Nicky Morgan: On International Women's Day, this is the letter I wish I could give to my 10-year-old self

'It may be hard to see it sometimes but you have great ideas and you shouldn’t be afraid to share them – even when other people might not agree with you'

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The Independent Online

Dear Nicky,

Here are the things I wish I’d known when I was 10. You should never hold back in giving your opinion – it’s important to always stand up for what you believe in and not just agree with those around you. It may be hard to see it sometimes but you have great ideas and you shouldn’t be afraid to share them, even when other people might not agree with you. At school, girls sometimes find it hard to speak up. Be brave and always take credit for your own ideas and views.

I have learned as I’ve grown up that it’s too easy to worry that others are looking at you, or judging you, but most of the time they are just getting on with their own lives. 

There will always be people who try to deter you or crush your confidence but don’t let them knock you back. Focus on gaining the support of the people you respect. The people who matter will want to support you, so don’t fail to try something for the crippling fear that you’ll make yourself look different or stand out – everyone is unique. Never be afraid to ask questions or ask for help; this is a sign of strength and an essential part of learning.

I’ve also realised that nobody has all the answers, so however grown-up or experienced other people seem, they are still working out how to find the right way in life or make the right choices. As you get older you’ll realise that it’s important to embrace new experiences. These days no one has a job for life, so make sure you keep learning new skills, meeting new people and are open to new opportunities.

Be driven; never let anyone set limits on your ambition. In fact, I don’t remember the people around me in 1982 expecting much in the way of careers for young women. But in 2017 there are no “boy” jobs or “girl” jobs – just the right job for you.

Don’t allow other people’s views to sway your choices and don’t just follow the crowd. You may not believe in 1982 that computers and the internet are the future but technology is developing very quickly. In the future we will need women to work in these industries and help build future technology. Engineering might not seem like a career option for a girl right now, but gender stereotypes will be challenged, encouraging women to work in a much wider range of jobs. Don’t be afraid of maths and science subjects at school. Take the time to explore career opportunities in emerging digital and technological industries. It’s good to be challenged to do something you don’t know how to do, you’ll come out stronger at the end of it.

You will face hurdles in your career; you’ll be a candidate in Loughborough for six and half years before you get voted in and at times you will think, “am I ever going to get there?”. Remember the three Ps (perseverance, positivity and passion) and in the future, you will stand up in schools across the country and tell other children your age about what these values mean to you.

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Most things worth having in life are achieved through hard work and a lot of effort – whether we are talking about happy relationships or successful careers. Remain positive and stick to your goals. Take up hobbies, find something you’re passionate about and if you’re determined, it will become something you do as a job. You will fulfil your ambitions of becoming an MP and be privileged to serve in government and sit around the Cabinet table. This is all a long way off, so for now make sure you focus on doing well at school and doing things you enjoy.

Being competitive is good – aim high! Having setbacks is normal; you will make mistakes, but it’s important to learn from them and know how to get back up again.

Above all, stay open to learning and remember to have fun. Try not to wish your life away. At the moment all you want is to be a teenager but you’ll never be 10 again, so enjoy it. You can achieve whatever you set mind to.

All the best

Nicky

Nicky Morgan is the former education secretary and Conservative MP for Loughborough. She is speaking at the KidZania London International Women's Fair this week

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