Celebrating International Women's Day

Celebrating International Women's Day

It’s International Women’s Day and as a proudly co-educational establishment since 1975, we wanted to highlight just a few of the wonderful women from our alumnae community.

Our alumnae stories encompass a huge range of experiences including making a difference with social enterprise, embracing diversity, overcoming obstacles, and reaching the top of a chosen profession. Read their stories, the women they chose as their own inspiration or hear their advice below:

Holly Atkins (Tulley’s 1991)

Holly is an actor and a communication skills coach and trainer. She most recently appeared in the stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust - La Belle Sauvage at the Bridge Theatre.

Favourite inspirational woman

All the women from Clytemnestra onwards who have fought for justice and equality!

What would you say to inspire current pupils?

‘Keep on going and travel hopefully’.

Frances Bowen (Spurgeon's 1984)

I always wanted to study medicine. I remember as a five or six-year-old watching my dad who was an orthopaedic surgeon operate from an old-fashioned glass topped operating theatre & I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Certainly, at one point it looked like my grades in science would not be enough to get me into medical school but my love of classics studying Latin and Greek along with biology and chemistry put me in good stead and I was hugely supported at Alleyn’s in applying to London Medical schools with my eclectic A levels. In those days I recall the interview was mostly about my hockey achievements and what I would bring to their newly formed hockey club set up. During my medical studies and indeed my junior doctor years I found the balance of combining sport with clinical and academic work incredibly rewarding. I still wanted to do orthopaedics but was once told in theatre whilst assisting a hip replacement that women should be at home polishing their eggs! During my junior medical career, I came across several young female consultant physicians (no surgeons at that time) who were stood out as role models amongst a very male dominated world. I remember being in awe as to how they brought that little bit more empathy to their work as well as juggling family commitments and bringing up children. I think it’s important in a career such as medicine to have role models and I’m pleased that I’ve been able to be a similar role model for many female registrars who often worked less than full-time whilst bringing up families and have gone on to become consultants. In our division at work, we have a clear policy of no meetings before nine or after 5 to ensure family time is paramount and we will always support any and all of our teams when requests come in to attend school events or family events. Compared to when I started in Medicine we now have a much more balanced workforce but we are still trying to encourage more female doctors to take on senior management roles and particularly senior roles in academia. It’s about supporting colleagues, discussing imposter syndrome and supporting each other through uncertain times.

Favourite inspirational woman

Rosalind Franklin - chemist and X-ray crystallographer, most famous for her work in understanding molecular structures of DNA -for being amazing yet not recognised and my mother, widowed for so long and yet managing to raise 3 children and work despite her MS.

What would you say to inspire current pupils?

‘If you want to do or be something, go for it.’

Amy Dury (Tyson’s 1988)

Amy is a Brighton-based artist and teacher. Last year she celebrated International Women’s Day by painting a portrait of Cornelia Parker Live on the Tate Instagram account. You can watch the livestream here and view the portrait here.

Favourite inspirational woman

Maggi Hambling - uncompromising free thinker.

What would you say to inspire current pupils?

‘Find what makes you happy and trust in it!’

Francesca Forristal (Spurgeon’s 2014)

Francesca is a writer-performer and drag king.

 ‘Before I came to Alleyn's, I was ashamed of my queerness, and never saw creative arts as a viable career - 'women aren't funny...' etc.  Thank you Alleyn's, for teaching me that writing and performing was possible, and to back myself’.               

Favourite inspirational woman

Aphra Behn - international spy and first woman to make serious dollar from playwriting in the 1670s and '80s.

What would you say to inspire current pupils?

‘A word after a word after a word is power.’
—Margaret Atwood

Edith Goakes (Dutton’s 1996)

Edith is a teacher and won the Outstanding Physics Teacher Award, awarded by the Institute of Physics in 2018.

‘I studied Civil Engineering at UCL, before training to be a teacher in 2002, I worked at Alleyn's for a few years before teaching in Cambridgeshire. I then became the Head of Physics at Wimbledon High School. I now work at Eltham College and I am the Head of Junior and Lower School Science’.

Favourite inspirational woman

Maggie Aderin-Pocock, British space scientist, science communicator and presenter of the BBC’s The Sky at Night

What would you say to inspire current pupils?

