Lauren Seager-Smith is a child rights advocate and campaigner and is CEO of bullying prevention charity Kidscape.
Lauren has over twenty years in the youth sector, including positions at National Children’s Bureau, Save the Children, Reading Borough Council and Lattitude. Lauren is a Trustee of Children England, Member of the England Committee for Action for Children, board member of the UK Safer Internet Centre, Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety and the Internet Matters Expert Advisory Group. Lauren is a Fellow of the RSA and Associate of the Institute of Responsible Leadership. Lauren was listed in Who’s Who 2018 and the Evening Standard #Progress1000 List 2019. Lauren is a regular media spokesperson and commentator.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’m Lauren Seager-Smith and I’m CEO of the bullying prevention charity Kidscape. I’ve worked with children and families for over twenty years and am a passionate campaigner for children’s rights. In addition to this, I hold a number of board positions including Associate of the Institute for Responsible Leadership and Trustee of Children England. I love the work of Simon Sinek, Brene Brown and Esther Perel and am fascinated by relationships and leading with heart and purpose. I have two wonderful children and when I’m not at work I can usually be found cheering for my kids on a football pitch, usually in the pouring rain.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I went to a large state school in the Midlands which gave me many wonderful experiences – particularly around theatre and the arts, but zero direction or ambition. There was no sense that any of us was going to come to much – and I worry this lack of ambition remains for many children today. My fortune was growing up surrounded by books, so I knew I wanted to study English Literature at Uni, but very little beyond that. I also grew up at a time when university education was affordable and life seemed like an open book. There is power in twists and turns and finding our own path, but every child should be inspired to see their worth.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
I have had many wonderful opportunities in the charity sector. Roles at Save the Children and the National Children’s Bureau gave me opportunities for further study, for leadership development, for media training, for advocacy, for campaign management, for public speaking, for financial management – areas I had never imagined I would explore. The challenges, like for so many of us, have been managing a leadership role, while caring for family. With two young children and parents who have needed a high amount of care over the last decade, every week can feel like preparing for a marathon, but I know I’m not alone in this. Thankfully I’ve had the love and unwavering support of my partner, dear friends who have given both love and practical support, and close colleagues who I have laughed and cried with over the years.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Moving into a CEO role when my children were young was a massive step. If I hadn’t taken the leap at that point it might not have happened, and so it was the right thing to do. There were days when I would step off the train in London with trepidation, but these words of Elizabeth Taylor stuck with me, “You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way.”
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Love of learning. It goes back to growing up surrounded by books, encouraged to have a curious mind. I’ve never lost that. I live in a world of books and podcasts and always want to know more. I start most conversations with ‘This book I’m reading says….’. I love the fact there is so much opportunity to hear ideas and thoughts of brilliant people, and there is no end to it. One recent piece of heaven was listening to Brene Brown interviewing Dolly Parton. Pure Gold.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I’m a mentor for LeadersPlus who support parents to take up leadership positions. I’ve also mentored for the brilliant Youth Group headed up by Jack Parsons, supporting young people onto the career ladder. I’ve also benefited from a huge amount of wise counsel over the years, and would encourage everyone to be a mentor, and find a mentor.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
Affordable childcare provision. Childcare is in crisis in the UK. This is forcing parents out of work and into poverty.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Your main goal in life is not to find a man, get married, and settle down. I grew up in a conservative evangelical household where this was a dominant philosophy and it led to a lot of insecurity and heartache. There is joy in human connection, but that should never be about one person. It’s the love of our friends, precious times with family, and good times spent with colleagues doing work you love. I tell my children to find themselves first, to value their friendships. You don’t need someone else to complete you.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
What I’m enjoying are the opportunities that LinkedIn and other networking events and platforms give you to meet people from many different walks of life, who can come together and find shared purpose. There has to be a path out of the level of polarisation and hatred we are seeing. Rumi writes, ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field; I’ll meet you there’. We won’t evolve until we can find that field and I want to be a part of that.
What led you into bullying prevention work with children and young people?
In my twenties I worked with children at risk of school exclusion. This included working full time in a secondary school in behaviour support, and then providing education advocacy for children in North London who were missing from education. Many of these children struggled with their relationships, both at home, and in school with staff and other pupils. We need our schools to be safe spaces where all children feel they belong, and to place a higher value on relationships education. At Kidscape we seek to empower children with the tools they need to be assertive, to stand up for others and to know what healthy friendship looks and feels like. These are skills for life.