There are limits as to how far even the finest education will get you in life. The real-world skills that they don’t teach in school — such as networking, overcoming self-doubt and negotiating — are critical additional attributes for those who aspire to leadership.

For women, who continue to be underrepresented in senior management roles and are often paid less than male colleagues at similar levels, these tools for success have particular value. With the aim of meeting this need, an intensive, one-week camp for girls from across the public and private school system will this summer set out to provide participants with the knowledge and confidence they need to fulfil their leadership potential.

“She Leads: A Real-World Readiness Programme” is the first public-private partnership of its kind. It is an extension of Bermuda High School’s “I Lead” leadership framework, which was launched in 2019 after two years of extensive research and planning with Christie Hunter-Arscott, a 2001 BHS alumna, strategic adviser on gender issues, author and speaker.  

The programme comprises a week of guided workshops and inspiring speakers covering topic such as interviewing, self-promotion, addressing bias, overcoming self-limiting beliefs and adopting a growth mindset. The goal is to give young women tools to navigate the challenges of the real world, and to make potentially lasting connections across school and community contexts.

It was important to BHS and to HSBC, sponsor of the “She Leads” programme, not only that the opportunity to participate should be extended to girls in the public school system to help with their futures, but also to break down some of the barriers and stereotypes encountered by students in relation to public versus private schools in Bermuda.

After the first two successful events in 2019 and 2021, this year organisers plan to have a 50/50 mix of students from the public and private system. There are 22 spots available to students from The Berkeley Institute and CedarBridge Academy and then 23 spots divided between the remaining schools.

Eleven spots are available to BHS students, with two each to the other private schools (Bermuda Institute, Mount Saint Agnes Academy, Saltus, Somersfield and Warwick Academy), with two more spots for home-schooled students. All students must be in their penultimate year of high school when they apply. 

Judy Doidge, HSBC Corporate Secretary and Executive sponsor of the ‘She Leads’ initiative shared, “We are excited to see this programme grow with opportunities now being given to additional schools to participate.  This expansion provides these young women with the unique opportunity to broaden their networking circle with their peers across Bermuda.  Each year the young female cohort impresses us with their intellect, confidence and poise with some of the past participants becoming young entrepreneurs and/or moving onto higher education.  We have been a proud supporter of the ‘She Leads’ initiative over the past 3 years and find these young women inspiring, with very bright futures ahead.”

“The tools and mindsets they will learn can be used in all aspects of their lives – personal, educational and professional,” said Linda Parker, BHS Head of School. “They will gain a greater understanding of their own personal agency to influence their futures, grow their confidence in their public speaking abilities, learn tools to manage their money and plan for their futures and learn strategies to combat over-thinking and negative self-talk.

“Each of the speakers and workshops has been carefully chosen to provide the most impact and the programme has been specifically developed for girls’ learning styles and is focused on the objectives of empowering, inspiring, equipping and connecting participants.”

The two BHS staff making the programme happen are She Leads coordinator Julie Butler, BHS Director of Branding, Marketing and Communications, who plans the entire programme and delivers one of the workshops. Shirley Kelly, BHS Science Teacher and She Leads facilitator, teaches the programme.

Participants in the first two years thrived. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive – 100 percent of participants would recommend it to other students!” Ms Parker said. “The women who have been involved as speakers and facilitators have spoken of their joy at seeing the growth of the young women over the course of the five days, and how they wished there had been a similar programme when they were that age.

“The programme has a noticeable effect on the young women’s confidence and self-belief, which is evident on the last day when they present their final projects.” 

Testimonials from those who have taken part speak to the effectiveness of the camp.

One participant said: “The skills I have learned this past week, the people I have met and everything I have gained all add up to me being the best me I can be right now and I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity.”

Another said: “I walked in here with no confidence at all, and I’m really walking out of here with more confidence than I ever thought I would have.”

She Leads is scheduled for July 4-8 in the Innovation Centre at BHS, 9am-3pm each day. Breakfast and snacks are provided each day and lunch on two of the days.

To apply, interested students simply need to submit their reasons for wanting to take part. They can do this in a letter, e-mail, song, poem, piece of artwork, or video – whatever format or medium they choose. They can submit their work to [email protected] by May 27th. Successful applicants will be informed on June 1st.