Lancome and Write Your Future: A National Literacy Trust Partnership

Friday, September 7th 2018 0

Supporting young women to combat illiteracy

Yesterday, I spent the morning with Lancome and the National Literacy Trust to discover their new partnership and mission to transform the lives of women with illiteracy.

Illiteracy in this context is defined as lacking basic reading, writing and communication skills, and I was amazed to learn that 1 in 7 young women in England is considered illiterate. Being able to read and write is something I’ve fortunately never had to question, and, especially considering that I make a living through maintaining my blog, this knowledge really resonated with me.

This in mind, Lancome have partnered with the National Literacy Trust to launch a new programme called Words for Work: Women in Leadership. What this means is that over the next three years at least, they will work with selected schools in London, Manchester and Nottingham to provide specialist support for young people with illiteracy. In addition to ongoing support to develop reading and writing skills, they will create activities to inspire confidence. Beneficiaries will experience a business immersion day at the Lancome head office, gaining insight into various roles, and attend interactive talks from panels of inspiring women.

Matt Crossick/PA Wire

Why is it important to focus on women in particular? Here are a few of the stats that we learned yesterday that help to put the importance of this movement into context, all taken from the National Literacy Trust…

At every level of education, women need to earn one additional degree in order to reach average salaries in line with men’s averages

44% of women in poorer communities left school last year with good GCSEs in English and Maths, compared to 71% of women in wealthier communities

75% of women with very low literacy skills have never had a promotion

Women in the UK are three times less likely to be a director than men (26% vs 74%)

The negative affect of poor literacy skills on employability is twice as large for women than for men

And the one that made me the saddest: 1 in 8 children in the UK don’t actually own a book.

To explore the partnership, Lancome invited a selection of guests to share their personal connection to the cause. Among them was Kate Winslet, who has been an ambassadress for Lancome for many years now. She shared quite a unique connection to the cause because she played a lady with illiteracy in the film The Reader.

To prepare for this role, Kate spent time at a centre in New York for adults with illiteracy and spent time with many people there to immerse herself into this mindset.

“One woman really sticks with me because she was hilarious and amazing. She had just learned these skills recently, she was 63, and she was very willing to talk to me about this process because she was so proud of herself. She had spent her life ashamed and living a lie, she said. She felt she was living a lie every day.

“I wanted to know how this affected other areas of her life, so I asked her, ‘what about your relationships?’ She would end relationships all the time. ‘Literally, the minute they presented me with something I had to read, I would say, ‘ok! I have to go now! Goodbye!’’

“She would wear fancy suits for work and press them herself so she didn’t have to deal with the dry cleaners and any forms. She would eat at fancy restaurants all the time and when I asked her how she did it, she said, ‘oh honey. Everybody has chicken!’ I asked her, how did you get that fancy job? ‘I got myself an ace bandage, bandaged up my arm, and said to my neighbour, ‘I broke my arm. Would you do the forms for me?’’

As Kate shared her memories, she also touched on how this particular cause had resonated with her now that she is a mother. The thought of not being able to properly understand a school report, or worse still read the instructions on a prescription for her child, was upsetting.

Speaking on behalf of the partnership, she said, “This is one of the reasons why I appreciate the relationship I have with Lancome as together, we share a deep-rooted desire to support women.”

Another speaker was Chidera Eggerue, blogger, author and founder of the #SaggyBoobsMatter movement. She was positive, confident and so powerful in her vision that women should believe in themselves and put themselves first. I’ve started following her on Instagram @TheSlumFlower and would recommend to do the same for a dose of girl power and constant fighting spirit.

The event coincided with the launch of her book, Scribble Yourself Feminist, which I will share some thoughts on once I have explored.

Scribble Yourself Feminist

All in all, the morning really opened my eyes as to how grateful we should be for these basic things that we don’t realise are so precious. I also felt really proud to be part of the L’Oreal family when so many of their brands, Lancome included, use their power and voice to make a positive difference.

Are you affected by this, or know someone that could use support? Visit the Literacy Trust website to learn more.

www.literacytrust.org.uk/words-for-work

Kate Winslet photo credit: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

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