‘Don't be afraid to apply for opportunities just because you think you can only do part of the job. Can you do most of it? Can you learn the rest reasonably quickly? Yes? Then go for it!’

Juliet Hindell (Brading’s 1982)

Juliet has spent her career in journalism and TV production.

‘I am still amazed to come across teams of people whether it's a marketing department or a film crew without one female member. On all my projects, I look for female talent first and I urge my peers to do the same. I would never have succeeded without support from female colleagues and mentors’.

Favourite inspirational woman

Poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou

Ella Hopkins (Cribb’s 2015)

Ella is a PhD student in Clinical Neurosciences at The University of Cambridge.

 ‘I wanted to thank the wonderful Biology teachers, especially Mrs Count who encouraged me to apply to do a Nuffield Research placement working on stem cells at Queen Mary's University in the summer holidays between Year 12 and Year 13. After being given the opportunity to work in a research lab for the first time it inspired me to choose Biochemistry for my undergraduate degree, and now I have just started a PhD in Clinical Neurosciences at The University of Cambridge. I wouldn't be where I am today without their support and I always remain appreciative of their part in my journey to where I am today’.

Favourite inspirational woman

Liliana Lubińska - she was such a brilliant researcher in Molecular Neuroscience and came up with hypotheses that I am still working on today in my PhD studies - and she did it all whilst fleeing the Nazis in WW2!

What would you say to inspire current pupils?

‘Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.’ - Marie Curie

I feel this is particularly relevant today, and I hope that students who are frustrated and want answers about why COVID has had such a disastrous impact on our world, rather than turn towards fear, instead seek to find answers and solutions through their future studies.

Amanda Lawson (Tulley’s 1993)

Amanda is the Co-Founder of Hang Loose Media Group

‘I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate to have pursued a career doing what I love and as a passionate sports fan, producing live sport and building content around superstar athletes still gets me excited. It all started when I did some work experience at London Weekend Television (LWT) when I was 16. The production team were working on a European athletics event from Crystal Palace and I ran around the OB compound delivering teas and coffees to the broadcast team. As a wide-eyed 16-year-old who loved sport, it amazed me that people did this for a job and I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

After studying Film and English at UEA, I got a job as a Production Assistant at a TV studio in Wandsworth. This enabled me to gain all the knowledge and experience I needed to apply for my first dream job in sport - Production Manager on Premiership Football. Since those early days on PL, I’ve been lucky enough to work across a multitude of sports and have overseen production on 3 FIFA World Cups, 3 UEFA European Championships and 2 rugby World Cups.  My role as Head of Production Operations for ITV Sport gave me the opportunity to travel the world in order to bring live sport to the masses and I met some amazing athletes along the way.

In 2013, I launched myself into the fight game to become Director of Production for UFC across EMEA and was the first to spotlight a certain unknown Irish fighter, Conor McGregor at the start of his journey to superstardom. After fighting came gaming and I’ve spent the last 5 years producing esports – FIFA, Rocket League, Streetfighter, Valorant, to name but a few. The time has now come to channel my energy & experience into launching my own business, Hang Loose Media Group which specialises in sport and esports production in the hope that I can grow it into a global media brand’.

Favourite inspirational woman

I come across inspirational women every day whether that be in business, socially or in the media. To choose one would be impossible for me. It’s just amazing to see so many strong female leaders across all walks of life that girls can look up to and be inspired by.

What would you say to inspire current pupils?

Don’t give up on your dreams no matter how crazy they may seem. It might be hard at times but you can get there if you believe in yourself and if you tackle everything with a positive attitude!

Alisha Meertins (Cribb’s 2004)

Alisha is a Forensic Psychologist

‘An anxiety disorder saw me having to leave Alleyn’s earlier than I wanted to and had planned.  I was worried that, being unable to take the traditional route (GCSE’s, A Levels, University), my desire to build a successful career would never come to fruition.  However, having worked hard to overcome my anxiety I have been able to complete an undergraduate degree in psychology, masters degree in clinical forensic psychology and postgraduate diploma in practitioner forensic psychology.  Now, working as a forensic psychologist for the prison service, I have achieved my goal of building a successful career and this, in part, is due to the foundation that Alleyn’s provided’.

