Alumna of the Year 2022

GDST Alumna and Trailblazers

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 winner and finalists Trailblazer winner and finalists

Alumna winner and finalists


gdst alumnaDr Ellie Cannon *Winner*

Newcastle High School for Girls

Dr Ellie Cannon uses her profile as a broadcaster and health writer as well as being an NHS GP to champion public health, particularly levelling up intergenerational women’s health.


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    Most recently, Tropic Skincare has been ranked the 14 best female-powered company in the UK by JP Morgan. Alongside her NHS practice, she writes a weekly medical column in the Mail on Sunday and is one of the resident doctors for ITV’s This Morning and BBC Breakfast covering the most taboo issues even disclosing her own health problems in an effort to destigmatise mental illness.

    Dr Cannon has published two popular health books and following her second book on work-related illness, shared a stage with Prince William discussing trauma. Her 2014 baby book not only focussed on babies but crucially the health needs of new mothers. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service have named her Champion of Choice on reproductive issues for tackling misinformation masquerading as science and in 2019 she was voted by UK GPs as the 15th most influential GP in the UK.
    Throughout the pandemic, her advocacy skills and mainstream appeal were utilised by the Cabinet Office, Department of Health and NHS England to broadcast public health messaging across the media. She has given evidence as a GP to All Party Parliamentary Groups on womens’ health and alongside the fashion industry and eating disorder charities on the physical and mental health of female fashion models.

     Ellie gives her time to a number of lesser known charities including for pancreatic cancer, female cancers, mental illness and BAME girls’ menstrual dignity. This year she fronted the first ever UK Women in Gambling prevention campaign highlighting the inequality for women sufferers. In 2018 she travelled to the Congo with Save the Children to film an awareness campaign on pneumonia with mothers, giving a voice to this underrepresented illness.




Negeen Yazdi

South Hampstead High School

Negeen Yazdi is Senior Vice-President of Film at Endeavor Content, a division of global entertainment leader Endeavor. She is a Voting member of BAFTA and The Academy of Motion Pictures (Oscars) and Chair of Endeavor Content’s ‘Women In The Workplace’.


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    Negeen has achieved outstanding success in her industry. She currently oversees film development and production for Endeavor Content, which finances, packages and sells feature films and TV series. Joining Endeavor Content shortly after its creation in 2017, she has helped to turn the company into a major player in the content market, with a slate of over 100 movies and TV series per year. Most recently she oversaw Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, The Lost Daughter (starring GDST alumna Olivia Colman), which was nominated for 3 Oscars, 2 Golden Globes, 2 BAFTAs, and won numerous awards including 3 Independent Spirit Awards (including Best Feature), and 3 Gotham Film Awards (including Best Feature).

    Prior to Endeavor Content, Negeen oversaw numerous Oscar and BAFTA-winning titles including The Imitation Game, The Artist, Lion, Philomena and the BBC’s 6-part adaptation of War & Peace. In addition, she uses her experience to champion the support and advancement of women at Endeavour chairing their Women In The Workplace initiative.


gdst alumnaPavita Cooper

Notting Hill & Ealing High

Pavita Cooper is a campaigner for social change; she advocates for greater equality across business and society. She works with businesses, government bodies and schools to improve outcomes for all under represented parts of society.


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    Pavita has over 30 years’ experience as a senior executive across a range of multi-sector global blue-chip organisations. Since leaving her corporate career 11 years ago, Pavita has dedicated her time to campaigning for greater equality and social mobility across business and society.

    Pavita is a regular speaker on gender equality, increasing ethnic minority diversity and the acceleration of diverse talent in the pipeline to the C-Suite and Boardroom. She advises a range of organisations from the Police Superintendents Association, the Army, Business Schools, Government, and many corporate organisations. She is known for her compelling honesty and willingness to challenge the status quo.

    Pavita believes in the power of giving back; she mentors young people from ethnically diverse and socially disadvantaged backgrounds and regularly speaks to disadvantaged young people in schools across the UK to inspire them to reach their full potential. During lockdown she continued to do this on a weekly basis by zoom.

    Pavita has served on the steering committee for the 30% Club since 2010, she was appointed global Vice Chair in 2020. She established and chairs the CMI Race Equity Committee. Pavita is committed to increasing ethnic minority diversity in Boardrooms; her work with Empowering People of Colour (EPOC), connects diverse and often hidden talent to the Chairs of the UK’s largest companies.

    Pavita’s non- executive appointments include the board of the Equalities & Human Rights Commission, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), The Prince’s Trust, an agency of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and The Old Vic.

    In 2021 Pavita was presented with the President’s Medal by the British Academy of Management for Contribution to Management Practice and was listed as a Top 50 Trailblazer for Gender Equality by We are the City. Pavita was named as Woman of the Year at the Asian Business Awards in 2017.


Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh MBE

Portsmouth High School

Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh is an environmental psychologist, focussing on public engagement with climate change, energy and transport. Her research includes energy efficiency behaviours, waste reduction and carrier bag reuse, perceptions of smart technologies and electric vehicles and low-carbon lifestyles.


