Interview: Co-founders of Girl Talk speak to TCS

Image credit: Sophie Buck

So, Girl Talk: give a brief overview of who you are?

We are Kitty Grady and Alina Khakoo, fourth-year MMLers at Jesus and Emma, best friends and co-founders of Cambridge Girl Talk, an initiative that holds free talks by inspiring female figures for audiences of self-identifying women at the University.

What is the aim of Girl Talk and why did you set it up?

We came up with the idea for Girl Talk while we were having dinner together last term. We felt fed up with the way talks at Cambridge are so often given by men, and the way the Union is so expensive to join but people never feel like they are getting their money’s worth. On the notes section of our phones, we starting furiously brainstorming lists of inspiring women who we would invite and from there Girl Talk was born. To the rest of the restaurant we must have just seemed like screen-happy millennials. It was so uplifting just to write down all the names of all these incredible women. The aim of Girl Talk is principally careers-focused. With frank conversations about how these women got to where they are today, discussing their successes, challenges and aims, we want to inspire our female peers to become the high-achievers and go-getters we know they will go on to be.

What can we expect from this first term’s events?

We have two exciting events set up: ‘Women in the Art World’ with Louise Jeffreys, director of the Barbican and Alice Black director of the Design Museum and ‘Women in Fashion’ with Jane Shepherdson, former CEO of Whistles, Ellie Pithers, fashion features editor of British Vogue and Kerry Taylor, fashion historian and auctioneer. We have also recruited some very talented students and academics from across the University to chair the events.

Have you been disappointed by the lack of inclusivity of other Cambridge societies when it comes to speakers?

Absolutely. While we think what TED stands for is fantastic, when their two main speakers were announced last term and they were both men called Andrew – well, we just knew something was wrong. When you’re a student at Cambridge you are always told that you are destined for big things, but when 95% of the College Masters and Presidents are male and every single portrait hung in your Hall is of a white man, women are subliminally being told that the top positions aren’t meant for us. It’s so important to have role models we can fully identify with and opportunities to network and seek out success. We know we will get criticism for making our events female-only, but it’s so important to have spaces and forums exclusively for self-identifying women. That’s why we love the name Girl Talk – it’s fun and lighthearted, but it encapsulates the woman-to-woman discussion that forms the core of our initiative. Men don’t always understand this but as a woman, when you are in a room surrounded by men, you just feel that bit more reluctant to ask a question. We want the female voice to feel totally uninhibited.

The speakers you’ve chosen seem to be very much successful within their own industries rather than being big celebrity names. How did you choose the speakers for your events?

We sort of started, somewhat selfishly, by exploring the areas we are interested in. Alina hopes to work in the art world one day whilst I want to work in fashion and we both have a general interest in journalism so it sort of came naturally that those were the people we wanted to hear speak. Next term we hope to invite women from business, sport, science and other diverse areas.

What do you see as the future for Girl Talk? Do you want it to become a permanent fixture on the Cambridge speaker scene?

We hope there is a long future ahead for Girl Talk! We already have some extremely exciting speakers lined up for Easter term. It’s mine and Alina’s final year but we hope to recruit a new committee for the next year. We also have some dream speakers – Michelle Obama presumably has a bit of extra spare time on her hands these days…! 

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