Alumna of the Year 2023

The Alumna of the Year award recognises the many varied achievements of our alumnae. We received a record number of entries – and votes – this year and struggled to narrow down our 54 amazing nominees to eight. So, we increased the shortlist to 13 and offered a second award.

The winners will be interviewed for the alumnae magazine, GDST Girl for Life, and is awarded £500 to donate to a charity of their choice


Alumna of the Year Finalists

Ramita navai

Ramita Navai *Winner*

Putney High School

Ramita is a multi-award-winning British-Iranian conflict journalist and documentary maker, whose work has taken her straight to the heart of women’s and girls’ issues in some of the most war-torn and conflicted regions in the world.

  • Read more

    With a reputation for working in hostile environments, she has reported from over forty countries, made over thirty documentaries and features, and worked as a foreign correspondent for print.

    Last year her film, Afghanistan: No Country for Women made major waves, winning both the prestigious Grierson Award for Best Current Affairs Documentary and the Rose D’Or Award. Ramita also won the RTS (Royal Television Society) Presenter of the Year 2023 for the film, which was described by judges as “truly compelling” with an “astonishing depth of knowledge on the subject”. 

    She hosts The Line of Fire podcast and has produced many documentaries which delve into war-torn, dark, and frightening areas, for media including ITV, Channel 4 News, Channel 4 Dispatches, PBS Frontline, ARTE and the BBC. Titles include Tracking Down the Refugee Kidnap Gangs, Iraq Uncovered, The Battle for Iraq, The UN Sex Abuse Scandal, India’s Rape Scandal, and Iraq’s Assassins.

    She has made countless television appearances to talk about her work, and even made an appearance in the final series of the blockbuster TV show, Homeland.

Charlene Hunter MBE

Nottingham Girls’ High School

Charlene is the CEO and founder of Coding Black Females, a non-profit organisation which represents the largest community of Black women in tech in the UK. She is also the co-organiser of Black Devs UK and the co-founder of Meet Up and Code, a community which brings coders together to share ideas and experiences.

  • Read more

    Driven by a passion to increase diversity in the tech sector, and to showcase the skills and talents of the gradually rising number of Black women in IT, Charlene is, step by step, changing the face of the tech world. Her work has already attracted significant attention, and in addition to multiple awards along the way, she was awarded an MBE in the 2022 New Year’s Honours List for Services to Technology and Diversity.

    As an experienced software developer, it was when Charlene saw the film, Hidden Figures, that she was inspired to set up Coding Black Females. “It was the first time I’d seen a film where I felt represented,” she says. “Black women who were into maths and computers – I realised that was me: that’s who I am. So, I created the group because I wanted to find others who felt the way I did.”  

justice lambertDame Christina Caroline Lambert

Central Newcastle High School (Newcastle High School for Girls)

Mrs Justice Lambert was appointed as a High Court Judge in 2018, and sits in the King’s Bench Division in London. Her work includes court cases in personal injury, professional negligence, criminal, and health and safety law.

  • Read more

    She currently sits as the lead Presiding Judge on the North Eastern Circuit which extends from Sheffield to Berwick and has responsibility for leading the judiciary in that region.  She presides over the most complex and high profile murder trials on Circuit, most recently the “cold case” of David Boyd who was convicted of the murder of 7 year old Nikki Allen in 1992 after advances in DNA profiling. 

    She was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1988 and took Silk in 2009. She specialised in healthcare law and major inquests and inquiries.  She was Leading Counsel to the Dame Janet Smith Review which was established by the BBC to undertake an independent investigation into Jimmy Savile and the relevant culture and practices at the BBC. In 2013 she was appointed by Sir John Goldring as Lead Counsel to the new inquests into the 96 deaths resulting from the Hillsborough Stadium disaster in April 1989. The inquests ran from 2014 until 2016.  They resulted in a jury conclusion that there were “major omissions” by the police in planning and preparation that caused or contributed to the dangerous situation which developed at the stadium and a majority conclusion of unlawful killing.

