13 March 2020
Former Bolton School Girls’ Division pupil and Head of Professional Development at London Business School (LBS) Elizabeth Newton nee Whyatt (1972-79) returned to her alma mater to inspire current students. Addressing a whole school assembly, as part of the school’s annual International Women’s Day celebrations, she reminded pupils of the privileged position they are in, as 131 million girls around the world do not go to school. She stressed the importance of lifelong learning and for girls to be curious. She said there is not just one way to build a career and advised that having transferable skills will give you more flexibility over a lifetime.
Reflecting on her own life experiences and schooldays, Elizabeth gave the audience of 11-18 year olds seven clear pieces of advice. Firstly, continue to build your skills – be current and stay connected to society. This could be through academic or vocational qualifications, volunteering or through courses at work. Secondly, she said, know yourself. She advised girls to follow their passions and to listen to what friends and family value in you. She told them to find the ‘sweet spot’ between your strengths, your passions and what the world needs. Thirdly, she said, know your worth and stand your ground. She recalled being shocked when she worked in the City of London and was told that she did not need to earn as much as her male colleagues because they were the breadwinners and she had a husband to support her! She went back the following day with a clear and well argued case why she deserved a pay rise! She said even now the pay gap between men and women is 17.3%. Her fourth piece of advice was to do things your own way and to have the confidence to ask for what you want. Her fifth point was to tell girls to be prepared to take risks or experiment. She said life can be a balancing act between work and parenthood. She had found that setting up her own business as a HR Consultant had allowed her to plan her own diary in order to spend more time with her own young children. Keeping your balance and managing your attention was her sixth point and she spoke of personally using yoga and mindfulness to help her rest and reflect and to find balance. She said if you do not care for yourself, you cannot care for others. Her final point was to build your ‘own cheerleading group’; this should be of friends and colleagues who support you and who challenge your thinking. Forty years since leaving Bolton School, she said, she still has friends from those days and that this morning their WhatsApp group had been buzzing with talk of her return. She ended by saying she had been a Direct Grant pupil who had undoubtedly benefited from a Bolton School education where she had developed a curious mind, a love of sport and volunteering and had found a group of lifelong friends. She wished girls well in their future and encouraged them to forge their own paths.
Later in the day, Elizabeth delivered a masterclass to Y11 GCSE Business Studies pupils before chairing a round-table questions and answers session with Sixth Form girls focusing on employability issues including your skills toolkit and how to set yourself apart at interview and in applications. Elizabeth also recapped her own career after studying Business Studies and French at Loughborough. She told of her HR work in insurance, in investment banking, in setting up her own HR Consultancy and her current work as Head of Professional Development at LBS with mature students.