12 July 2019
School girls from 150 Girls’ Schools Association (‘GSA’) schools have selected a shortlist of eight women in the public eye for their new Woman of the Year awards. GSA President, Sue Hincks, says the shortlist shows that girls are beginning to understand it’s okay not to be perfect and that what matters is how you deal with life’s set-backs.
The shortlist consists of top British fashion model, Adwoah Aboah; American computer scientist Dr Katie Bouman; BBC Blue Planet II producer Orla Doherty; journalist and documentary maker Stacey Dooley; philanthropist Katie Piper; Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg; professional tennis champion Serena Williams; and Nobel Peace Prize co-recipient, the education activist Malala Yousafzai, who attended GSA school Edgbaston High after moving to the UK.
GSA President, Sue Hincks, says:
“The shortlist includes women with multi-faceted interests embracing diverse walks of life from fashion to broadcasting to political campaigning. The one thing they all seem to have in common is the ability to overcome adversity and to show strength in the face of difficult circumstances. Whether that strength manifests itself in rising to the top of your field in a male-dominated profession, meeting criticism head-on, or refusing to be silenced or side-lined, all eight shortlisted women are indicative of the fact that the current generation of girls and young women in our schools understands that it’s okay not to be perfect: what matters is how you learn and grow as a result of whatever life throws at you. In that respect, these women are excellent role models and highly relevant to young women today.”
The ultimate winner of the GSA Woman of the Year award will be announced at the Girls’ Schools Association’s annual conference in November.
Top British fashion model
Founded the online support platform Gurls Talk, following her personal experiences managing her own mental health.
“As a young black British female, I think Adwoa Aboah is a great role model. Not only has she been highly successful in her field, she has had to overcome things, like her battle with depression from a young age. I love how she hasn’t hidden it from the media and is trying to bring mental health into the mainstream through her organisation Gurls Talk. In an industry where so many people expect you to look or act a certain way, it’s really nice to see someone being so honest about their insecurities, and to see her speak up for young people with mental health issues.”
Keisha Frimpong (age 17), Woldingham School (Woldingham, Surrey)
Dr Katie Bouman
American computer scientist
Led the development of an algorithm for imaging black holes and was a member of the Event Horizon Telescope team that captured the first image of a black hole.
“We were all very
inspired by Dr Katie Bouman. We conducted extensive research into all
that she has achieved and learnt a great deal ourselves. She is such an
inspirational role model for someone so young and has achieved so much already
in her career.”
Isabella, deputy head girl Rosie, head girl Chelsea and Elanor, (age 17/18), Manor House School (Little Bookham, Surrey)
BBC producer and underwater filming expert
Produced the BBC’s Deep Sea episode of the award-winning Blue Planet II series.
“Growing up on the island of Guernsey, I have always been surrounded by the ocean, and have been lucky enough to be able to swim in the sea often and learn to scuba dive. Orla Doherty’s fearless travel to the depths of Antarctica, and the story of how she learnt to dive and gained a passion for marine life, going on to make Blue Planet II – which impacted millions of people and kicked off a global movement for marine conservation – really helped me realise that any small things I can do, such as beach cleans and being aware of how I use the ocean, can make a real difference and help to save the sea and marine life I have grown up with and love.”
Danielle Parr (age 18), The Ladies College (Saint Peter Port, Guernsey)
Stacey Dooley MBE
British journalist and social issues documentary filmmaker
Appointed MBE in 2018 for services to broadcasting, including BBC Three documentaries about child labour and women in developing countries.
“I find Stacey Dooley inspirational. As a woman in
the 21st century it can be hard to speak out on controversial topics in the
media and I believe Stacey has played a very important role in bringing light
to differing global issues in her ground-breaking documentaries. I feel her
work in educating others is extremely important and something all young women
can learn from.”
Jess Wilmot (age 17), Westfield School (Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear)
Philanthropist, TV presenter and former model
Founded the Katie Piper Foundation to help victims of burns and other disfigurement injuries, after undergoing pioneering surgery to restore her own face and vision following an acid attack.
“My Woman of the Year vote is for Katie Piper because of her bravery after the acid attack. She is an inspiration to young girls to follow their dreams no matter what their circumstances are.”
Charlotte Ayers (age 15), Palmer’s Green High School (north London)
Swedish climate change activist
Initiated the school strike for climate movement, an international movement of school students who are deciding not to attend classes and instead take part in demonstrations to demand action to prevent further global warming and climate change.
“I first heard about Greta Thunberg in the news and in the newspaper, First News. I found her interesting and read a bit more about her. I voted for Greta because she cares. She cares about her future, my future and everybody on this planet’s future. That’s why she protested. She inspires me because I would like my world to be eco-aware just like she wants her world to be.”
Imogen Lewis (age 11), Portsmouth High School (Southsea, Portsmouth)
American professional tennis player
Ranked world No. 1 in singles on eight separate occasions by the Women’s Tennis Association.
“Serena Williams shows me that with hard work I can get to the top. She’s from an ethnic minority like myself yet she still managed to get to the top even in a male dominated industry. I believe that she’s a role model to both girls and boys, due to her hard work and efforts to become top in her field. Her accomplishments speak way louder than words. A quote from Serena Williams that I found so influential is ‘I really believe that a champion is defined not by their wins, but how they can recover when they fall.’”
Budour (age 17), Cobham Hall (Cobham, Kent)
Pakistani activist for female education
Became a prominent activist for the right to education after being shot by a Taliban gunman in retaliation for her views; co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Malala attended Edgbaston High School – a GSA school – after moving to the UK.
“Malala Yousafzai has inspired us every day to fight for our education. Even if we don’t take a bullet to the head, we can still make a difference in female education around the world, just like Malala. The last slide in our school presentation on Malala read: ‘She has done something for you, now you can do something for her.’”
Anika Sundeep (age 12) and Emmy Dobson (age 11), Newcastle High School for Girls (Newcastle upon Tyne)
Image: GSA Woman of the Year 2019 shortlist: L-R: Malala Yousafzai pic 2015 By DFID – UK Department for International Development – Malala Yousafzai Education for girls, CC BY 2.0; Stacey Dooley pic Creative Commons; Katie Piper pic Creative Commons; Greta Thunberg pic 2018 creative commons By Jan Ainali – still picture out of FileGreta Thunberg i Bryssel.webm, CC BY-SA 4.0; Serena Williams pic 2013 US Open By Edwin Martinez – CC BY 2.0; Adwoa Aboah pic By LOVE Magazine – Big Sister Episode 2 – Edie Campell, rumours CC BY 3.0. Also nominated Dr Katie Bouman and Orla Doherty.