    She is an honorary fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where she studied history before converting to law as a postgraduate.

    Her legal career has been an outstanding one, where she has always set a brilliant example for women in the legal profession to aspire to.

Rosie Sexton

Norwich High School for Girls

Rosie is the founder and director of Norwich-based charity, English+, which works with over 300 people from more than 55 different countries, helping them to settle in the city. They include refugees, asylum seekers and many others who find themselves isolated in the UK.

  • Read more

    Rosie grew up in East Africa and later in Norfolk, where she attended Norwich High School for Girls. She then left the UK after university to work further afield, settling in Zimbabwe where she worked in grassroots international development for many years. After returning to Norwich with her family in 2010, she was determined to continue her work, and so in 2011 began setting up English+.

    Today, her charity offers language classes, friendship and integration support, along with courses for other everyday skills including access to work, food hygiene, driving theory, and arts and crafts. It also organises outings to museums and trips on the Norfolk Broads, so that its members can learn about the local environment.

    Through her work, Rosie hopes to inspire others to welcome new people into their lives, and to respond when life is hard by not just accepting defeat, but by being determined to push for a better future.

Rosemary Coogan

Brighton Girls

In November 2022, Rosemary was one of only 5 candidates selected – from more than 22,000 applicants – as a new ESA (European Space Agency) career astronaut, and has just started a one-year basic training to prepare for future space missions.

  • Read more

    Over the next year she will learn about space exploration, including technical and scientific skills, space systems and operations, and undergo training such as survival training and scuba diving to prepare for spacewalks. She will then become a certified ESA astronaut, able to participate in long-duration missions on the International Space Station and beyond, performing experiments in microgravity and operating the Station’s systems. She will also help to assemble, activate, and test new Station elements, undertake scientific research, perform spacewalks and act as a test subject in life science experiments.

    She holds two master’s degrees from the University of Durham, and in 2019 graduated with a PhD in Astronomy from the University of Sussex. She then went on to a postdoctoral research fellowship in Astrophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Extra-Terrestrial Physics in Munich, to study the evolution of galaxies with astronomical data from space and ground-based telescopes.

    After completing this postdoctoral work in 2022, Rosemary joined French space agency CNES in Paris as a research fellow in space science, where she worked on upcoming ESA/CNES missions.

Jasmine Birtles

Brighton Girls

Jasmine has built a stellar career in the traditionally male-dominated world of finance, as a money expert, speaker and writer.

  • Read more

    With an array of achievements that make her a true stand-out in the personal finance space, Jasmine is best known as TV and radio money expert whose mission is to break down the mystique around finance and, as she puts it, “put the funny into money”. She is fluent in all aspects of money and the economy, from how to get out of debt, to stock market movements. She is also the founder of, her own advice website, and regularly appears on a range of TV and radio programmes including GMTV, BBC Breakfast News, This Morning, The Wright Stuff, Sky News and Radio 4’s You and Yours.

    As a writer, she is the ‘Miss Moneysaver’ columnist for the Daily Mail, and has a monthly column in Platinum magazine. She also contributes to a host of other publications including The Independent on Sunday, Closer, and Reader’s Digest. She has also published 38 books, including five on money and investing.

    Jasmine is patron of the debt charity Community Money Advice and is ambassador for National Empathy Week.


Baroness Manningham-Buller

Northampton High School

Baroness Manningham-Buller (Eliza) has had a uniquely impressive and fascinating career, which has led her to her current role as a Life Peer member of the House of Lords and Chair of the Conduct Committee. 

  • Read more

    She is currently also co-president of Chatham House, a renowned Think Tank that helps governments and societies build a sustainably secure and just world.

    She is a retired British intelligence officer who worked in the Security Service (MI5) for more than 30 years, principally focusing on international and domestic counter-terrorism. After stints in the US and as Head of the then newly-created Irish counter-terrorist section, Eliza was promoted to the Security Services Management Board in 1993 and later, Director of Irish counter-terrorism. In 2002, she became Director General of MI5, and only the second woman ever to hold this position.

