A group of young women

Empowering Young Women to Reimagine a Sustainable Future

Catalyse Change is a social enterprise supporting girls and young women to develop sustainability skills and knowledge for ‘healthy, happy and green’ communities, careers and planet. 

We spoke with co-founders Traci Lewis and Jenna Holliday about the work they do and why gender equality is so pivotal, and to learn more about their latest Catalyse Change Summit. 

Our favourite moments

The 3-day Catalyse Change Summit was ‘a multi-pronged programme that worked on developing confidence and resilience in the core skills for the young women, building their knowledge around sustainability and the different options around sustainability in their careers, introducing them to women in sustainability – they worked on a challenge together –  they did some wellbeing sessions and met some businesses working in sustainability. It was a packed agenda!’ 

‘The primary outcomes that the girls get is really just connecting to each other. Without fail, we’re finding that the girls who are coming to us are often one or one of two in their entire peer group who really passionately understand sustainability and understand what’s needed and feel that weight of obligation to do something about it. And suddenly they’re in this room – either physically or virtually – with 50 other young women that feel the same way. And there is this sense that “It’s not just me, I’m not on my own” and they suddenly recognise that they don’t have to justify why they’re thinking or feeling something. They can get straight to the “Right, what are we going to do about it?”’

‘In the UK, only 30% of leadership positions are occupied by women. And that’s in a country that is over 50% women. If you don’t have representative leadership, if you don’t have representation in public or private spaces, than [government] is not responding to the needs of everybody.’ 

‘Leadership for young women today doesn’t need to look like traditional leadership. It’s about reframing what leadership is.’  

‘Gender equality is key to sustainability because of that representation – you need all of the voices involved – and you need a different style of leadership in order to come up with the innovative decisions that need to be made in order to achieve a sustainable world, to combat climate change.’ 

‘When we talk about sustainability, we’re talking about the whole spectrum of environmental and social sustainability. Every sector, every job role is going to need an understanding of and skills around sustainability. … We have quite a few girls who don’t come from a STEM background and they’re like, ‘oh, wow! I’ve got a role in this.’ Clearly advocacy, education, through marketing and communication – whether that’s government, private or third-sector – they’re all totally relevant.’ 

‘The programme operates on three key strands: one being inspiration and pathways into green careers – and being mentored by a woman in sustainability is part of that. The other is around sustainability skills and knowledge – and we’re focusing on both hard and soft skills around that. And then the third one is definitely personal development and wellbeing.

And that for us is absolutely key – it’s the thread running through it. Because unless you can have that personal purpose and resilience, and the tools and skills to be an effective change-maker, then none of the rest is going to happen.’

‘It’s all about an optimistic, positive, hopeful framing – and that’s about us encouraging them to reframe the way we as a global society have been framing things up until now – that it’s all awful. That’s not inspiring.

To inspire and motivate yourself to do something when everything is bleak, means you’re taking up half the energy just to get through the bleakness. But if you can see the opportunity, you’ve got 100% of the energy to put toward trying to create something.’ 

To learn more about Catalyse Change and to get involved with the great work they’re doing, check out their website.

You can also watch 12 of the young women reflect on their Summit experience here.

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