Inspirational alumnae from Benenden School including HRH The Princess Royal and Her Royal Highness Princess Basma bint Talal of Jordan, spoke to students from across the globe as part of the school’s global conference titled Inspiring Future Female Leaders.
HRH The Princess Royal shared her own perspective on leadership, discussing life in the public eye and some of the impressive female leaders she has encountered.
HRH The Princess Royal also took part in a panel discussion with former MI5 Director-General Baroness Manningham-Buller LG DCB and Benenden Headmistress Samantha Price. They discussed breaking through gender stereotypes and bias.
Held as part of the celebrations marking Benenden’s Centenary, the global event was hosted in partnership with the International Coalition of Girls’ Schools and featured a range of high-profile speakers.
The event included a keynote speech from Her Royal Highness Princess Basma bint Talal of Jordan, who shared lessons learned from a life devoted to improving the lives of marginalised and vulnerable groups throughout Jordan.
In addition to the students from 60 UK schools in the room, students from 60 schools around the world from countries including Australia, India and the United States also heard from co-creator and star of Made in Chelsea and tech entrepreneur Amber Atherton, Olympian Georgina Seccombe MBE, Hollywood producer and bestselling author Dame Didi Wong and international businesswoman Dr Amy Jadesimi – all former students of Benenden School.
Seccombe discussed what it takes to thrive as a successful sportswoman and leader. She urged the students in attendance to ‘speak and act with authenticity and consistency, surround yourself with brilliant people and know that you are not defined by your gender’.
Atherton shared her thoughts on female leadership in the corporate world and said that UK business has a ‘cultural problem with ambition’ that holds it back compared to its US rivals. She added: ‘Part of the cultural fabric in the UK is to not to disturb the way things are. I want to encourage future entrepreneurs to try to break free of that tradition and feel like you can be openly ambitious.’
Benenden’s Headmistress Samantha Price also touched on ambition and what it means to be a female leader in her welcome comments.
She said: ‘I very much hope that during my lifetime, as a society we reach the point where the gender of a female PM or CEO is not a news story, that women are so commonplace in Number 10 and boardrooms that her gender is irrelevant. I am confident that we will get there.
‘Not everyone will run a country or a major company – and not everyone will want to. But leadership is not solely about being the most senior person in an organisation. Leadership is far more. Leadership is also about hard work – and earning respect. And this is, by no means, always easy.
‘However, at Benenden we are committed to inspiring the next generation of future thinkers and leaders, a vision we have now been pursuing for 100 years. Yesterday’s conference was a testament to that and an unforgettable occasion, one we are honoured to have held in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal.’