking about how we can play that role. Personally, I'm really aware of the kind of founder, syndrome. It's not a syndrome, but the idea that you start something and actually you can sometimes be blind to the point at which it's time to step away. I have no intentions of stepping away anytime soon, but I think for me, it's really important that. I establish an organization that can outlive me and to recognize the point at which actually it is time to move away and somebody else will do a better job than me. So as, and when that comes, I think I have a real passion for thinking about what does this look like in other contexts, be that in international contexts. And we've had lots of people asking us to do that. To my mind, it really matters to recognize where we add value. I think it would be easy to parachute in exactly what we've done into a context where it doesn't work and where we don't understand the local context. But I think there probably are some learnings that can come from that or into, other contexts in terms of mentoring. So, you know, we've got a lot of experience as to what makes mentoring work. Perhaps there are other places in which my expertise in setting that up can be useful, and help to establish really impactful programs in other spaces.

Danny:

And is there an intention to utilize the girls that have been through the process to come back and mentor?

Charly:

100%, the girls, at the end of that year of mentoring and many continue informally beyond that, but the formal mentoring program is a year, the end of that, they become an ambassador and part of our ambassador program. And the idea with that is that they can continue to access opportunities and the people we have in the network, that they can, sort of grow and develop a then within that, but hopefully also they will come back and they will be mentors themselves.

Danny:

And just tell me a little bit about the MBE. How did that feel, being recognized and has it opened doors for you?

Charly:

Yeah, I mean, it was wonderful and very surreal. I got an email while I was standing in the queue at Waitrose, waiting to go in, read it, in utter shock and then read the bit where it tells you, you can't tell anybody. So then I was like, oh, right. So I just put my phone away and carried on shopping in this strange sort of daze. But it's wonderful. It's a real, honor, obviously, literally. It's very, it's humbling to be included in, in the kind of realms of people that receive these awards. It is also a lovely recognition, of what we've done. And most importantly, I hope that it is a vehicle to open more doors for the girls and, you know, a way of role modeling look actually, these things are possible. You work hard, you follow a passion, actually, you maybe you'll get an MBE. Maybe you get CBE, maybe you, you know, I don't know. There are many opportunities that come, from following something that you care about and you believe in, you're passionate about. So I think that's the reason I'm most excited by it, obviously the opportunity to go to the palace and all that is very exciting as well.

Danny:

and has that happened or was it during the pandemic?

Charly:

Not yet. So there's a backlog, so I'm waiting for my investiture. Gives me more time to pick a dress and a hat, I suppose. Yeah. And then, in terms of opportunities, I don't know. I think it's perhaps opened more opportunities to speak about the work that we do. Yeah. I think, you know, it is something notable, and people want to talk to you about it and the work you do once you have that, title at the end. So yeah, I think it has opened doors, but time will tell.

Danny:

Excellent. Charly, where can people find out more about you and The Girls Network?

Charly:

So we have a website, thegirlsnetwork.org.uk, also on Twitter at the girlsnet and Instagram at thegirlsnetwork, and I'm also on Twitter at Young_Charly, and on Instagram at Charly, C H A R L Y underscore TGN

Danny:

Well, we'll put all that in the show notes. Other than that, Charly Young MBE. Thank you very much for being on the Sondership podcast.

Charly:

Thank you so much for having me Danny. Excitingly, we have our first mentee that's come back and is applying to be a mentor at the moment. We have also recently employed one of our ambassadors. So she's now one of our network managers. So we're beginning to see that sort of cycle close, and so, yeah, that's it, that's very exciting.

Danny:

Excellent.

Charly Young

CEO and Co-founder

Charly Young MBE is CEO and Co-founder of The Girls’ Network – a charity that provides 14-19 year old girls from the least-advantaged communities across England with a female mentor and a network of professional female role models. As a secondary school teacher, she saw first-hand how girls and young women were limited by their gender and background, and knew she had to do something! She left teaching, and has since grown the charity from supporting just 30 girls in 2013, to over 1,400 in 2021.

The Girls’ Network works with girls via relationships with schools in London, Sussex, Portsmouth, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, the Tyne and Wear, Tees Valley and Merseyside. Their mentors are all professional women who volunteer to meet their mentees at least once a month for a year, to build skills and confidence, but also to open up networks and opportunities that the girls might otherwise not have access to. Mentoring is a journey, helping mentees get from where they are to where they want to be.
The charity has helped over 5,500 girls and young women to date, and it continues to grow.
In recognition of this work, Charly received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 for services female empowerment and young girls.
Charly has experience in scaling organisations from idea to reality, and has supported social entrepreneurs working in the education and social justice space through Teach First, the Fair Education Alliance and Expert Impact.

She previously worked at the Royal Society of Arts as a researcher, was a primary school governor, and sits on the Expert Impact Alumni Board.