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Inspiration from WAGGGS Chair

Monday, 24 April 2017

  • OG Nicola Grinstead
  • OG Nicola Grinstead with 6th Formers

Old Girl Nicola Grinstead returned to Bolton School to speak to Girls’ Division Sixth Form students about her experiences and career so far.

Nicola currently has two jobs: she is the Deputy Chief Executive for Great Ormond St Hospital (GOSH), following fifteen years of management experience in the NHS, and is also the Chair of the World Board for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). She spoke passionately about both of these roles, talking the Sixth Formers through a ‘typical day’ at GOSH and WAGGGS and also touching on the important work that both of these organisations do: GOSH at the forefront of research into genetic conditions and their treatments and cures, and WAGGGS championing girls and young women and the issues that matter to them.

Circling back to her time at a Bolton School pupil, Nicola said that these two roles were not what she had in mind when she was sitting where the Sixth Form girls are now! She added that although she felt socially motivated, which has influenced her choices, she didn’t know what options were available. However, three defining moments in her young adult life helped to place her on this path.

The first was her involvement with a HIV programme in Kenya and South Africa, which educated disadvantaged girls and young women in a township on how to protect themselves. At this point, she realised that one person could really make a difference by taking a view and contributing, and she realised that she liked making things happen in this way. When she returned from Africa, she was asked to speak on behalf of WAGGGS to the Council of Europe, the United Nations and Westminster about her experience in Africa and what girls and young women could affect HIV and AIDS. She said that at the time she was “mortified” to be speaking alongside the experts in these arenas, but she quickly realised that she was the only young woman at the table alongside the decision-makers, many of whom were middle-aged men, and so had to speak up to influence their choices so that they were made with girls and young women in mind. She therefore advised the Sixth Form students never to underestimate the importance of their own voice and perspective.

Nicola also spoke about realising her responsibility not only to speak for those who don’t have a voice, but also to create a platform for those people. She briefly mentioned how this has influenced her work with the NHS and WAGGGS.

Thirdly, she mentioned recognising the importance of governance, in terms of inspiring a system and changing its course. She talked about how, by influencing governance, an entire society can be changed rather than just individual people. This, she said, was one of the things that particularly motivates her.

Finally, Nicola closed her talk with some lessons and advice inspired by her career so far. She advised the Sixth Form students to stay true to their ideals and stand up for the things that they believe in, not to be afraid to make mistakes and see them as opportunities rather than problems, and to do something they are passionate about. She also recommended diversity of experience, as this is something she looks for in potential job candidates alongside commitment and passion. Finally, she told the girl not to underestimate themselves and the contribution they can make.

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