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    Lorraine is currently Professor of Environmental Psychology at University of Bath and Director of the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformation. She is also a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and regularly advises governmental and other organisations on low-carbon behaviour change and climate change communication.

    Lorraine has worked with city councils to design interventions that encourage low-carbon travel, and was involved with the Climate Assembly UK, a citizen science engagement process that looked to take public opinion on climate change to the Government of the United Kingdom. In 2021, she joined the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, which advises policymakers on strategies for the shift to a net zero future. As part of Cop26, she called for involving more women in the discussions and is focussed on female leadership around climate change too.


gdst alumnaBianca Miller-Cole

Sydenham High School

Bianca Miller-Cole is a serial Entrepreneur, mentor, speaker, and Sunday Times bestselling author. She founded the personal branding company, The Be Group, and shot to fame as the runner-up on BBC’s The Apprentice in 2014.


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    In 2017, she co-authored the book, Self Made: The Definitive Guide to Business Start-up Success. In 2019, Bianca was an expert on Channel 4 show ‘Save Well, Spend Better’, helping members of the public with their finances. In 2021, Bianca’s second book, The Business Survival Kit, became a Sunday Times bestseller in two categories in its first week. Bianca works with charities and brands to inspire people to believe in their dreams and make them a reality.

    Bianca is included on the Financial Times Top 50 Future Leaders list, the HERoes and EMpower list, and the Top 10 Power Profile Leaders on Linkedin. She was awarded ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ status in 2018. She is a keen advocate for the progression of women and believes in the power of diversity.


gdst alumna

Sara Nathan

Wimbledon High School

Sara Nathan is co-founder of Refugees at Home, a charity that arranges the hosting of asylum-seekers and refugees. The charity connects people with a spare room in their home to refugees and asylum-seekers desperately in need of somewhere to stay.


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    So far, the charity has been responsible for making over 2,775 placements with a total of 207,000 individual hosted nights. As well as being a trustee and helping to run the charity, Sara has personally hosted 29 guests from eleven or more nationalities for stays from one night to two years.

    Sara was previously a BBC journalist for 15 years and became Britain’s first female TV network news programme editor at Channel 4 News in 1995. Since then, she has had a whole range of roles across journalism, regulation and public policy. None as absorbing or compelling as Refugees at Home.

    Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 12,000 new hosts applied to Refugees at Home which is making matches and placements for as many Ukrainians as it can. Alongside this, it is continuing to host people across the UK from other countries, such as refugees fleeing politics in Egypt, bombing in Syria and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

sasha roseneil

Professor Sasha Roseneil

Northampton High School

Professor Sasha Roseneil is a world-renowned interdisciplinary social scientist, a group analyst and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, and a distinguished university leader. Sasha is a powerful advocate for women and girls through her work.


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    Professor Roseneil’s academic career has been devoted to understanding and challenging gender and other forms of inequality. Her research and media work have focused on the struggles of women and members of minoritized groups for social change, and on transformations in gender relations, family, intimate relationships and sexuality. She has published ten books, including ‘Disarming Patriarchy: feminism and political action at Greenham’ (Open University Press, 1995), ‘Common Women, Uncommon Practices: the queer feminisms of Greenham (Cassell, 2000), and, most recently ‘The Tenacity of the Couple-Norm: intimate citizenship in a changing Europe’ (UCL Press, 2020). She played an important role in establishing both the interdisciplinary fields of gender studies and psychosocial studies in the UK, and was the founding Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at the University of Leeds (1997-2004), and a founding editor of the journal “Feminist Theory”. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

    From 2018-2022, Professor Roseneil was Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences at UCL, where she also served as Pro-Provost (Equity and Inclusion). As Pro-Provost she led significant change programmes to advance equality, diversity and inclusion for staff and students at UCL.

    Professor Roseneil was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex this year becoming Sussex’s ninth Vice-Chancellor and the university’s first female Vice-Chancellor (from 1 August). She has vowed to develop “a truly inclusive community that values the diversity of identity, background, and belief, in which everyone is able to be themselves and realise their ambitions”.



Susie Allen-SierpinskiSusie Allen-Sierpinski

Nottingham Girls’ High School

Susie is a Flight Systems Engineer for NASA. She is currently working on the lunar mission project “Artemis” named after the twin sister of Apollo. The project is a first in space exploration and will put the very first woman on the moon by 2024.


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    Currently based at the Kennedy Space Center, home to the Gateway Deep Space Logistics (DSL) project, Susie works on the Gateway for Artemis which includes the logistic module which will transport vital food, fuel and water to the moon. Susie is the Human Systems Integration Subject Matter Expert, supporting all systems that the crew will need to work with inside the logistics and airlock modules.

    Previously, Susie was the U.S. Navy Systems Engineering & Product Integrity Lead for the $1.69B Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band program during engineering and development. She also worked on the Space Shuttle program – her dream from age 4 – as an operations safety engineer and became one of only seven women in the 30-year history of the programme to serve as a member of the Final Inspection Team. The team’s job was to inspect the fully fuelled space shuttle to inspect for any debris, damage or unusual ice build-up prior to launch.

