Winning Like A Girl is the talk I give to girls in Key Stage 3, about reaching for success while staying true to yourself, and how to find the confidence to do it. It’s full of anecdotes and life-hacks, with a little bit of science thrown in, and I love it.
I knew this talk was working when I gave it to a group of Year 10 girls in North London and, although they wanted to, none of them dared be the first to put up her hand to answer a question. I pointed out that this was exactly the lack of empowerment I was talking about, and that if they didn’t find their voice, someone else would end up speaking for them. I saw the light go on in a few eyes, and by the end I had girls queuing up for my reading list, and practising their power words. That was a great day.
Nearly a century has passed since the first women won the right to vote in the UK (in Switzerland they didn’t get it until 1971!), but it’s still hard to be a successful girl.
It’s hard when you’re under pressure to look perfect all the time, and you hate to fail, and people tease you if you try too hard, or love a subject they don’t, and if you’re too thin, too fat, too tall, too short, too nerdy, not nerdy enough, or just plain weird. Sometimes society makes it harder; sometimes girls put pressure on themselves.
(All my favourite people are weird in some way, by the way. And proud of it. It’s part of the secret.)
I write about girls in tough situations, who come through. Winning Like A Girl takes examples from my books and other writers, movie stars, campaigners and scientists. It shows how girls can change their body language and self-image to get the success they all deserve.
It’s not about fitting in. It’s about being yourself and making the world accept you for the person you are.
In honour of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2016, I wrote on the subject of strong female role models in YA fiction and non-fiction for The Bookseller. You can find the article here.
I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can’t do it. I’m never gonna say ‘maybe’. I’m never gonna say, ‘I don’t think I can.’ I can and I will.
Nadiya Hussain, the Great British Bake Off
*The talk: what you need to know
- Designed for girls in Years 7-11
- Lasts about an hour, including a Q&A
- Can be given to an audience of any size
- Interactive – be prepared to stand up and shout out! (You know you want to.)
- Contains tips, life hacks and tricks for feeling confident and being yourself in stressful situations
- Includes the time I accidentally cyberbullied a celebrity. (You don’t want to know. Oh, wait, you do …)
In June I visited Elmgreen School in London. Here’s what they said:
Author Visit in the Library
Readers of Sophia Bennett’s books will be familiar with her heroines: girls who make their own way in the world, stand up for what they believe in and dare to be themselves.
Last week we were delighted to welcome Sophia to our school. Sophia met with some of our Year 9 and 10 girls and it was great to hear the collective gasp when they realised they were in the presence of an author whose work they were familiar with! Moreover, this was an author talk with a difference. Winning like a Girl builds on a narrative thread running through all Sophia’s books: girls can and should go for gold; our gender should not stand in the way of confidence or success.
During the session, Sophia talked about her journey from city management consultant to author and the obstacles that stood in her way. She asked: what is power? What makes a person powerful? And how can we, as girls and young women, tap into that power and own it for ourselves? Sophia showed us some of her favourite role models and passed on some tips and tricks. We practiced our ‘power pose’ and adopted a ‘power word’ – both to be used when a boost of confidence is required.
‘I thought she was really lovely and she had a lot of interesting things to say about women’s rights,’ Marcy, Year 9.
‘The talk was really good. It reminded us of some of the problems we might face in society.’ Elizabeth, Year 9.
‘She inspired me to be more confident about myself. I tried my power word when I needed it and it really worked!’ Rabia, Year 10
‘It was awesome! It was the first time I met an author. It was a really fun experience and now I am reading Sophia’s book.’ Jahkera, Year 10
‘Sophia made me think of things in a different way. She made me believe that we can achieve things, no matter what.’ Sarah, Year 10
From Penny Swann at Grey Coat Hospital School:
In her inspiring presentation ‘Winning Like A Girl’, Sophia told us something about her own story at university and in the City. She came to realise that she was ‘being told not to be myself’ – and, more importantly, to see that she had to be herself.
Don’t hold yourself back! Sophia urged us, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your success is in someone else’s gift, practise being your own self – and do it with confidence!
She was so persuasive that the whole of year 9 rose to their feet to practise feeling confident, using the Wonder Woman stance to boost testosterone – it really works, try it at home. https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en