Since its conception in 2010, we have developed the Modern Muse Charity with one aim in mind: to inform, inspire, connect and empower girls – giving them valuable exposure to a broader range of career role models. These role models are our Muses, successful women, from a variety of backgrounds, ready to share an insider view of their day-to-day work lives. Working with BP, our founding partner, and Microsoft, our lead technology partner, we launched the Modern Muse digital platform in 2016 – and it now features the profiles of thousands of Muses and the companies they work for. Our vision remains as audacious and ambitious as it was back in 2010 - to ensure that every girl has access to role models that will inspire confidence and impart insight. And that these will help her embark on her career journey believing she can achieve anything she sets her mind to. We talk to a current Muse and a mentee about the power of Modern Muse and how it is changing the landscape for the next generation of working women.
Claire Parker is Head of Diversity & Inclusion at T-Systems Ltd. and a Muse
Why did you choose to become part of Modern Muse?
At T-Systems our CSR strategy involves giving back to the community - and Modern Muse allows us the opportunity to do this by engaging with schools, clubs and universities and helping inspire and support the next generation. As we are always striving for a more balanced gender split and trying to encourage more women into technology, connecting with these girls at a younger age gives them valuable insight into what the world of technology is really like. It helps to dispel the myth that computers are for geeks! As part of the new legislation regarding the apprenticeship levy we intend to increase the number of apprentices that we take on board – so this is also a great channel for us to talk to the next generation about T-Systems and what a great company it is to work for.
How important are accessible role models for young women along their career path?
The IT Industry is still struggling to recruit women into the industry and T-Systems is no different. In part, this is due to the lack of role models for young girls and the misconception that surrounds the IT industry – namely that it is only for boys. Having female role models in this industry is critical for us to be able to encourage young girls to see that this could be an avenue for them to explore.
How have role models and access to inspiring women helped you in your career?
Having the ability to find someone that ‘looks like me’ in this industry has been very important and has definitely helped me to achieve what I have to-date. I remember attending an everywoman event four years ago where I met an inspiring woman who I could really relate to and that gave me the confidence to believe in myself. She helped me to realise I could have a career and also have a family and that it was possible to be successful and still be authentic. Without role models like that I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to believe in myself and achieve so much in my career and my home life.
What interactions have you had through Modern Muse?
My interactions with schools through Modern Muse has been inspiring: I have had the opportunity to talk to over 500 students, from the age of eight upwards, and some of the questions that they have asked me have been very insightful. One that really resonated was, “if Muses did not exist what would happen?”. It made me question the whole programme and reinforced the importance of rolling out this type of tool to young girls. I have a great sense of pride in thinking that I may have made an impact or a difference in at least one or two girls’ lives.
Would you recommend becoming a Muse?
I would definitely recommend becoming a Muse. You have the ability to influence and share your knowledge and experience with others and in that, the opportunity to help shape the next generation. My work with Modern Muse has give me great hope for the future. It’s important for me to be able to encourage more women into the world of technology, which ultimately helps with the gender balance quota – and personally, as a mother of two young boys, I have used this platform to have discussions with my boys about gender balance too, as well as talking to them about their own career aspirations.
Kezia Herzog, 18, is a first-year university student and Modern Muse Ambassador
How did you become involved with Modern Muse?
On International Women’s Day this year I gave a speech at an event about an article I had written for The Sunday Times on a mentoring project for younger girls. Everywoman founder Maxine Benson was there, and when I’d finished she came up to talk to me about Modern Muse - she was looking for young Ambassadors and thought I’d be the right person.
What attracted you to Modern Muse?
I thought it was a brilliant idea! I wish I’d known about it a few years ago because when I stared A levels I had one idea of what I wanted to do – science – but realised quite late on that that it actually wasn’t for me. If I’d had Modern Muse then I would have known that if even I did change my subjects it wouldn’t be the end of the world. It would have been easier to find out about different career options sooner and that would have made the journey a lot easier.
Do young women use Modern Muse for inspiration as well as for knowledge?
Definitely - I think a lot of girls don’t know how many different options there are out there. I certainly didn’t realise what I could do with the A levels I was going to choose. And knowing that there’s not just one straight path and that everyone takes different routes is inspiring – and a source of hope. For young girls it is good to know that there are so many successful women out there who have done so many different things, and there are lots of opportunities and ways to get somewhere interesting.
What is the value of role models for young girls?
In some of the videos on the Modern Muse website girls are asked questions such as, ‘Who’s your favourite scientist?’ and it is always men that are given as an answer, because that’s all they know. We need more role models for certain things - female scientists in the public eye for example - because we just don’t see them as much. Modern Muse also makes young girls aware that they are capable of a lot more than they think they are. Seeing the Muses and being able to interact with them is so helpful because you get to know them, and an actually ask them questions like, ‘Did having maths A level help you in what you wanted to achieve?’. Not every school has a careers advisor and if they do then it’s usually just one person, with limited time to give advice. For me, the power of Modern Muse is that it is so personal and you can tailor it to your own needs. The other thing I like is that there is no pressure to use it. It’s a tool that you can dip into when you need it most – and for a lot of girls that’s just the kind of encouragement and inspiration that they need.
What are your plans for your career and how will you carry on with Modern Muse?
I have just started university and when I graduate I am thinking about going into journalism or politics. I hope to continue to be an Ambassador though and help Modern Muse to continue to move forward - I love being involved in research and spreading the word about the website, helping to encourage influencers and girls to join us.
To find out more about Modern Muse and get involved visit www.modernmuse.org