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'Giving Young Women and Girls a Voice' competition open for entries

25th July 2013

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Dr.Ros Altmann is delighted to be a judge for the National Council of Women's 'Giving Young Women and Girls a Voice’ competition, which is currently open for entries. Here she explains what the competition is about:

I wanted to let you know about the NCW’s ‘Giving Young Women and Girls a Voice’ competition, for which I am a judge. I am so pleased to have the chance to judge this NCW competition and always delighted to do what I can do to help young women achieve their potential.

The competition is open to girls aged 13 to 30 and asks them to answer the question "If you could influence the Government to take action on one issue to improve the lives of women and girls, what would it be?".   Entrants must write a proposal and argument, in 300-500 words for the 13-18 year-olds and a maximum of 750 words for those aged 19-30. The closing date is 31st July 2013.

I will be very interested to read what the entrants want Government to do, since they are the ones best placed to know what is needed. It is often the case that a competition like this will produce ideas that have not been previously thought of, but can be really successful.

Government needs to hear from young girls and women what they really want, the things that would make their lives better. I do hope large numbers take the chance to enter this exciting competition. It is really important that they put themselves forward for such opportunities. Too often young girls are frightened, or feel they have no chance of winning, but the more you enter, the better the chances of success.

Women under 30 still face significant challenges in many aspects of their lives. Women's role as childbearers will obviously affect working lives and the demands of caring responsibilities can be a barrier to progress in some spheres. Women still face barriers in some of the more male-dominated professions, which have not yet embraced the demands of women's lives and sometimes encourage men more than women in more senior roles. Nevertheless, the situation has certainly improved over the years, particularly in professions such as media, HR or retail - I do hope these advances will pave the way for other industries to follow. Things have, of course, improved significantly for women in the City, relative to the 1980s when I started. There are far more women in senior positions, but still not nearly enough at the top of financial firms and banks. There is a long way to go to achieve gender balance.

I became an 'activist' by chance, when I met a group of people who had been terribly wronged and needed an 'expert' to fight their cause. They were ordinary people who had never protested about anything in their lives, they were people who valued their privacy, kept themselves to themselves, but had suddenly lost everything. In the impenetrable world of pensions, they could not fathom what had happened and how it could be put right, but I managed to help restore much of their losses, which was a real privilege. Standing up for what one believes in is so important and being willing to fight for what's right can be difficult - but also extremely rewarding.

I have four words of advice for anyone thinking of entering: 'Just go for it'! If you don't enter, you can't possibly win and your views are valuable. You should have just as much chance as others of making your voice heard. I will be looking for practical suggestions, preferably without much cost attached; either suggestions that could make a huge difference to a few lives, or perhaps small improvements to huge numbers of young women. Young women can make a difference - why not give this a try?

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