The Girl’s Enrichment Mentoring Scheme (or GEMS for short), acts as a three way mentoring system consisting of a collaboration between students from the University of York, year 10 students from York High School, and women from Hiscox Insurance. As part of this inspiring project we organised a ‘Women in Business’ Day at Hiscox’s brand new offices in the centre of York.
Since most of the students had not been in an office before, the day began with a spread of sandwiches and a game, to calm everyone’s nerves and break the ice! The game involved building a house out of spaghetti and marshmallows as a team – a lot harder than you would think! I attempted to put my maths degree to good use, but in hindsight my plans were too ambitious as our structure hardly stood up… But the teamwork required seemed to get everyone well acquainted and comfortable in getting to know each other for the rest of the day.
Next the Hiscox team gave us a tour of their new building which was built specially for them and only opened in November. The office was completely different to what the girls, and our team from the university, expected. One of the first things the girls noticed was the incredible artwork scattered around the walkways, such as a huge rocket in the foyer and a giant neon fork on the balcony – they all agreed they wished that their school could have artwork like that too!
The impressive artwork wasn’t the only unexpected thing about Hiscox – one of the challenges we set the girls in preparation for the trip was to dress in what they deemed appropriate for an office environment, as they start to think about seeking weekend jobs and therefore going for interviews. Most of the girls played it safe and went for all black, but on the day they were surprised to see how colourfully all the women at Hiscox dressed – who says work clothes have to be boring?
The second part of the day consisted of a discussion with the women from Hiscox about their career paths and how they ended up working in the insurance industry. I think I was as surprised as the girls were when we learned that one of the women started out teaching children in Africa, whilst one of the managing directors started her career in the army! Upon hearing these stories, I think that both myself and the rest of us realised that the career you start off in isn’t necessarily the one you will end up in.
At the start of the day most of the girls (including our student team!) were a bit clueless when it came to the insurance industry, so some of those women shared some advice about skills for job applications and interview techniques with us. Something that stood out to me was when Alex, who interviews a lot of people at Hiscox, said to remember that the interviewer is always nervous too – and if that doesn’t help, picture them in their underwear! Alex said about the day “I can clearly remember being 15 and not sure of myself and my abilities. I would have loved a scheme like GEMS to help demonstrate that the world of work isn’t that scary!”.
Overall I would definitely say the trip was a success – one of the girls from the school couldn’t believe how much she has enjoyed the day and that she was now considering insurance as a career – she’s even got some work experience lined up for Easter, and I might even apply for the graduate scheme myself!