Women working in a variety of roles at Bradford College shared the compelling stories of their journeys to success at an empowering women event.

The group, including governors, senior leaders and key teaching staff spoke to an audience of female students to inspire and encourage them to achieve their career ambitions regardless of cultural or social barriers.

Among the speakers was assistant principal Anita Lall who highlighted the challenges she faced making a career for herself in science.

Despite not speaking English when she started school, she excelled academically and went to study science at university and worked in medical research, predominantly into childhood cancers, before switching to teaching, rising from Biology lecturer to assistant principal at Bradford College.

She recited some of the remarkable comments she had received while a student including “girls don’t do science”, “girls should just get married and have children” and “you won’t find a good husband if you are too educated”. She also told the audience that her supportive parents had been warned their daughter would “become too Westernised” if they allowed her to go to university. 

She told the students: “Challenge what your parents or your community says. Break down barriers.

"If people say no, ask them why and they often won’t have a reason.”

Chair of governors Cath Orange spoke about her success in the male-dominated world of engineering while fellow governor June Durrant explained how she recently retired from being the deputy principal of Kirklees College even though she had left school as a 16-year-old with the equivalent of just two GCSEs and was dyslexic.

From Bev Fox, head of FE art, science and humanities at the college, there was a story of overcoming dyslexia and dyscalculia and discrimination. As a physical trainer in the Army, she was able to train young men to join the elite Parachute Regiment but was not allowed to become a Para herself. That frustration, along with the military’s stance on LGBT personnel at the time, saw her move into the prison service and then into teaching, as a public services and sports tutor.

She said: “My advice is, whatever you want to be, just go for it.”

Social work lecturer Waheeda Azam is one of seven children and was the first in her family to go to university. The mum-of-four achieved a social work degree at Bradford College and worked for many years in the area of adoption and fostering before becoming a then decided to combine her passions for social work and teaching by becoming a higher education lecturer.

“Only you can limit yourself,” she told the female students.

“Never let anyone define who you are or what you want to be. A lot of hard work can serve you well.

“You might have to take an alternative route but you will get there.”

The college will be hosting a male-only event later this month at which male members of staff will share their experiences and advice with male students at the city centre college.

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