    After leaving the Security Service, Eliza served as Chairman of the Council of Imperial College. She was also a member, and later Chair, of the Board of Governors of the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation that helps solve urgent health issues by funding curiosity-driven research.  

    She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath (DCB) in the Queen’s 2005 Birthday Honours, and in 2014, the Queen appointed her a Lady of the Garter (LG). In 2011, she gave Reith Lectures on ‘Securing Freedom’ during the tenth anniversary of the United States 9/11 attacks.

Trailblazer finalists

Eva Keen *Winner*

Notting Hill & Ealing High School

At the age of just 23, Eva is already hitting huge heights as a commercial airline pilot with easyJet.

  • Read more

    With a mere 5% of all pilots and just 1.42% of captains being female, this is an incredible achievement in itself. When you add the global pandemic, and the impact this has had on the aviation industry, it is truly stand-out.

    After school, Eva went to L3Harris Flight Academy. She was based in Southampton for six months, where she passed the required 14 written exams with an average of 86%, that allowed her to move onto flight training in New Zealand. It was here that she obtained her commercial pilot’s licence at the age of just 20.

    Returning to the UK in 2021 to complete her jet orientation course at Gatwick (which she passed with the highest grade possible), Eva found the airline industry in post-Covid turmoil. Undeterred, she took her first steps into the business as an Operations Officer role at easyJet, which led to her being offered the position as Second Officer on easyJet’s Airbus 319/320, flying predominantly on short-haul European routes. Her first ever flight/landing for easyJet had 156 passengers on board, travelling from Nice to London Gatwick. 

Carrie Hope Fletcher

Northwood College for Girls

Carrie Hope Fletcher is an award-winning actor, singer, songwriter and author whose achievements are completely at odds with her age. Still only thirty, she has been on the West End stage more than twenty years, having debuted as young Eponine in Les Misérables at just nine years old.

  • Read more

    Since this childhood debut, she has barely stopped working. Major roles followed in the West End productions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (as Jemima Potts) and Mary Poppins (as Jane Banks), followed by a return to Les Misérables to play older Eponine, and later, Fantine. She is the only British actor to have played all three roles in the show. Other major productions she has starred in include Heathers: The Musical, The Addams Family, War of the Worlds and she originated the role of Cinderella in Andrew Lloyd’s 2021 production, for which she won the 2021 WhatsOn Stage Award for Best Actress in a Musical. 

    In addition to two Grammy nominations and three WhatsOn Stage Awards wins to her name, she has published nine books.

    Carrie is currently on a solo tour at major venues including the London Palladium. She has championed body positivity, particularly in the world of theatre and media.

MariannaMarianna Spring

Sutton High School

Still in her twenties, Marianna has achieved an awful lot, very quickly. As the BBC’s first ever Disinformation & Social Media Correspondent, she is building a unique, new-age career that seeks to expose the harm caused by fake news and shining a light on the darker side of social media.

(Photo: BBC/Steve Bright)


  • Read more

    As part of her remit, she presents several critically acclaimed Radio 4 podcast series including Disaster Trolls and Marianna in Conspiracyland. She also carries out investigations and presents for BBC Panorama. She works on the BBC’s 60-strong Verify team; a team which, to reinforce trust in the BBC’s news reporting, shows viewers how its journalists investigate, source and verify the information, videos and images they receive.

    Even though her work often puts her in the front line of abuse from trolls, she remains focused on investigating the mindsets of people caught up in online disinformation, and trying to understand how they got there. Because as she puts it, “This tells us a lot about how social media works, and the impact that it’s having on our world, on society and about new fault lines that are opening up across communities.”

    In March 2023, Marianna won the British Press Guild’s Audio Presenter of the Year and she won the Innovation Award at the RTS (Royal Television Society) Awards for BBC News’ Undercover Voters investigation. She has also been shortlisted twice in the Young Talent of the Year category and she has featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 media list.

Previous winners include:

A family of schools

23 independent schools and two academies in England and Wales

Find a