Celebrating our inspirational new female supporters on International Women’s Day

Celebrating our inspirational new female supporters on International Women’s Day

Sadie White No Comment

Introducing our two new inspiring female supporters to celebrate International Women’s Day, Liz Byrnes, one of only around 12 female sports reporters in the country and Sophie Maxwell, director and founder of The Really NEET Project, a social enterprise with the purpose of opening up opportunities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and helping them to realise their dreams.

‘You can never aim too high.’ Said Sophie Maxwell to a group of young people sat intently listening to her at the Door43 Wellbeing Café this week.  ‘I’m passionate about driving positive change. So many young people get caught up in the chaotic nature of life and stray off track from reaching their potential. I believe with the right mentor and support anything is possible, the world is limitless!’ Says Sophie.

Sophie founded Really NEET with less than 20 pounds in her back pocket and has built a team of 11 passionate and dedicated staff members that go above and beyond in helping some of society’s most disadvantaged young people to believe and achieve in their education.

Sophie had many challenges along the way. ‘I have not just had to learn about running a business but also how to successfully hit difficult educational targets. Running the Really NEET Project is also quite an emotional role, you are working with young people who have been through extremely difficult circumstances, some have been abused, some have been to prison, many are homeless, some have come through the care system and many of them are suffering from mental health issues and/or learning difficulties. Every day brings a new challenge, whether it is finding funding, managing staff and ensuring their welfare, finding young people emergency accommodation, taking young people to engage with mental health services, designing the curriculum, delivering training, writing Tenders, developing strategies, liaising with stakeholders and many other elements to the role what I can say is that I have learnt so much in such a short amount of time.’ She says.

Liz Byrnes is one of around 12 female sports reporters in the UK which is not only testament to the under representation of women in this field but also paints a picture of how difficult it might seem to break into this profession to a young woman considering sports journalism as a career. Liz has carved out a successful career for herself on the national and international stage and feels it important to pass on her experiences as a female sports reporter and thriving in a world which is overwhelmingly male. Liz is also keen to point out the importance of information, advice and support gained from a mentor she had from a former Star/Telegraph editor and how without this support she may never have ended up where she is.

‘Many people are surprised when I tell them what I do and often ask about sexism within football in particular but I would like to pass on the importance of backing yourself, self-belief and persistence. The rewards I have had are enormous – I have met some great people and travelled all over the world – and I want young people to know that these roles and possibilities are out there, that we are not just faceless people from a certain walk of life, that these jobs are for them. I am passionate that everyone should have access and chances and I would like provide the sort of support and help that I had. I also want to convey that you can follow your heart and passion and that there is not just one firm way to live your life that is set in stone.’ Says Liz.

‘I struggled for quite a long time finding out what I wanted to do in life and how to go about it. I lost all confidence and felt that I would not fit in anywhere or be able to succeed. This was despite being well-qualified. I eventually chose to re-train as a journalist and I was encouraged and helped by one person in particular, a former Star/Telegraph editor in Sheffield.’

‘I fully appreciate the importance of being given practical help and advice as well as friendly support. I work across a number of sports including football where I am very often the only woman in the press room. When I first started out I felt that I had to prove myself although as I have become established and gained more experience, this has dissipated. However, I can understand that it could be overwhelming.’ Liz continues.

We’re so grateful to have such inspirational women supporting us and helping us to inspire and engage young people with the supportive services we provide.



How you can help

Our charity is dedicated to helping Sheffield's young people to reach their full potential and achieve the best out of life, whatever their starting point. To help us to do more to support young people and communities we need your help. Just remember, every penny you donate will make a difference.