The future's female: The race to be crowned Britain's most inspirational young women

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Hurrah, a story about women who are young, clever, fully clothed, and not victims of crime. Sarah Morrison profiles seven rising stars

They seem an unlikely bunch. But a popular DJ, a musical theatre actress, a trainee nurse, a digital coder, an anti-knife campaigner, a specialist in food waste and an engineer are all in the running to be crowned Britain's most inspirational young women.

All aged 35 or under, they are among those shortlisted for this year's Women of the Future Awards – the largest national search for exceptionally talented women. The hunt unearths the next generation of high-flying women across nine industries, including technology, media, business, arts and science.

The awards' patron, Cherie Blair, said they were "vital" in the quest for equality. "We simply won't get there unless we celebrate the achievements of women here and now," she said. "Celebrating these women will encourage others to follow in their footsteps, to pursue their dreams, and help inspire female leaders of the future."

The awards ceremony takes place on 13 November in London. Here, we speak to seven contenders.

Technology and Digital

Kathryn Parsons is determined to teach people how to code. The 32-year-old founded Decoded – a company which teaches people how to write computer programs in a day – two years ago. The business has just opened a New York branch, and to date, almost 4,000 Londoners have attended courses costing around £750. Parsons says she is "evangelistic" about getting more women involved.

"I wanted to learn coding; I had always worked in digital, but I wasn't a coder. It seems quite scary, indecipherable, like it would take a genius to get to grips with it, yet it underpins absolutely everything we do with our lives. Everyone and anyone can learn these skills and they should. Every day I get more passionate about women and technology. To be an incredible programmer, you need to have great attention to detail, great patience, be collaborative, creative and good at problem-solving. These are not not-female skills."

Community Spirit

Molly Case is a rare type of trainee nurse. When she is not studying at the University of Greenwich, she is writing and performing as a spoken word artist. Her poem "Nursing the Nation" – which celebrates the work of Britain's nurses – went viral after it was performed at the Royal College of Nursing congress this year. The video has now been viewed more than 300,000 times. Case, 25, who also has a degree in English and creative writing, hopes to have a novel published.

"The poem was a response to the unrelenting bad press that all nursing healthcare workers were getting at the time [due to the Mid Staffordshire scandal]. There was no balance and I felt fiercely protective of myself and my colleagues.

"The poem is a celebration of all the little things that go unnoticed and the wonderful things we do as nurses. It's not about covering up the bad things that happen – it's about presenting a united voice."

Media

Neev Spencer, or DJ Neev as she is better known, is the most listened-to British Asian on mainstream radio. The 28-year-old has been hosting her own daily show on Kiss FM for almost eight years. Her goal is to be a television presenter.

"To be successful in radio in this country, you have got to be really strong. For a strong female, there is a fine line between appealing to a male audience and also keeping girls on your side. There aren't too many of us female presenters, so I knew I had that up against me. [But] I told my boss I wanted my own show. I don't want to be a co-host or a sidekick.

"If you are lucky enough to realise your dreams and put a tick against it, I think the goalposts should move. For me, I want to challenge myself. My heart is really set on TV."

Arts and Culture

Charlotte Wakefield won rave reviews for her Maria in The Sound of Music at Regent's Park open air theatre this summer. It cemented her status, at 22, as one of our most promising young musical theatre artists. Previous roles include Sophie in Mamma Mia!

"I love live theatre and my passion is singing and performing, so to be able to do it for a living is a dream. There are lots of amazing characters in musical theatre, but they are not necessarily given to younger actors. I learn something new every day. I didn't go to drama school, so I learn everything I know from other actors, directors and producers."

Science

Lara Small from Jersey is a team leader in manufacturing engineering at Rolls-Royce, serves with the Royal Engineers in Nottingham and is a council member of the Royal Aeronautical Society. Aged 28, she also promotes careers in engineering to young people.

"I want to make sure the next generation knows engineering is a good career. This industry has a huge skill shortage. The job is so rewarding. You get up every day to make a difference; you change something, develop a product, and change what society can do. It's important to be visible in my job. There is more to life for girls than stereotypical roles."

The Young Star

Eliza Rebeiro set up the charity Lives Not Knives when she was 14 years old. She had been excluded from mainstream school, and became used to hearing about friends being stabbed in her home town of Croydon, south London. She began making T-shirts that spread the anti-knife message. Now, six years later, her organisation works with 10,000 young people a year in schools, educating them about the dangers of getting involved with gangs.

"There were a lot of people being stabbed, in Croydon especially. I thought it was normal to receive a phone call saying my friend was in intensive care, until my mum sat me down and said it wasn't. I made a T-shirt saying 'Lives Not Knives' and saw that lots of young people agreed with the message."

Business

Kate Cawley joined her family business, F&R Cawley, seven years ago, and helped them convert food waste into renewable energy, through anaerobic digestion. Cawley, 32, has since set up an environmental consultancy, WasteSolve, advising clients including Waitrose, Westfield and Red Bull on waste and water management.

"[When we started] most food waste from the commercial sector was going to landfills. I was brought in to set up and promote the food waste recycling business. I want to help our clients have impeccable green credentials, but I also want to make it fun. People think about being green, and they think about recycling, reducing energy, or turning lights off. But we are showing it can enhance a brand. People want to buy from companies that are responsible."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform