KPMG partnered with Children’s Books Ireland to support their Bold Girls Initiative, creating innovative workshops based on women who changed history thus encouraging young girls to achieve their ambitions.
In 2011, a large study into children’s books was published. The study looked at more than 5,600 books published throughout the 20th century, and found a huge gender imbalance. Male characters were central in 57% of children’s books, while only 31% had female central characters. Meanwhile males featured in the titles of 37% of books each year, but only 18% of titles referred to a female character.
In another similar study across children’s media, less than 20% showed women with a job, compared to more than 80% of male characters. Studies of other children’s media show similar patterns – male-dominated characters in cartoons, video games, films, even in colouring books.
To celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage in Ireland, Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) planned to print a reading guide, containing books about, written and illustrated by women. At KPMG we recognised that this presented a unique opportunity to create a bespoke volunteering programme for our people based on the idea of these ‘BOLD GIRLS.’ We approached CBI with the idea of creating a skill-based volunteering programme to compliment the planned booklet.
The BOLD GIRLS workshops aim to break down societal barriers and to instil confidence in girls by showing them female characters in children’s books with passion, power and opinions. It addresses at a young age some of the issues that stand in the way of women achieving their ambitions, whether in leadership, politics or the arts. The BOLD GIRLS project celebrates strong, confident, intelligent, brave women and girls in children’s books, giving them much-needed visibility alongside their male counterparts.
The launch of the programme was held on International Women’s Day, in St Mary’s Primary School Dublin, and received national coverage. Following this launch, a group of ten volunteers in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Galway went out to 10 different classrooms to give the trial workshops.
The trials were a great success, with students, teachers and staff responding positively. 100% of our volunteers enjoyed leading the workshops and 100% of students enjoyed participating in the workshops. Principal of St Mary’s Primary School, Eadaoin Kelly said, “The programme has influenced the children’s creativity by encouraging them to express themselves freely, to think about the world in different ways and empowering them to share their opinions with confidence.”
Between the launch event and the delivery of the four-week workshops to 32 classes, we have had 60 volunteers engaged with the programme benefitting over 800 students. Each participating class also receives a donation of 30 books to the school library and to date over 1,000 books have been donated.
The response to the BOLD GIRLS workshops has been hugely positive – 100% of our volunteers were “exceptionally happy” with the content and delivery of the programme and would be eager to be involved again and 100% of students enjoyed participating in the workshops.
From our own evaluation, it was easy to see that the programme, not only impacted the children involved, but also on how our volunteers thought about children’s views and the school system in Ireland. One of our volunteers said, “It was interesting to see the children’s views in particular on women working outside the home/doing the housework as some children had some conservative views on it based on their own experiences.”
According to Karina Howley, Head of Corporate Citizenship and Diversity: “The focus in KPMG is on skills-based volunteering, using the talent and training of our staff to help make a positive difference especially in education. The BOLD GIRLS programme is a perfect alliance with our approach, as this not only directly aligns with our literacy programme and encouraging students to read but also with our Inclusion and Diversity strategy by promoting gender.”
KPMG has continued to roll out the initiative and has supported further workshops focused specifically on schools in the catchment areas around KPMG offices in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Galway. There is a significant appetite from schools to engage in this innovative initiative.
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