Joanne Jackson, Olympic Swimmer, shares her tips for success


In the wake of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic games, there is no better time to highlight and celebrate the outstanding achievements of women in sport. Despite the focus on the contribution of female athletes to British sporting success, there are concerns that many young girls are still not actively engaging in sport. As role models for the younger generation, this is something female athletes can help to change. One such role model is Joanne Jackson, British swimmer:

“I was born in North Yorkshire and attended Richmond Secondary School. As a young girl, I loved to swim and wanted to follow in my sister’s footsteps, Nicola and become an Olympic swimmer. I believe in the importance of commitment, hard work and determination. This is what enabled me to achieve my dreams, and that is why I like to share my story with young people – which is what I will be doing on ‘Live Sport Talks’ on the 22nd September at the Globe Academy in London.

I have had lots of success on the international stage throughout my career, winning silver, bronze and gold medals for my performances in major competitions including the Commonwealth Games, World Championships and European Championships. One of my greatest achievements came in 2008 when I won an Olympic bronze medal in Beijing, going on to break two world records in the 400m freestyle the following year. I was only 17 when I first went to the Olympics.

I was forced to retire from the sport after the 2012 Olympic Games because of injury but I have since gone on to set up my own swimming academy and am also an athlete mentor for the Dame Kelly Holmes trust and the Youth Sport Trust. It gives me great satisfaction to inspire other young people to aim high and achieve their hopes and aspirations.”

‘Inspiring Women in Business & Enterprise’ at London Stock Exchange


Today 125 state school girls had the opportunity to participate in a ‘career speed networking’ event with high profile women in business and enterprise at London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) and had the rare opportunity to participate in the iconic market opening.

The UK boasts some fantastic female business leaders and entrepreneurs and the gap between the number of men and women is closing. However, the achievements of women in business is not always sufficiently acknowledged and celebrated. Research also shows that young women at school have little idea about the career options open to them and what the huge array of job titles and roles really entail and how to get these jobs.

The event hosted by Xavier Rolet, CEO, London Stock Exchange Group and Air Vice-Marshal Elaine West CBE, Trustee and Ambassador of the Inspiring Women Campaign brought together state school girls from Kent, London, Essex and Hertfordshire and high profile women working in UK Business and Enterprise.

Financial News’ sixth Women in Finance Survey found that when asked ‘What impact your gender had on your chances of a successful career?’ 50% of respondents said ‘a slight hindrance’, 14% said ‘a strong hindrance’ and only 1.4% said that it had been ‘very beneficial’. The consensus is that the best remedy is to get more women into the sector, and importantly rising up the ranks, thereby becoming role models to younger generations.

Manifesto for Girls’ Rights Launches in Wales


Kayla is thirteen years old. She attends a local comprehensive school in a small community in a South Wales valley. She’s considering a career as a hairdresser, or maybe a pop star. She’s an average girl, from an average place. Does she have a voice?
Girls like Kayla have inspired me for many years to do more to support young women in Wales, and further afield across the UK. Often going unheard and their needs unrecognised, too many young women are not given the opportunities they need to grow into confident, resilient, well-equipped women. Indeed, we often wait until girls become women to tell them they can be leaders, higher-wage earners, community activists and ‘have it all’.

For me this work is a personal mission. After working for the Girl Scouts of America in the USA, and subsequently becoming an ambassador for US-organisation Girl Rising, I knew I had to do more for girls closer to home. Very few girl-focused organisations and initiatives exist in Wales, and yet the problems facing young women are rising: more girls in Wales are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) than boys, which present longer-term problems too, as girls become locked into cycles of early parenthood and poverty.

Raising awareness of girls’ rights and needs is key, and so my organisation Full Circle Education, a Cardiff-based social enterprise, launched a Girls’ Rights Manifesto at our ‘Keeping It Equal’ event last month with 500 young women in attendance from across South Wales and the West of England.

The manifesto is a declaration of what we want to achieve for girls in Wales, and is a step towards my goal of growing the services for girls in Wales and raising awareness of the barriers that still exist for young women in one of the richest nations on the planet.

You could be forgiven for thinking that we don’t need to really talk about girls’ rights in the UK, after all, our girls can go to school, can access healthcare, can go on to university, and make choices about their lives, unlike the 62 million girls around the world who don’t even receive an education.

