The challenges presented by Covid-19 have seen all companies look to new ways of working. And Futures for Women is no different. Although our Secretary has always been home-based, we have now started holding our Trustee meetings via Zoom. And on 12 September 2020 we held our first virtual AGM hosted with kind permission by our Vice-Chair, Joanna Murray. Polly Harrar of the Sharan Project, our employability programme partner, was able to attend via Zoom to update us on their work during lockdown and let us know how the charity has adapted their delivery to support women suffering from domestic abuse. And after the formal proceedings of the AGM had completed we gave thanks to the work of retiring Trustee, Amy McVittie, before discussing our strategy moving forward in 2021.
In 2017 Futures for Women awarded an interest-free loan to Lorraine Brown to help her with the fees associated with her course at Highgate Counselling Centre where she was studying to become a psychodynamic counsellor. Lorraine had a passion to work with young people in a higher-education setting and, following on from a placement at LSE, we have heard that she has now secured an honorary counsellor position at Cambridge University from October 2020.
But Lorraine also had some other news for Futures for Women. In 2018 she won a competition to be mentored by Penguin Random House for a year as part of their WriteNow scheme, which aims to launch the careers of writers from backgrounds currently under-represented in the industry. And at the end of 2019 Lorraine secured a publishing deal with Orion Fiction here in the UK and with Penguin Random House in the USA. Her debut novel, Uncoupling, will be out in February 2021.
Uncoupling is a modern love story that follows Hannah and Si – a couple on the same track – until their train divides on the way to a wedding. Hannah wakes up in Paris and realises that her boyfriend (and ticket) are 300 miles away in Amsterdam. But then she meets Leo on the station platform – and he is everything that Si isn’t. Spending the day with Leo in Paris forces Hannah to question how well she really knows herself – and whether, sometimes, you need to go in the wrong direction to find the right path.
Lorraine told us “I feel that my counselling studies and my writing worked very well together – the characters in my story became so much more three-dimensional as a result of my psychotherapy training, and I thought much more deeply about why people behave the way they do. I am very excited about my counsellor placement as well as my publishing deal. I’m not sure that I would have been able to accept my place at Highgate Counselling Centre without your support, and I will be forever grateful”.
The Trustees of Futures for Women are delighted to hear that Lorraine has secured a counsellor placement at such a prestigious university and are looking forward to the publication of Uncoupling. We will post further information in February 2021 about the launch of the book – and will placing our own orders for a first edition!
On 23 June 2020, Futures for Women are proudly celebrating Women in Engineering Day. This day is special to us. Women in engineering have and continue to define and shape society as we know it today. Let’s consider, for instance, the role of engineering in infrastructure. Infrastructure attracts significant investment from the UK government to fuel the economy. According to the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan 2016 – 2021, energy and transport infrastructure will amount to £117.4 and £88.4 billion respectively during this period. The scale of the investment importantly reflects the scale of the infrastructure projects, their duration and complexity. In these roles, engineers not only address the technical tasks, but also inform governance, engage with communities and key stakeholders, set priorities and lead teams. Women are key to each of these types of roles within engineering. However, according to the Women in Engineering Society (WES), women in engineering amount to only 12% of the engineering workforce. This means that there is much more scope for women to support the delivery of infrastructure, which can ultimately help to secure and multiply the outputs and outcomes of government’s investment. With more women in the field, the UK can better accelerate the delivery of infrastructure, from new power stations to high speed rail, whilst ensuring that growth is holistic and addresses the needs of the workforce and communities it serves.
FfW’s charitable purpose is to support women with the costs of professional and vocational training, and our trustees will shortly be considering making more grants to support those working in engineering and technology.
The theme for International Women’s Day on 8 March 2020 is #EachforEqual.
Gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive. A gender equal world can be healthier, wealthier and more harmonious. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society and collectively, we can make change happen.
On International Women’s Day 2019 Futures for Women announced its new direction in part-funding the Sharan Project to run employability programmes in Birmingham for disadvantaged women from the south Asian community. Two programmes have already taken place and two more are planned for 2020. We look forward to continuing to work with the Sharan Project and helping to ensure that women on the programme have the opportunity to be #EachforEqual.
