Central staff and alumnae named as Leading Women | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Central staff and alumnae named as ‘Leading Women’

Image of blurred headshots of women featured in University of London's 'Leading Women'

Monday, 5 March 2018

Central is delighted to announce that staff and former students have been named in University of London’s ‘Leading Women’ campaign for 2018.

2018 marks the 150th anniversary of women being permitted to sit ‘special examinations’ at the University of London and with that being admitted for the first time in Britain to higher education. The ‘Leading Women’ campaign celebrates exceptional women by sharing stories of women leading both, by being the first, and by leading through their inspirational educational and professional achievements.

Named as one of the Leading Women, Central’s Director of Research Professor Maria Delgado is an academic, critic and curator in the area of Spanish language film and theatre. 

Actress Zoë Wanamaker CBE trained at Central and has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. A nine-time Olivier Award nominee, she won for Once in a Lifetime (1979) and Electra (1998). She has also received four Tony Award nominations for her work on Broadway; for Piaf (1981), Loot (1986), Electra (1999), and Awake and Sing! (2006).

Audrey Russell, MVO (29 June 1906 – 8 August 1989) trained in acting at Central in the early 20th century before becoming a BBC Radio journalist (then called a "commentator"), the BBC's first female news reporter, and, in 1944, the first accredited female war reporter. Her stage debut was at the Lyric in London in 1937.

Also included is Central’s founder Elsie Fogerty (1865 – 1945) who was a pioneer in speech training. Elsie had a firm belief in the social importance of education, and the students of her school, back then named Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art, quickly became famous for their delivery in verse-speaking competitions, their appearance in theatres, and their work with children in the deprived areas of London. While Central developed a name for actor training, Elsie was at the same time a vital force in advancing the study of theatre as an academic discipline.

About ‘Leading Women’

In 1868, nine women were admitted to the University of London to enrol for a ‘special examination’ course. This was the first time in Britain that women had gained access to university education and, though it was to be over 10 years before they were admitted on equal terms with men to read for the same degree programmes, this modest event was an immensely significant moment for the University, for women and for society as a whole.

To celebrate this anniversary throughout 2018, a number of national and international events such as pop-up exhibitions and talks, panel debates, a student art contest, the implementation of a new scholarship accompanied by an online gallery of 150 leading women associated with the University of London will mark this ‘foot in the door’ moment for women in higher education.

A dedicated research project is underway to shine a light on the first cohort of women who led the way by being the first to sit examinations at any university in the country. Through both national and international discussions on how we can create ways to break down the barriers women still face in education and the workplace today the project create a lasting legacy to ensure women continue to access education and lead in the future.

Sector-wide higher education, including the University of London, has still a long way to go when it comes to gender equality. There continue to be low proportions of women staff in professorial or leadership roles in UK higher education. Approximately 17% of UK university leaders are women and on average women still earn less than men. While the numbers of female students enrolled at UK universities outnumbers males, there is still evidence of significant underrepresentation of female students in the science, technology, engineering and maths-related subjects. 

Dr Mary Stiasny, University of London Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) and chair of the 'Leading Women' campaign said

"Given the extraordinary reach of the University of London and its 18 member institutions, the 'Leading Women' campaign aims to generate debate around these issues, to suggest solutions and to actively provide opportunities for the next generation of women. My vision for the future is one in which women all over the world are recognised and rewarded for their contribution, and, in fact, work as equals alongside men to enrich our global workplaces."

Visit the Leading Women to browse the gallery of inspirational women associated with the university and the 'Leading Women' events calendar.