But at the same time, the UK has the highest teenage birth and abortion rates in Western Europe, and only 6% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female. Almost a third of girls experience unwanted sexual touching in UK schools, and 1 in 3 teenage girls report having experienced sexual violence from a boyfriend.

At Full Circle we want to shout about these challenges, and encourage others to do the same. We’ll be asking organisations to support our manifesto, and taking it to the Welsh Government to ask ministers to pledge their support.

Our manifesto says that girls should have:
• A better education
• A voice
• A safe community
• A fulfilling future
• Freedom of choice

We want every young person to have access to equal rights and opportunities, regardless of their gender, to ensure the UK is a prosperous and fair nation. To learn more about the manifesto or to pledge your support please get in touch with Full Circle.

Nikki Giant is the founder of Full Circle Education and ambassador for US organisation Girl Rising.

Connect with her on LinkedIn at


A women invented the bullet proof vest – let’s hope female scientists no longer need them


Despite progress being made in terms of equal opportunities and equal pay for women, young, ambitious females can still face a difficult decision when making their career choice due to perceived ‘male-dominated’ industries. As we previously reported, over a third of teenage girls in the UK think their gender will harm their future career prospects. This is particularly disappointing given that most male-dominated professions boast a skill set that women could perform as well as, if not better than, men.

One such profession is engineering. The world of engineering is vast and open, with engineers required in many different industries and lines of work — everything from computing, to space exploration, to national defence. The job involves critical thinking, advanced problem solving, and intricate, expert crafting — despite these being character traits traditionally associated with the female gender, engineering is perceived as a male profession. Luckily this is changing, and there has never been a better time for young women to be considering a career in engineering.

The essential engineer
An engineer can be the unsung hero of many original projects, and while you may have only considered engineering in terms of manual work, greasy overalls, and a wrench, this sells the profession short significantly. Engineers will design, manufacture, and maintain all different aspects of a project, and this extends to many types of industries. It is a complicated, highly skilled role that will be respected in its workplace.

Mechanical engineering, for example, involves the designing and maintaining of machines — from everything as large as steam-powered pistons, to the intricate pattern of tiny cogs found in your wrist watch. Chemical engineering, on the other hand, involves using chemistry to transform raw materials into new functional compounds. Given how broad the spectrum is for both of these lines of work, the application for engineering work is limitless, hence job opportunities being great in number.

Small changes, big differences
Engineering isn’t about reinventing the wheel of course, and the most esteemed engineers will spot an opportunity to make small changes to something that will yield a hugely positive result. For example, forklift supplier Impact Handling recently won the FLTA Environmental Award for Excellence in recognition of their CarerZ80H. This was due to mechanical changes that promoted reduced levels of vibration and noise as well as lower energy consumption. While the engineer on this project hasn’t saved the world as such, the impact that this change could have on energy consumption in the forklift industry alone is huge, and well worthy of the recognition.

Go your own way
While engineering does require expert training and tutelage, there are several different routes you can take to enter the profession. The two primary routes are the graduate route and the apprenticeship route. There is no right or wrong way, and your decision should depend on the type of person you are and how you prefer to learn — learning is always the most important element in anything you do.

Those who are more academically inclined should perhaps consider going down the higher education route — college and undergraduate study will more than likely be fully funded, but if you wish to work in a particularly specific area of engineering, you may eventually have to also study at a post-graduate level, which could be costly.

Engineering apprenticeships are ideal for those who prefer learning on the job, honing practical skills, and receiving a career-specific education. Apprenticeships allow young people to secure formal, recognised qualifications while also receiving full on-the-job training. What’s more, they will also feel the short-term benefit of receiving a wage while they do it. While apprenticeships are mainly taken up by boys, there is no reason why young women cannot consider this route an attractive option. Research from Demos (as reported here by All About School Leavers) suggests that further encouragement for females to undertake apprenticeships could eventually narrow the gender pay gap — this is something that should be emphasised in schools across the country.

Role models
Consider the role of inspirational women such as the late Stephanie Kwolek (her obituary can be read here in The Guardian), whose work in chemical engineering lead to the production of Kevlar. The use of the ultra-durable Kevlar in bulletproof vests has literally saved thousands of lives, while the inclusion of the material in aeroplane fuselages has necessitated the ease of modern air travel. Kwolek was only offered the position in 1946 due to the amount of men away at war, and while she may have stood out like a sore thumb, she used her opportunity to research and invent something that changed the world.

