Inspirational Woman: Jane Kenyon | Founder, Girls Out Loud

Meet Jane Kenyon

Founder, Girls Out Loud

Jane Kenyon is the founder of Girls Out Loud – a not-for-profit organisation passionate about inspiring teenage girls to find their voices, harness their self-belief and maximise their potential. Her work with schools through intervention programmes such as “Big Sister/Little Sister” has helped thousands of girls for over a decade.

Jane is challenging others to step up, help Girls Out Loud, and help the teenage girls most in need.  

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am CEO/Founder of Girls Out Loud, a social enterprise on a mission to raise the aspirations of teen girls throughout the UK and beyond. We facilitate early intervention programmes in schools for young teens to help them be brave, be bold and believe in themselves.

Alongside this role I am also a coach, author, speaker and trainer and have been working exclusively with women and teen girls for around 20 years and I love it.

I left school with no qualifications because I chose cool over clever, so during my twenties I  started my first act – climbed the corporate ladder and studying at night school to catch up and catch up I did.  By age 28 I was Marketing & Brand Development Director for a large training company, had 2 degrees, 2 post graduate Diplomas and an MBA but became disillusioned with being a corporate bunny, so walked away from this job and the big salary to begin my second act as an entrepreneur following my own dreams.  During my thirties and early forties I was involved in many businesses, some made me wealthy, some took me to the point of bankruptcy, but you learn fast when you control your own destiny and your pay packet.  In reality, I have learnt everything I need to know standing in the shadow of failure, so for me failure is fuel.

In 2002 I started my third act – my legacy, as the need to focus on my heart took centre stage. I took some time out to reflect, met and married the man of my dreams and retrained to be a coach and cognitive behaviour therapist.  I came back into business with a new lease of life and founded an organisation for women called The Well Heeled Divas as a way of sharing my journey, my passion for female empowerment and my unique take on coaching and mentoring.  I have been known as The Diva ever since and simply love working in a female centric environment.  But please do not misinterpret my passion for working with women as a dislike of men, to the contrary I am rather fond of men, I even married one! I simply believe and see a need to focus on the gender agenda and lack of equality and equity and when this is done, so am I!

My work with women informed my next move as I heard the same stories and observed the same limiting beliefs from the most amazing, successful women. I listened as they talked themselves down, discussed the imposter syndrome; felt their pain as they discussed the guilt of the work/life balance dilemma and recognised their discomfort at being asked to be more visible, vocal and male if they wanted to get on. I came to the conclusion we needed to tackle the issues of aspiration, belief, and identity earlier and so I started to consider transferring my skillset and experience to the classroom and also gathering my tribe to make this happen!

In 2008 I was presented with an opportunity to pilot an intervention programme for 12 at risk, vulnerable 15 year old girls at a Blackpool school and I grabbed it with both hands. This was my  baptism of fire. Those girls taught me everything I needed to know about working with teens, believe me they put me through my paces and even before the programme ended I had made the decision to dedicate the rest of my life to empowering and inspiring the next generation of female leaders.  I founded Girls Out Loud as a social enterprise in 2010 and the rest is history.  To date we have worked with over 50 schools in the UK changing the lives of over 18k girls and this year launched our first overseas programme in Dubai.

I also published 2 books in 2015, have spoken on hundreds of platform across the UK and overseas and continue to be a huge advocate for women.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not in any constructive way.  I have always been ambitious and wanted to make an impact but to say I had a plan is pushing it!

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I have failed spectacularly many times, I have lost money, got into the wrong partnerships, said yes to the wrong investor, overridden my intuition and paid the price, worked myself to the point of exhaustion on several occasions and spent far too much time doing things to make everyone like me!  With age comes a certain kind of wisdom and certainty!

Level Up Summit

 

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

To survive for over a decade in a sector deprived of funding or attention.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

My passion and need for justice.  I believe we all have the right to be seen, to be heard and to be validated and all my work focuses on this.  I am passionate about potential and hate to see this go to waste.  I want everyone to live their best lives.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Everyone should have one and be one. That simple. Mentoring is the cornerstone of my legacy at The Well Heeled Divas and Girls Out Loud.  I have had several mentors throughout my career and looking back they were instrumental in my journey.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

That’s a tough question. Not a popular answer but I would implement temporary quotas to get to 30% parity at Board level to give us a chance of facilitating the necessary conversations around culture, structure and systems.  I am fed up of the narrative around fixing women. I just don’t see how we are going to speed it up any other way, we have tried for years and we are making small moves but not fast enough to engage the next generation.  Once we are making the necessary shifts I would take the quotas away.  Brave move eh?  Will be expecting a horse’s head in my bed any day!

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Be you, don’t simply follow the crowd, know it is OK to just be you.  You are more than enough.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want to expand the geographical reach of Girls Out Loud to impact every region in the UK.  This will demand new thinking, a clever model and financial investment

Related Posts

Comment on this