Girl Power

Paying homage to International Women’s Day (8 March) we asked our new Student Union Vice Principal Abi Riem how she feels about equality.

Around 65% of our staff are female and two out of three of our Senior Management Team are women. See what they say along with Alumna Yvette Cooper, Ambassador Dawn Elson and high-flying current STEM student Rachael Murtagh.

Abi (to the right of the photo beneath the IWD logo) is a former pupil at all-girls school St Swithun’s in Winchester. She explained she was inspired to stand for Vice President as she feels Alton College fully encourages both young men and women to succeed in all they do both academically and socially. Abi, who aims to study at RADA after college is keen to follow in the footsteps of multi-award winning actress Helena Bonham Carter. Abi says she will portray a sensitive side to the Student Union and in doing so hopes to encourage everyone – male and female – to have their say on student matters.

Shadow Home Secretary and former Alton College student, Yvette Cooper campaigns daily for equality and women’s rights.  Recently she said she felt young women’s confidence was higher than 10 or 20 years ago. She said ‘in terms of expectations, in that they know they can do all kinds of jobs’. She highlighted that the pressure for then was now to ‘look a particular way’. She added that we must teach young women ‘resilience, values and respect’. Read the full story here at Red magazine.

Alton College Ambassador and Head of Engineering at Gatwick Airport, Dawn Elson has first-hand experience of studying and working in a male dominated world. In her blog for the Huffington Post she said she feels young women need to realise how they can thrive in engineering careers and how choosing STEM subjects at GCSE and A Level needs to be encouraged. She writes: ‘I truly believe that there is a fundamental lack of understanding of how wide ranging and interesting engineering can be - and importantly what great career prospects there are’. Dawn is passionate about spreading the word and increasing the number of women in engineering from 7% to double figures. Read the full story at the Huffington Post.

Current Alton College student Rachael Murtagh is excelling in her STEM A Level subjects winning a coveted place in Talent 2030 National Schools Competition for Girls. She’ll also be presenting her project at Big Bang UK Young Scientist and Engineers Award at the NEC Birmingham this month. Rachael has also been selected for the April Introductory Residential as a part of the Sutton Trust US Programme 2014 - the final could see her at Harvard or Yale for the summer. She believes studying STEM areas increase self-confidence especially for her female peers while introducing them to the world of engineering. She said: ‘It is a diverse area of study, allowing you to grasp the general ideas before providing the opportunities to later specialise.’ She adds that she would like to see more female role models in engineering, she explained: ‘Talented female professionals need to be more highly advertised to give young girls the confidence and understanding that an engineering career is open to them.’

Alton College’s Senior Management Team comprises of three members of staff, two of whom are women: Jane Machell, Principal and Sara Russell,Vice Principal. They explained that through the College Charter we aim to create an environment where staff, students and visitors are treated fairly, irrespective of age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief or sexual orientation. The charter states: ‘We are committed to creating an environment where all feel welcomed, valued as individuals and confident that they will be regarded equally. As educators we strive to develop an environment where individuals are able to develop their potential and achieve their personal, professional and educational aims.’

Find out more information on International Women’s Day 2014.