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The Ripple Effect Live: experts, campaigners and young women share solutions

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From its captivating host AJ Odudu, to its incredible, all-female panel, and relevant and resonant themes, The Ripple Effect Live, hosted by The Independent and Galaxy ® in partnership with Young Women’s Trust, made for an empowering and uplifting evening where guests and speakers alike could connect, share and find solutions to key issues faced by young women today.

Held at the stylish Everyman Cinema in London’s Broadgate on the 18th July, after mingling over welcome drinks, canapes and Galaxy chocolate, the audience – including many young women – took their seats in the plush screening room for a series of powerful, insightful panel talks with trailblazing speakers, including former England cricketer and commentator Ebony Rainford-Brent MBE, finance coach and podcaster Ellie Austin-Williams, Young Women’s Trust CEO Claire Reindorp and The Independent’s Women’s Correspondent Maya Oppenheim, as well as young women sharing their thoughts and experiences of the issues being discussed.

With presenter AJ bringing her natural warmth, energy and empathy to hosting, the all-female panel dug deep into topics like imposter syndrome, workplace bias and financial insecurity, offering micro and macro strategies for overcoming barriers and boundaries.

Empowering women around the world

Victoria Gell, Maya Oppenheim and Claire Reindorp discussed the key pressures young women face today

(Independent/Sofi Adams)

To kick off the event, Galaxy Brand Director Victoria Gell shared a short film, highlighting some of the important work the company has been doing to support women, their families and communities around the world. This includes their work with CARE International, empowering women in cocoa-farming communities, as well as their partnership with Young Women’s Trust, highlighting key pressures and problems experienced by young women that are preventing them from thriving in their lives and careers.

Outlining Galaxy’s ‘Pleasure has Promise’ manifesto, in which they pledge to help one million women, their families and communities thrive by 2030, Gell noted that “when women thrive, communities are enriched – creating a positive Ripple Effect. We want that Ripple effect to extend from our cocoa farming communities to communities here in the UK.”

Sharing her experiences writing for The Independent’s Women section, Maya Oppenheim spoke of the uptick in women deeply affected by struggles during the pandemic, and how much of her reporting centred on young women in particular. More likely than men to be laid off, earn poverty-level wages and work in jobs with high levels of exposure to COVID-19, young women are now being hit by consecutive crisis after crisis, Maya believes.

“One of my ​​recent stories focused on the fact that suicides among young women were rising at their fastest rate ever, with the cost of living crisis, overwhelmed, overcapacity NHS mental health services, and body image pressures believed to be playing a major role,” she said. “But it’s campaigns like this that help give people a voice who don’t have one, that show it is not all doom and gloom and there are things to be positive about.”

The additional financial pressures triggered by the current economic situation, combined with systematic inequalities, mean many young women are just surviving, not thriving, as Claire Reindorp explained.

Outlining the lifelong income gap women experience that stretches from first job to (depleted) pension pot, she noted that while there’s plenty of awareness of the glass ceiling, young women on no or low pay can’t move on from “the broken rung at the bottom of the ladder.” Only by committing to addressing this problem through more holistic governmental financial support, flexible working and affordable childcare can women be set up for a more equitable financial future.

Difficult journeys

Becky and Grace, who have both been supported by Young Women’s Trust, shared their experiences

(Independent/Sofi Adams)

Panellist Becky, aged 29, described how she had been working across a number of frontline industries including hospitality and retail with little support, when a period of ill mental health threw her off track for several years. “It was a difficult journey figuring out where I fitted in the world,” she explained. “Through Young Women’s Trust I was able to access free career coaching via their ‘Work It Out’ service, which gave me the confidence and motivation to identify my skills and strengths.”

Grace, 25, talked about falling pregnant in her first year at university, and her struggle to manage as a young mum, keep her education and career on track and dealing with people’s biases and misconceptions along the way. Again, support from Young Women’s Trust was able to bolster Grace’s confidence and help her fulfil her potential.

Now working in government, she’s able to give young women a voice and campaign to make a difference – although she admitted that this in itself can be challenging.  “For the last year, I’ve been working in Parliament and being a young woman in that place is difficult,” she said. “It’s a very male-dominated world, so you have to power on through.”

Both Becky and Grace appreciated the support they received from Young Women’s Trust so much that they now sit on the charity’s advisory panel, a group of 30 women under 30-years-old who lead, design and participate in the charity’s efforts to close the income gap between young women and men. As Becky pointed out, the biggest change that needs to be made is around pay. “Employers and the government need to open their wallets and pay women fairly for the work they do. Just pay us.”

From imposter syndrome to the income gap

AJ, Ebony Rainford-Brent, Ellie Austin-Williams and Claire Reindorp brought their perspectives to the topics

(Independent/Sofi Adams)

From AJ’s experiences of imposter syndrome and her journey to owning her accent in a TV world that didn’t always accept it, to Ellie, finding her way in the “men’s world” of finance, and feeling pressured to mould her personality to fit a corporate stereotype, the host and panellists opened up about their own challenges as a springboard to offering advice.

For Ebony, making the transition from playing cricket to commentating on international men’s games has come with plenty of second-guessing and sleepless nights, but through regular sessions with a coach, daily journaling, and shifting her perspective around confidence she’s been able to thrive. She hopes her success and visibility will allow more women to follow in her footsteps. “As women, we need to put ourselves in the ring more often,” she said.

Asked what she would tell her younger self, Ellie reflected that there will always be people who don’t want you in the workplace and would rather stick to the status quo, but to: “Have courage and back yourself, knowing that you’re doing it for the right reasons – to help other women too.” Her biggest piece of advice to young women now? Discuss salaries with others to increase transparency around pay, and support each other in asking for better pay and conditions from your employer, including financial education, to ensure you are making the most of your money, and saving even a little toward your future.

As well as being a safe inclusive space to share stories, the event emerged as a call to action for deeper allyship, with all panellists highlighting its importance. Ebony reflected on how some of her male colleagues had used their position and influence to help her along the way. “When you find allies, latch on to them – they’re essential to progress and the acceleration of change.” Claire encouraged male allies to call out sexism in the workplace and challenge cultural norms to lift up women of all ages.

Finding ways to make change

Via personal pledge cards, members of the audience promised to make a Ripple Effect of their own

(Independent/Sofi Adams)

Giving the audience a chance to share their thoughts and concerns with panellists, the Q&A delved into how employers can support staff who experience imposter syndrome, overcoming the fear of pay negotiation, and dealing with the recent rollback on flexible working policies.

Such remarkable accounts and invaluable advice left the audience motivated to take what they’d learned out into the world. Using pledge cards at their seats, attendees wrote down how they planned to add to The Ripple Effect by enacting change of their own. Pledges ranged from being an active ally and fair employer, to incorporating the learnings from the evening into their own work, and being more open about pay with friends.

A masterclass in uplifting and empowering women, the success of The Ripple Effect Live was testament to the importance of getting people in a room to talk, share and grow together. As Ebony herself put it: “When women rally for one another, it’s a really powerful thing.”

Galaxy® is committed to help one million people, including women, their families and communities thrive by 2030 via its ‘Your Pleasure Has Promise’ manifesto and vital initiatives including the Women for Change programme in collaboration with CARE and their How to Thrive series in partnership with Young Women’s Trust. Click here to find out more

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