In 2016 Madison Marshall was successful in being awarded a highly competitive interest-free loan from Futures for Women which helped her to complete her PhD in Linguistics at the University of Sheffield. Madison is now working as a Researcher in English Language and English Literature at the University of Leeds, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities
Futures for Women is always keen to hear from ex-beneficiaries and we were delighted to receive an update from Madison on her career since we last met her. Madison reports “I am currently the recipient of a highly competitive Arts and Humanities Research Council award at the University of Leeds. As well as teaching undergraduate students, I participate fully in the numerous activities associated with academic life (conferences, research presentations, etc.). However, my main focus at present is increasing my research profile and, to that end, I have a number of publications both planned and in preparation. My five-year publication plan includes a monograph (which is a biographical account of a well-known father and daughter in the Darwin-Wedgwood circle), and an edited volume of letters on Victorian sisterhood (which explores the relationship between three women through their correspondence).”
If you are an ex-beneficiary of an interest-free loan from us please get in touch and let us know how your own career is progressing.
A second Sharan Project employability programme, part-funded by Futures for Women, took place in Birmingham in December 2019. Seven disadvantaged women, who had been subject to domestic abuse or persecution, successfully completed a four-week skills-based course which helped them overcome barriers and challenges they may be facing in securing employment. Partner organisation Go-Train delivered the skills training and Smart Works gave assistance with interview preparation and provided a capsule working wardrobe for women who had secured their first role. And in addition to becoming more prepared for employment the women met a new network of friends who could offer them on-going support.
Futures for Women Secretary, Jane Hampson, attended the course celebration event and helped to present certificates to the women who had successfully graduated. A representative from the Muslim Women’s Network (MWNUK) also attended the celebration event and offered an opportunity for the women to volunteer with the charity to gain work experience. In addition they were invited to apply for a paid administrative role currently being advertised.
Futures for Women will be part-funding two further employability programmes in 2020.
We were delighted to hear that former FfW beneficiary Zoe Hooton, who is now working as an architect director, has been appointed as a professional studies adviser for students completing their chartership (Part 3). She is also part of a charity which teaches teenagers about architecture.
Zoe has also contributed to the Royal Institute of British Architecture Book ‘Defining Contemporary Professionalism’ co edited by the RIBA President Alan Jones.
We would like to offer our congratulations to Zoe on these fantastic achievements!
We have just heard that an ex-beneficiary of a FfW interest-free loan has recently passed her PhD viva. She has been working on issues surrounding violence against women and mental health in India.
The ex-beneficiary said “Futures for Women supported me during my MSc in 2012 which directly led to my being able to pursue the PhD, so thank you for your support!”
It is always good to hear from ex-beneficiaries, so if you received an interest-free loan from Futures for Women please keep in touch and let us know how your career is progressing.
Following the success of the first Sharan Project Employability Programme, part-funded by Futures for Women, a second programme will start in Birmingham on 11 November 2019.
The programmes are aimed at women from the South Asian community who have experienced persecution, domestic violence, forced marriage, honour based abuse and other forms of cultural conflict. The courses give the women the skills and confidence to seek paid employment and achieve some financial independence. This second course will equip the women with a City and Guilds qualification in Customer Care and independent living with optional e-qualifications in food safety, personal health and wellbeing and equality and diversity, delivered by project partner Go-Train. The women are also supported with interview coaching and receive a style makeover provided by Smart Works. The programmes have child-friendly hours and all participants are able to claim travel vouchers.
Polly Harrar from The Sharan Project said “This second course allows participants to extend and secure more qualifications to become even more work ready and confident”.
The programme will conclude on 6 December with a celebration event to recognise the participants’ achievements.
We were delighted to receive this message from a former beneficiary of one of our interest-free loans:
“In 2017 I graduated with a Distinction in the MRes programme in Translational Cancer Medicine at King’s College London. My research focused on the cross-talk between immune cells within the tumour microenvironment. I am currently in the second year of my DPhil in Oncology at the University of Oxford. My project involves investigating the role of DNA damage repair proteins and exploring approaches to targeting tumours that lack these proteins. I plan to continue with a career in cancer research and aspire to make an impact to a field that I feel so passionately about. I would like to express my gratitude to the Trustees at Futures for Women. The award was of unquestionable benefit to enabling the completion of the MRes programme which inevitably led to a successful DPhil application. “
May the Trustees of Futures for Women wish you every success with your DPhil and eventual career in cancer research.