"Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody"
Although this line was uttered by the revolting Mrs Norris in Jane's Mansfield Park, these words have inspired me many times in my life.
I didn't complete my college education when I left school, or go to University. I chose to work instead and after a short stint as a nanny, opted to start work at the office of a textile company in London. I felt ever so grown up working, earning my own money and sharing a rented house with some friends in Clapham. But after a few years I realised that I was limiting my chances of success. My University educated peers were being positioned for management positions and had skill sets I had not yet developed, such as research, analysis, strategic planning and presenting. I have always been determined to be of no 'expense to anybody' and in my mid-twenties gave up my job at a shipping insurance firm and enrolled at the University of North London. I worked part time to fund my education and living expenses and three years later graduated with an honours degree in Marketing and Human Resource Management. The rest, as they say, is history. Fifteen years later I was CEO of a large marketing agency in Melbourne, Australia, with responsibility for 1500 staff, and a finalist in the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Awards
"Give a girl an education..." inspired the start of a charity
Jane's words encapsulate the purpose of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation that I started in 2014. According to UNESCO figures, over 124 million children and adolescence around the world are not in school.
Jane would be horrified to know that 200 years since she penned this famous quote literacy remains one of the biggest barriers to the development of communities and individuals around the world. I created the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation to harness the global passion for great Aunt Jane and raise money to provide reading and writing resources to communities in need across the world. It was a very proud day for the Foundation team when our first shipment of books was delivered to a remote indigenous community.
If Jane were alive today I'm sure she would use her fame and influence to raise money and advocate for education herself. I am determined to use the education I was fortunate to receive to honour Jane's success and legacy by supporting literacy in her name.
"Give a girl an education..." inspires me to keep learning, everyday.
Learning is a life long endeavour.·There’s always more to know about a topic, even things I may consider myself an expert on. By incorporating continuous learning into your life, only benefits can come from greater knowledge from facts, or a different perspective provided by listening to someone else’s point of view. The greater knowledge and perspective I have, the more effective my decision making powers. Learning keeps my mind active and my life full of interest. Staying mentally active is one of the key components to maintaining brain power into later life. Most importantly the world around us is ever changing and the speed of change is ever increasing. I must continuously learn new things to remain relevant, connected to the present and engaged in the realities and possibilities of the world at it is, not as it was. I want to continue to develop my self-awareness, learn new life skills, improve my interpersonal skills, resilience and life balance. My professional skills are constantly evolving and improving, enabling my business and the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation to continue to grow and adapt to the rapid speed of change in the world around us.
Learning is a zest for life, the route to stimulation and engagement with the world and the knowledge that you are not standing still, you are ever improving your understanding of yourself, your place in the world and the contribution you can make. Relationships improve, along with confidence and self-worth, all key ingredients of health and happiness.