Wednesday 7 March saw our second annual celebration of International Women’s Day, with a careers and networking event hosted in King George’s Hall. Attended by current and prospective Sixth Form students, as well as parents and staff, our inspirational panel of alumni shared their fascinating, and sometimes unorthodox, careers journeys, as well as personal experiences of equality in the workplace. Olivia van Lieshout (2003), a Captain for EasyJet, talked about the responsibilities, and challenges, of taking charge of an aircraft in what remains a male-dominated industry. That said, EasyJet, along with other airlines, are working hard to promote aviation as a career of choice for women, and Olivia is actively engaged in this work through talks and events, as well as their Amy Johnson initiative. Azaly Bunally (2014), a successful PR Executive, spoke of her decision not to attend university, as well as the challenges of choosing a different pathway to her peer group. Now working with market-leading brands at Ogilvy Public Relations, a part of the global advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, Azaly spoke passionately about the need to do what’s right for you, and not to feel under pressure to simply do what others expect. Our speakers ranged in background from a Head Vet (Kylie Simons, 2003) to a Chief of Staff (Becky Hall, 2000), a Political Adviser (Sophia Morrell, 2003) to a Digital Media Editor (Sarah Raphael, 2005), a Senior Policy Officer (Eleanor Williams, 2009), to a TV Journalist and Documentary Maker (Carla Prater, 1999), and a Head of Corporate Social Responsibility (Annabel Middleton, 2011). However, the messages from each were consistent – believe in yourself and your capabilities, and always lean in to opportunity. The world of work is changing rapidly, especially for women. Recent movements, such as the #metoo and #pressforprogress campaigns, mean that now more than ever the spotlight is on gender parity - and that can only be a good thing for our current Sixth Form students as they take a step closer to their future careers. A gallery of photos from the event can be viewed on our Flickr here. [UPDATE 22/03/18] Current students, Connie Beale and Millie Richardson, write about the success of the event among the student body: "On Wednesday 7 March, the girls, boys and staff of Eltham College had the privilege of attending a careers and networking event with Female Old Elthamians. The event was extremely successful and there was a clear buzz surrounding it, especially from the girls in the Sixth Form. On the panel, there were eight inspiring women and Mrs Bilsby, who was chairing the event. These women were Olivia van Lieshout, an Airline Captain for easyJet, Azaly Bunally, a PR Executive, Kylie Simons, a Vet, Becky Hall, a Chief of Staff, Sophia Morell, a Senior Political Adviser, Sarah Raphael, a Digital Media Editor, Eleanor Williams, a Policy Adviser and Carla Prater, a Journalist and Documentary Maker. To start with, each speaker gave a short introduction to their jobs, mainly focused on their career paths and what it’s like to be a woman in their line of work. Many of the women mentioned the discrimination that they faced in the workplace and it was interesting to see how this varied between the jobs. The industries each woman worked in were all so different, from veterinary medicine to journalism and aviation. As we went through the panel, questions from the audience were encouraged. Sophie Butcher asked about women’s equality in Westminster, which was directed at Senior Political Adviser, Sophia Morell, and Hannah Tompkins asked the whole panel whether being a woman has ever been beneficial in their job. This was a refreshing question, especially since there had previously been focus on the discrimination the women had faced. However, the question which really stood out was from Hannah Samual-Ogbu, who asked for advice on how to deal with self-doubt in work, a problem which many of the women had faced earlier on in their careers. The panellists were extremely encouraging and emphasised the point that you can do anything you set your mind to with hard work (and a bit of luck!). At the end of the panel we had the opportunity to network with the women over tea and biscuits. Speaking to the panellists face to face gave us a chance to ask them more questions about the things which interested us. Many people took advantage of the opportunity and managed to secure valuable work experience, which they may otherwise had never been able to get. Thank you to all the Old Elthamians on the panel and everyone who attended the event. It was a great success and I hope there will be more opportunities to take advantage of the wealth of Eltham College contacts in the future!"