With the opportunities you have ahead of you, and the support to help you along the way, there is no reason why those interested should not pursue a career in engineering, regardless of their gender.

Mentors matter


UN Women Global Champion and UK ambassador for the global movement ‘Empower Women’, Charlene Laidley’s mother told her aged 14 “stop thinking above your station”.

I have always been unbound by the limitations imposed on me by others and by the circumstances around me. I was called a ‘dreamer’ when at 14, I told my single mother who was working three jobs to support me and my younger brothers, that one day I was going to go to New York and work in the luxury fashion industry – she laughed and told me to stop thinking “above my station”. Herself being the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, and watching her own mother struggle to survive in the UK, it was outside the realm of what she thought was possible.

With the help and support of my school teacher Mrs Webb, who I now know to be my first mentor, I applied for a scholarship to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and through hard work and determination I succeeded. Four years later, after instrumental roles with Burberry and Clarins, I became the first woman of colour to join the senior leadership team of LVMH Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy – the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate.

In 2007 I became an entrepreneur, and at age 26 signed The Mayor of London, Ken Livingston as my first client. After he left office in 2008, spotting a gap in the watch and jewelry market, I launched my current business; Latiénne the world’s first exclusive watch and jewelry communications consultancy. Over the last 8 years we have represented a number of world’s leading organizations; including Unilever, P&G Braun, Porsche Design, Hatton Garden, Girard-Perregaux, Eterna and Vivienne Westwood.

My experiences made me realise that whilst we cannot determine where we start in life, we can determine where we end up.

I strongly believe mentors matter and that women role-models from diverse backgrounds matter. That’s why I have dedicated the last 10 years of my life to the economic empowerment of women in the UK. By making time to go out into the community; working with schools and young people, by providing mentoring, sponsorship and training – I share with them my experiences and the lessons I have learned with the aim of helping them believe that they have what it takes to become a leader in whatever field they choose. I am living proof that it is possible to overcome hardship and the challenges of society to excel and succeed.

In November 2015, I became an appointed UN Women Global Champion and UK ambassador for the global movement Empower Women. The mission of Empower Women is to empower women to achieve their full economic potential by inspiring both women and men to become advocates, change makers and leaders in their community. Together I believe we can bring hope and inspiration to empower girls and young women from all parts of society, to become the World’s future leaders.


Help us to #RedrawThe Balance

A new film reveals the reality of gender stereotyping amongst primary school children. When asked to draw a firefighter, surgeon and a fighter pilot, 61 pictures were drawn of men and only 5 were female. Please could you help raise awareness of this deep-seated issue by forwarding the film to friends and colleagues. Share on social media using ‪#‎RedrawTheBalance‬ or retweeting our tweet @Edu_employers and @PrimaryFutures

Join us and pledge an hour to speak informally with children about your job at a local state school. Sign up now at

Yang Lan to be a patron of the Inspiring Women Campaign in China


One of China’s most successful businesswomen, Yang Lan, has agreed to become the Chinese patron of the newly launched Inspiring Women China initiative.

Yang Lan is a self-made entrepreneur and is highly influential within the Chinese media. As chair of the Sun Media Group and the Sun Culture Foundation, Ms Yang started her journalism career by establishing China’s longest-running in-depth talk show, Yang Lan One on One, in which she has interviewed more than 800 leading figures all around the world. The show’s weekly average viewership is around 15 to 20 million people.

In 2005, she created Her Village, a TV talk show targeting a Chinese female audience. The show has since developed into a multimedia community intended to empower women. Her Village brings together China’s largest community of professional women – more than 200 million people.

Ms Yang is also leading a movement to encourage the growth of philanthropy: she founded the Sun Culture Foundation in 2005 to raise awareness of poverty and to promote cross-cultural communication. She also organised a meeting in Beijing and that brought together Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to discuss philanthropy with 30 of China’s billionaire families.

This announcement will be made at a reception in Beijing hosted by the British Council to mark International Women’s Day, which will bring together senior representatives from education, culture, sport and philanthropy sectors.

Watch the video of Yang Lan talking about the Inspiring Women campaign in China

Visit British Council web page: