|10 Mar 2021
The alumnae in the hot seat were Melanie Ivarsson, Class of 1990, who oversaw the clinical development of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, Lieutenant Commander Louise Wooller, Class of 2004, who received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her work in the Royal Navy, and TV presenter and journalist Nicki Shields, Class of 1995, who works in the largely male-dominated motor sports industry.
Pupils wanted to know what achievement they were each proudest of, if they’d alter anything about their lives if they weren’t afraid of other’s reactions, what they’d done to challenge for change and if they’d noticed a significant improvement in gender equality since they left LEH.
Melanie said: “Please don’t be the person that lives with regret and worries about what other people think. An education at LEH is absolutely what you need go into the world feeling pretty confident that you can meet any challenge head on and be yourself.”
She also described how one of the proudest achievements of her professional life was developing one of the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines and how fulfilling she found her career. “Every day of my 20 plus years in the pharma bio-tech industry I have sprung out of bed knowing that I’m going to go and do something mission critical in developing a new vaccine or a drug to help somebody. And you’re giving hope. Hope is something you can give other people because of how you spend your day every day, and that’s pretty incredible.”
Louise takes great pride in serving the defence of the realm and described her time in the Royal Navy, which has seen her second-in-command on a war ship, as well as taking part in expeditions to Iraq, the Gulf and the Arctic. She says she is fortunate to work for an organisation which recognises people for who they are, rather than what they are. She advises pupils to: “Work hard and be the best you can. Be yourself and enjoy what you do.”
Nicki works as a TV host in Formula E motor sports which features electric cars and is proud to have been one of the first women in the media to actually drive a Formula E car. She is an ambassador for FIA Girls on Track UK which aims to ensure girls and women feel there’s a valuable place for them in the motorsports industry.
She says it’s important to build a strong community of women to support and champion each other. And her advice is not to always be a people pleaser. She says: “While you’re busy trying to keep everyone else happy, it’s important to focus on your own goals as well.”
Louise's video can't be made available for security reasons, but if you’d like to see Mel and Nicki's answers in full please click here.