Celebrating International Women's Day

Tuesday 8th March is International Women's Day in a year which sees two special anniversaries for Sheffield alumnae. 2016 marks 75 years since Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia and 25 years since Helen Sharman became the first British person to go into space. To celebrate International Women's Day, we've profiled ten inspirational Sheffield alumnae who have achieved outstanding success in a wide variety of fields.

The Rt Hon Lady Justice Rafferty

The Rt Hon Lady Justice Rafferty

To start with we our very own Chancellor. Lady Justice Rafferty graduated from our School of Law in 1968, qualified as a barrister in 1973, and became a QC in 1990. She later became the first woman to chair the Criminal Bar Association and in 2000 she was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Justice. In 2011 Lady Justice Rafferty became a Lord Justice of Appeal following her appointment to the Court of Appeal of England and Wales.

Through her career Lady Justice Rafferty has presided over several high-profile cases including the trial of Paul Burrell, the examination of the fallibility of expert medical witnesses (and the calling into question of over 250 cases in which parents were accused of killing their babies), and the trial of Sion Jenkins. 

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi. Image credit Women in Parliaments Global Forum and the European Parliament

Dr Amal Al-Qubaisi

Dr Al-Qubaisi is a graduate of the Sheffield School of Architecture and last year made history by becoming the first woman in the Arab world to be elected as President and Speaker of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Federal National Council (FNC). Prior to her political career Dr Al-Qubaisi was a distinguished architect with a focus on preserving the architectural heritage of the UAE. As a member of the FNC she plays a major role in the UAE, as well as being a leading advocate for women’s issues in the UAE.

Image courtesy of The Women in Parliaments Global Forum, WIP and Copyright European Parliament. Source: flic.kr/p/icTtW3

Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson

Amy graduated from the University in 1925 having studied Latin, French & Economics. After graduating she pursued her passion for flying, obtaining her pilots license, and qualifying as the first British female ground engineer. In 1930 she completed her most famous endurance flight and became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia. She returned home to a hero’s welcome and received a CBE for her daring actions.

Amy continued flying commercially until the outbreak of World War Two, when she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary. As a trained pilot (though ineligible for RAF service) she served by ferrying aircraft from factories to RAF bases. It was during one of these flights in 1941 that Amy’s plane crashed in to the Thames, where she died.

Jessica Ennis-Hill. Credit flic.kr/p/fnVQna

Jessica Ennis-Hill

Psychology graduate Jessica is a world champion heptathlete who won Olympic gold at London 2012 and is now setting her sights on Rio 2016. Born in Sheffield, she started training at the age of 9 and continued all through her studies until she graduated in 2007.

After an 18 month break to have her first child she returned to the track in May 2015, and went on to win at the World Championships with only a few months of preparation under her belt.

Image source: flic.kr/p/fnVQna

Helen Sharman. Credit Thomas Angus, College Photographer and Image Manager, Imperial College London

Helen Sharman

Helen is an alumna from the Department of Chemistry who was born and raised in Sheffield, and was the first Briton in space. She was the first woman to visit the Mir space station, and conducted various experiments about the effects of weightlessness on physical, chemical and biological systems. Helen also had a large part sharing her role and work with the British public. She has since become a leading ambassador for science, and has also overseen a range of specialist facilities and laboratories used for teaching and research.

Image credit: Thomas Angus, College Photographer and Image Manager, Imperial College London

Lucy Prebble

Lucy Prebble

Lucy is an award winning playwright, best known for her play ENRON, telling the story of the rise and fall of the worldwide energy company. While studying in the Department of English Lucy had a keen interest in theatre, spending much of her time around the University Drama Studio. During her final year she won the 'Most Promising Playwright Award' at the National Student Drama Festival.

Since graduating she has gone on to create the ‘Secret Diary of a Call Girl’ TV series, write for the Guardian, and her most recent play ‘The Effect’ in 2012 is still touring.

Penny Hughes

Penny Hughes

Penny studied chemistry and economics at the University and after graduation joined Proctor and Gamble, and later the Milk Marketing board, as a product manager. In 1987 she was appointed Marketing Director of Coca-Cola and Schweppes, and in 1992 became President of Coca-Cola in Great Britain.

After leaving Coca-Cola in 1995 Penny developed her portfolio of interests, becoming a non-executive director of Vodafone, Enodis (formerly Berisford), Trinity Mirror, the GAP, Next, the Body Shop, and Reuters. Currently she is a non-executive director with the Home Retail Group, Morrisons and RBS. Beyond this she also manages to find time to be a trustee of the British Museum. In 2011 she was awarded a CBE for services to the media industry.

Claire McGourlay

Claire McGourlay

Professor McGourlay joined the University’s School of Law in 2002 after completing her PhD at Sheffield. In 2008 she became a senior lecturer and was the first person in the Faculty of Social Science to become a Professor of Student Education. In 2015 she was awarded with a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy as one of the top teachers in the country.

As well as her inspirational teaching, Professor McGourlay manages the University’s student-led Miscarriages of Justice Review Centre, which provides Sheffield law students with the opportunity to investigate cases of convicted people maintaining their innocence, who have exhausted the initial appeals process.

Rosie Valerio

Rosie Valerio

Rosie is a graduate of the Department of French, the University's former Director of Human Resources, and someone passionately committed to an inclusive culture. Rosie joined the University as Director of Human Resource Management in 1994, having previously been International HR Director for Oxfam. Her combination of experience, wisdom and progressive instincts led to recognition of the University’s Human Resources department as a national leader, and instilling a culture which aims to nurture talent regardless of its source.

To mark her retirement she established the Portrait of a Woman prize to recognise the outstanding contribution of the thousands of remarkable female staff and students at the University.

Vanessa Lawrence

Vanessa Lawrence

Vanessa completed her undergraduate degree in the Department of Geography in the mid-1980s. Her career has taken her through publishing and working on information systems that provide spacial data and its analysis, before her most significant appointment with the Ordnance Survey (OS). In 2000 she became the youngest, and first female, head of the OS, a position she held until 2014. She is now the Co-Chair of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management.

Image source: bit.ly/1Riezqc

Click here for more Latest News