The hottest day on record

Thursday 25 July 2019 was the hottest day on record for the UK. Another year passing and another weather record reached. It’s frightening and a stark warning of the potential speed of runaway climate change.

But… I didn’t spend the morning of 25 July mired in concern over the record heat as I was happily distracted by a group of young women and their enthusiasm for their sustainable futures. Catalyse Change ran it’s annual Catalyst Bootcamp for young women from 24-26 July, with a packed schedule of workshops to build knowledge and understanding whilst simultaneously learning tools to improve confidence and resilience. I went along to help facilitate a sustainability challenge focusing on fashion, working with a group to envision a product or service that would support a carbon neutral future.


The Challenge

Our conversations ran at 100mph, flicking between our own experiences of fashion and our interpretations of the changes in the market. Six young women  all fed in to the dialogue and with an overflowing zeal tried to fix the industry with broad plans to affect change at corporate level, up-skill young children, alter shopping habits and host consumer engagement events.

We managed to refine the aspirations of the group and decide on one thing to take forward as part of the sustainability challenge. We planned to develop a life skills training programme to teach young children to sew. It would begin as young as Year 2 to ensure we catch them before gender prejudices kick in with too much weight. And yes, we called it a LIFE SKILL. There was consensus in the group that knowing how to make and mend in this way was an essential skill and should not be seen as simply an offshoot of art or design.

Our programme would - in brief - develop long term relationships with schools where instructors would come and work with children, teaching them about their clothing and fabrics. Teaching them to mend their clothes and working alongside them as they created their own piece of clothing over the course of the school year.

Oh! If we could have turned their dynamic enthusiasm into action…


The successes of the bootcamp

Catalyse Change are doing such essential work in supporting these young women - breeding self-assurance and helping them to navigate the very early steps of their careers in sustainability. Women are still underrepresented in so many sectors and to ensure an equitable and sustainable future we need to have strong representation of women in all industries, across all platforms. Catalyse Change describe how both the UN and the Mary Robinson Foundation have identified that women are vital in the fight against climate change.

And yet, a ‘confidence gap’ has been described been men and women - where men tend to overestimate and women underestimate their abilities and performance. Low confidence is a significant challenge to young women in moving forward in the careers they project for themselves. One in three teenage girls reportedly suffer from anxiety and other mental health issues. This leads them to withdraw from perceived risk - which includes public spaces, opportunities and professional positions. The withdrawal from leadership in their late teens and early twenties can significantly impact the ability of young women to assume leadership and management positions later on in life.

After the Catalyst Bootcamp this year, the participants reported an increase from 30% to 90% in awareness of the potential careers availability. Even more significantly, those who agreed they had the knowledge and tools to effectively deal with anxiety rose from 19% to 90%.

And this is why I support Catalyse Change. The measurable impact they’re having on the lives of young women could have a significant impact on the future of the UK. Who knows which of these women might be the next influencer, the next CEO, the next social entrepreneur…