All-girls’ school leads by example

2nd April 2019

Following closely on the tail of International Women’s Day, Malvern St James Girls’ School is putting #BalanceforBetter into action with the launch of Malvern Alumnae 100, a project aimed at empowering current students with inspirational female role models, using 100 of the school’s alumnae as real-life evidence of what women can achieve in every aspect of their lives.

Malvern Alumnae 100 is about women in their 20s and 30s right through to their 70s and 80s, reaching down the life ladder to empower the next generation of female talent in the workplace and also to advise what makes for a fulfilled and happy life. It is encouraging diversity in the choices young women are making for their future careers and facilitating a more unusual or perhaps ‘typically male’ career path.

Chiming with Louise Palfreyman’s ‘Women Who Dared To Dream’, Malvern St James is showcasing its own pioneering women. This includes Susan Shaw, the first woman to walk the floor of the London Stock Exchange in the 1970s; Dame Lesley Rees, first and only female Dean of St Bart’s Medical School, and Ursula Martin, the first female professor at St Andrew’s University in its 600 year history. There are plenty of firsts amongst younger alumnae, too: the youngest female Director appointed at Baring Asset Management, the first women to be appointed into various military regiments, and the first to win the Queen’s Medal for most outstanding Officer Cadet.

Almost half of the women featured in the 100 came to the launch, to talk to students in person about what they’ve learnt on their own life path, including author, journalist and screen-writer Imogen Edwards-Jones; CFO of Talk Talk, Kate Ferry; the Permanent Secretary for Communities, Housing and Local Government, Melanie Dawes; renowned artist Emma Woffenden; and European Space Agency engineer Kotska Wallace amongst others. Headmistress Olivera Raraty says, “Malvern Alumnae 100 has come together beautifully – more inspirational, more nuanced than ever we expected or could have hoped for, to create a very personal, relatable message for our girls. The project will run for at least a year, with an exhibition of all of our 100 placed around the building so that girls are inspired as they go about their day.”

As well as careers, there is a focus on young women finding personal and professional balance, and promoting the value of social contribution. Our 100 alumnae have set up charities, sit on charity boards, or have been involved in volunteering – everything from military families assistance, school governorship, the Girl Guides organisation, and starting a nationwide charity following the death of a child – or set aside one day of their working week to volunteering.

Alumnae talk about issues such as corporate responsibility, business sustainability, balancing career and family responsibilities, and the advice to ‘live a life full of meaning’. Asked to provide their definition of success, one, Chairman of a FTSE 100 company, says, “being part of a happy family; life’s most important ‘achievement’”: profoundly different, perhaps, to what a man might think.

Malvern Alumnae 100’s message about resilience, making sure you do something which makes you happy, and not being afraid to fail, is one that all of us – young and old, student and teacher – should listen to.