Favourite inspirational woman

My mother - who worked hard as a single parent to provide me the best start in life and gave me the opportunity to go to a school such as Alleyn’s.

What would you say to inspire current pupils?

‘For some of you, when you are in the moment it may seem like it will never get better. The pressures mount and it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But life has a funny way of working out. Your path might not be as straight as the person next to you, but it will reach an end where you’ll gain what you wanted or something even better. Have trust in the journey, have trust in yourselves and most importantly have fun along the way’.

Laura North (Brading's 1997)

My fear of speaking in front of people kicked in at the age of 12 in the middle of a talk in front of my class at school. When I saw someone looking extremely bored in the front row, all my speaking confidence drained away and never really came back.

More recently, I found out that over 50% of students don't feel confident sharing ideas in class. To make things worse, young people from deprived areas are twice as likely to have communication difficulties.

This was the main motivation to set up We Speak. Our 4-week online programme is designed for sixth formers and university students who lack speaking confidence. We train corporate employees in communication and mentoring skills to support the students in their confidence-building journey.

Favourite inspirational woman

I’d like to choose one of our students as my favourite inspirational women. Aisha originally wanted to be a barrister but gave up on the idea due to her fear of speaking in front of people. She increased her confidence by 50% during the programme and is now working as a Workshop Leader with us. She is now aspiring to be a barrister again and is studying for a postgraduate law degree.

What would you say to inspire current pupils?

‘Being yourself when speaking is the most important thing. You don’t need to be ‘confident’ you just need to be authentic and find things you care about. I’ve been terrified about speaking most of my life but I can talk about We Speak because it matters’.

Faith Locken (Roper's 2011)

Faith Locken is a Chartered Commercial Surveyor and Residential Development & Regeneration specialist. As a Development Manager, Faith manages the delivery of a 1000+ residential unit regeneration scheme in North London, working in partnership with the local authority to regenerate the estate and deliver much needed affordable and private housing.

In 2020, Faith founded We Rise In, a business whose mission is to inspire, elevate, and develop the careers of mid-senior level black professionals whilst promoting inclusion, equity, and diversity in corporate industries. We Rise In provides mentorship and leadership programmes that help black professionals hone the tools and skill sets they need to aspire to achieve positions of seniority in their career.

We Rise In also works with corporates to address and improve the lack of diversity at the senior levels within their organisations.

Favourite inspirational woman

Michelle Obama

What would you say to inspire current pupils?

‘You're never too young or old to start a business, particularly if it is something you are passionate about. The one piece of advice I would give to an aspiring business owner is to just start and figure it out as you go along. If you wait for things to be perfect and for everything to align, you could be waiting forever. If you approach starting your business in small steps, it won't seem so daunting and will be more manageable.’

Michelle Terry (Roper's 1992)

‘I attended Alleyn’s from 1987 -1992. I studied Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and then had an educational and fun ‘Gap’ year working as an intern at American Express in New York. I followed a rather traditional path into the legal profession. I secured my Pupillage on the first round of applications, shortly after completing Bar School. I only applied to one set of Chambers for my Pupillage, and it happened to be where I had undertaken a mini-pupillage - it was a good fit. I secured my place the year after I completed Bar school and I have been a practising barrister ever since.

I have been a barrister for over 20 years and I still thoroughly enjoy what I do. People ask me why I chose to pursue a career in law and I reply, ‘I didn’t, it chose me’. From a very early age I felt compelled to speak up for what I believed was right, especially when I felt that the person affected could not do so for themselves. I guess, I am still doing that now. Being an advocate is hard work and challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding. I have dabbled in a lot of different areas of the law, but currently I practice in professional discipline relating to the conduct of accountants.

I loved my time as an Alleyn’s student and that is one of the reasons I decided to become a Governor. Another reason was to be a visual representation of what the school aspires to be - inclusive and representative of the society in which we live.

I am a woman, I am black and I am Alleyn’s’.

Favourite inspirational woman

Mrs Merle Terry - Mother. Nurse. Health Visitor. Friend. Teacher. Comforter. Inspiration.

What would you say to inspire current pupils?

‘Find a job you enjoy doing and you will never have to work a day in your life’ - Mark Twain