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Royal Navy women inspire students for International Women’s Day

8 March 2018
From the jet pilots of tomorrow to flying helicopters, chefs and leading the guard at Windsor Castle – female role models from the Royal Navy spent three days with London schoolgirls to mark International Women’s Day.

Year 9 students from across the capital learnt about the vast range of careers in the Naval Service open to women – hearing from the people performing those very roles.

Lieutenant Danielle Welch joined the Fleet Air Arm a decade ago as a Lynx pilot and flew humanitarian aid missions in the Caribbean before transferring to the fast-jet world; she’s coming towards the end of her training on Hawks at RAF Valley.

“Originally this was a job I didn’t think I could do – it’s a job I would have liked to have done, but I didn’t see myself as the stereo typical super fit alpha male – that’s the image of a fighter pilot portrayed by society and the media,” the 33-year-old said.

“Some of the questions from the girls here have been straightforward: how did I get into it? What’s the best bit about the job? That sort of thing.

“But there have been a few which I wasn’t prepared for and it’s been fascinating to see what they think of the Royal Navy and what it means to them.”

Originally this was a job I didn’t think I could do – it’s a job I would have liked to have done, but I didn’t see myself as the stereo typical super fit alpha male – that’s the image of a fighter pilot portrayed by society and the media

Lieutenant Danielle Welch

Petty Officer Joanne Barlow deals with jets on the ground – or on the deck of a carrier. As an aircraft handler she makes sure jets and helicopters land, take off and are moved around safely.

She’s performed the job aboard the American super-carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower… and is now passing on that expertise to Britain’s newest flat-top, HMS Prince of Wales.             

“When I worked with the US Navy they don’t have many female deck handlers and I was the only female senior rating on board,” said the 36-year-old.

“It was interesting that a lot of the females looked up to me. Some wanted to be like me, and if they stayed they would like to be doing what I’m doing, it was really nice to have that positive impact with the Americans as well as my own handlers.”

She continued: “International Women’s Day is a chance to showcase jobs and roles the women of the Royal Navy are doing and succeeding at, and this is a unique way of showing the British public not just what women can do but also what the Royal Navy does around the world.”

Lieutenant Commander Nicola Cripps was inspired to join the Navy thanks to a visit from the RN’s presentation team. She went on to study physics at university before joining the Service as a training manager.

Her career has taken her all over the world and last year had the honour of being one of the captains of the Queen’s Guard at Windsor Castle.

“It was an historic moment for the Royal Navy and something I’d never dreamed I’d get the chance to do – seeing the Royal Navy out on the streets of London and more importantly me and my sailors engaging with the public,” she said.

It’s the second year the RN’s community engagement team has held this event in London. By spreading it over three days, not one, the Navy’s message reached three times the number of youngsters who attended the inaugural session.

“What’s really important is that girls get to meet people who are doing jobs they normally only read about or see on the TV,” said Lieutenant Commander Hannah Mackenzie, in charge of the Regional Diversity Engagement team who organised the event.

“It’s important for them to understand that none of the careers in the Royal Navy are restricted – everyone has a chance to do all the jobs. If you want to be in a submarine you can, if you want to fly a helicopter you can, or drive a warship you can.” 

Lisa Marie Newton, aged 14, from St Anne’s Girls’ School in Enfield, was impressed by the range of careers on offer to women in the Navy and enjoyed the stories and experiences from their travels.

“I’ve really enjoyed speaking to the people from the Royal Navy and they have some really good backgrounds that have brought them to here. I like what they’ve said and it seems to be an exciting job with travel and seeing things you wouldn’t normally experience,” she said.

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