    She is a true pioneer in an extremely challenging, exciting, and currently (still) male dominated industry. One that younger girls dream of being part of. Susie is proof that it’s possible. She is giving confidence to girls that they can follow in her footsteps.




susie maSusie Ma

Croydon High School

Susie Ma is the Founder and CEO of Tropic Skincare and a dedicated philanthropist with a keen focus in creating a healthier, greener and more empowered world. Tropic Skincare has been recognised at numerous stages so far, including ‘Fastest Growing Skincare Brand in the UK’ in the Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 league table for five years running. 


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    Its commitment to sustainability and disrupting the industry has also been widely recognised, including Best Carbon Neutral Brand’ in the Marie Claire’s Sustainability Awards. In 2021, Tropic Skincare was awarded 100/100 on ‘The Good Shopping Guide’s Ethical Accreditation Index’, a high accolade highlighting their commitment to meaningful change.


    Susie herself has even taken part in three Strive Challenges, pushing herself to the limit both physically and mentally to raise funds for Big Change, an education charity focussed on enabling young people in the UK to thrive.


Previous winners include:

Trailblazer winner and finalists

This year, we launched the GDST Trailblazer Award, an award given to an alumna who is achieving outstanding early acclaim in her career. Meet our winner and finalists below.


gdst alumnaGrace Spence-Green *Winner*

South Hampstead High School

Grace Spence Green is a junior doctor working to challenge the narratives surrounding disability, medicine and identity. Grace is also host of the podcast series This is Spinal Crap.


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    In 2018, aged 22 and a 4th year medical student, she sustained a spinal cord injury and is now a full-time wheelchair user. She is passionate about medicine, advocacy for the disabled community and challenging ableism, the stigma surrounding disability and inaccessible spaces.

    She is also a winner of the GDST’s Emerging Talent Award for Engineering in 2017, JCB’s Apprentice of the Year in 2018 and Runner-Up National Engineering Apprentice of the Year in 2018. You can read more from Emilie here.

    Grace would love to see better and much more inclusive representation for disabled people in all walks of life and particularly in medicine and the media.

    In the months of rehabilitation which followed her life-changing injury Grace learned that she didn’t have to fit into the narrowly defined box into which society so often places disabled people. She has not only qualified as a doctor but will be running a pioneering course for 4th year medical students on medicine and disability; has returned to the climbing walls (she was a former UK U18 climbing Champion); and hopes in the future to work in the field of paediatrics, advocating for disabled children. Read more from Grace Spence-Green.


gdst alumna

Emilie Weaving

Shrewsbury High School

Emilie has carved a path for herself through a heavily male-dominated world to achieve success across different sectors of engineering. Emilie is a Survivability Engineer at RBSL, which involves developing the next generation of military vehicles to protect those inside.


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    She is professionally registered with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, an active Member of the Women’s Engineering Society, who she mentors for along with the GDST. She is a keen STEM ambassador and advocate for apprenticeships, volunteering her time and providing remote support to schools across the country. She is the only qualified female Ducati mechanic in the UK, and she was the first female engineer employed by Ruroc. Emilie has been interviewed for the IMechE Magazine and runs her very own blog ‘The Female Engineer’. She is passionate about raising the profile of engineering and empowering girls to pursue such careers, by trying to be a visible role model and change the stereotype of an engineer.

    She is also a winner of the GDST’s Emerging Talent Award for Engineering in 2017, JCB’s Apprentice of the Year in 2018 and Runner-Up National Engineering Apprentice of the Year in 2018. Read more from Emilie.


gdst alumnaSigourney Bell

Sydenham High School

Sigourney Bell is currently undertaking a PhD focussing on understanding and developing new treatments for paediatric brain tumours at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. Her passion for STEM outreach compelled her to set up BlackInCancer.


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    Black in Cancer is an organisation that aims to highlight Black excellence in cancer research and medicine and tackle the huge disparities in access /provision of cancer care and survival rates for Black patients.

    Building on the success of the first online BlackInCancer Week in October 2020, Sigourney will hold the inaugural global BlackInCancer Conference in collaboration with Cancer Research UK in October 2022. She also launched the BlackInCancer Pipeline Programme which aims to redress Black under-representation in higher education and the cancer workforce.

    She was included on the Forbes 30 Under 30 2021 list and features in the Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope exhibition which will be at the Science Museum in London from 25 May 2022 until January 2023, in recognition of both Black in Cancer and her scientific contribution to cancer research.




Elizabeth Wilcox

Howell’s School Llandaff

Elizabeth has experienced the triumphs and challenges of being a young person adapting to the world of work in a corporate investment bank after joining the industry at just 18 years old.


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    After only 18 months, Elizabeth has now moved into a trading consulting and advisory front office role at JP Morgan alongside working towards her degree at a Russell Group university as an apprentice.

    Elizabeth has acted as a mentor for many younger students, giving talks through the GDST and providing individual support and mentoring to young women aspiring to work in the front office. Through this, she has contributed towards creating a community of those striving to move into banking, providing support and learning opportunities to those who are perusing a career in the financial industry and other non-traditional routes after sixth form.

    Elizabeth embodies the message of inclusivity and equal opportunity for women. Read more from Elizabeth Wilcox.




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