Giving young women a different kind of muse

Everywoman's Modern Muse project is aiming to inspire Britain's next generation of female business leaders.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 15 Dec 2010
To the average 16-year-old girl, the name Cheryl Cole is probably more familiar than Chrissie Rucker, the entrepreneur behind the White Company. But that’s something Karen Gill and Maxine Benson, the founders of Everywoman, are hoping to change.

The duo are behind a new project to encourage more young women to become business leaders - by offering up more positive role models. Launching with a book celebrating 100 successful women, the ‘Modern Muse’ project is aiming to reach one million young women and girls over the next three years. As well as Rucker, the stories include those of Dame Mary Perkins, on the verge of becoming Britain’s first self-made female billionaire through her chain of Specsavers opticians; and Judy Craymer, the writer and producer of the musical Mamma Mia! 

Everywoman's normal remit is providing training and networking for professional women in business. But now it's trying to reach a much more difficult demographic – young girls between 16 and 18 who are in the process of deciding their futures. The ‘muses’ featured in the book will visit schools and get involved in their local communities, while some will also become mentors.

Wendy Hallett, founder and MD of department store concessions business Hallett Retail is another of the women taking part. She tells MT that it’s important to inspire young girls, but that it’s also about getting other women involved who can act as role models. 'For women it’s about inspiring them to believe in themselves that they can start their own business'.

Some might argue that it's a teensy bit patronising to suggest that young girls need to be specifically dissuaded from looking up to celebrities, rather than high achievers in other walks of life. But there's clearly a value in providing young woman with aspirational role models - and if this encourages a few more of them to get involved in business, so much the better.

Do you think a programme like this can play a valuable role? Let us know below.

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