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Knowledge, Perspectives

Who’ll run the World? Girls.

10 Future Leaders set to brighten your 2020

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Renée Watson

Avye | 12

What are you most proud of?

Successfully fundraising to pull off my very first Girls Into Coding event.

What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

“Don’t be afraid to try things.” I would also say that, “you and your ideas don’t have to be perfect to be valued” and “be positive and resilient”.

It’s 2040, you’re standing somewhere feeling happy, what do you see?

In 2040, I see girls and women engaged in STEM activities, education and careers – equally comfortable, with an equal sense of belonging and in equal numbers.

I started coding and attending physical computing workshops at seven. They were fun, so I began going to loads of similar events and continued to explore what I was learning at home. To share my skills I started co-running coding workshops alongside two adult mentors, and soon took on the responsibility for preparing and leading my own for CoderDojo at Kingston University. I became aware that the majority of attendees at my workshops were boys, so two years ago I founded Girls Into Coding to encourage more girls to give it a go. Girls Into Coding offers girls aged 10-14 an opportunity to explore coding, physical computing and robotics through volunteer-assisted workshops. The events are free to attend and with the help of my mum, I reach out to women and girls doing cool things in the world of STEM, inviting them to give lightning talks at GIC. I also design and build robots, and have fundraised and secured support to provide books, physical computing kits, and microcontrollers to girls, so they can continue their tech journeys at home and beyond.

Zaynah | 16


What are you most proud of?

I worked at Deloitte as part of a team that built a device that can help prolong the lifespan of older adults – I can’t say too much more about it!

I have been very interested in machine learning and virtual and augmented reality for the past few years. I learnt how to code when I was 13 through taking online courses, and I now know eight different programming languages. I have had the opportunity to work with amazing companies including Deloitte, Google, Microsoft, and many more. I have also been invited to speak at conferences in Dubai, Poland, San Francisco, Toronto, and other cities around the world.

My first encounter with technology was at 11-years-old when I joined my school’s robotics team. I was the only girl on the team and had to learn how to do everything – from building to programming to testing – by myself. I eventually became team leader two years later. This experience taught me how to be resilient and never give up on the things that I want.

The reason I am excited to be doing the work I am doing is because I really believe that we can use technology to help people living in developing areas of the world. Two years ago, I went on a service trip to India and spent a few weeks at a girls’ orphanage, and this trip really showed me how privileged I am to be living in a place like Toronto. My goal is to make a positive impact on people’s lives and I want to make sure that I leave the world in a better place.

Emilie | 13

What are you most proud of?

My go-kart!


What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

I would say to my 10-year-old self, “Put yourself out there more. Don't be scared of what others will think of you. Believe and trust yourself and make the magic happen.”


It’s 2040, you’re standing somewhere, feeling happy, what do you see?

In 2040 I would like to see equality in the field of STEM, with girls being valued the same as boys in our capability and strength.

I have done many things to do with STEM both inside and outside of school, some examples are: filming a review of a Raspberry Pi kit for RS Components and also helping in the pits for PDC Racing. I was recently named as a Wild Maker Woman by Ruth Amos of Kids Invent Stuff, and I also trained with the Diana Award Charity as an anti-bullying ambassador in my school.

STEM makes me feel very happy and excited. I thoroughly enjoy all aspects of STEM such as cars, products, new opportunities, finding girls with the same interests as me, fairs, workshops, experiments and lots of other things as well.The things that have inspired me are the many opportunities I have been given, the people that I have met and also some of my teachers.

Zoe | 19

What are you most proud of?

Working on a lunar rover.

What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

“Find something you love, work for it, and shoot for the stars.”

I attend Carnegie Mellon University where I am studying mechanical engineering. I’ve only been here since August 2019, but I am already fully engaged in my university’s community. Besides attending classes and studying, I participate in all the jazz-related clubs (I play saxophone) and am very involved in research. I am currently working on a project called MoonRanger, a NASA funded mission to build a rover which will go in search of water at the South Pole of the moon in 2022. Not only is it super exciting to be working on a lunar rover alongside a team of professors, master’s students, and PhD students, but we are also the first team to try to reach the South Pole.

I had always had a natural leaning towards STEM, but it was reinforced by attending day camps such as iD Tech Camp and Fire Tech. My first real experience with engineering was taking the Design and Technology GCSE. I loved it so much that my teacher encouraged me to apply for the Arkwright Scholarship, which provided me with opportunities to shadow engineering companies and get a taste for what engineering is like in the real world.

I hope that I am still involved in planetary exploration and space travel later in life as I believe that we’re on the brink of several big breakthroughs.

Siena | 17

What are you most proud of?

Overcoming the challenges caused by having learning difficulties to get offered a place at Imperial College to study materials science

It’s 2040, you’re standing somewhere, feeling happy, what do you see?

In 2040, I hope I will be living in a world where there is equality for all; a world that accepts and embraces every individual, no matter what their difference.

I launched Neurodiversity Celebration Week to change perceptions about autism and learning differences. As someone who is autistic, dyslexic and dyspraxic and who also has ADHD, I know that schools often focus on what we can’t do and what we struggle with, instead of also acknowledging our strengths and talents. I believe it’s important to empower neurodiverse students by celebrating their unique and innovative way of looking at the world. It’s also important for those around us to recognise that with the right support, encouragement and understanding, we have the potential to make significant contributions to society.

There are currently over 540 schools and over 420,000 students taking part in Neurodiversity Celebration Week from across the UK, Canada, Australia and the United States. Due to its huge success, this year I have expanded Neurodiversity Celebration Week to also include universities, businesses and museums, such as the Natural History Museum and The Alan Turing Institute.

I also recently launched a crowdfunding campaign that raised enough money so that I can give a copy of my book, The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to Be Awesome and Autistic, to every girls-only state school in the UK. I hope that my book helps SENCOs (special educational needs co-ordinators) and teachers to better understand and support their autistic students.

Amy & Ella | 16 & 14

What are you most proud of?

Getting over 800 schools signed up to be Plastic Clever! Doing our own TEDx talk in 2018 was another proud moment for us too.

What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

“Don’t give up, no matter how hard it may be, and try to care less about what others say and think.”

It’s 2040, you’re standing somewhere, happy, what do you see?

In 2040, it would be nice to envision a world that has recovered from climate change and the other environmental problems we’re facing.

As part of Kids Against Plastic, we encourage people to be more discerning users of single-use plastic through our Plastic Clever initiative, which we run for schools, cafés, businesses and more. We have over 830 schools signed up. We also encourage more young people to take action for what they believe in, just like we did through our charity.


We get to do talks in some amazing locations as part of Kids Against Plastic, such as the Houses of Parliament, the UN in Geneva and even Athens. It always makes us excited to be able to go to such incredible places to talk about what we’re passionate about. Also, whenever we see our total number of Plastic Clever schools passing the next hundred-mark, there are some excited squeals!


We’re always inspired by the amazing work that other young activists are doing. Activism is hard and requires perseverance, so seeing other young people facing the same challenges but carrying on and making a difference is something that is really motivating for us. It’s one of the reasons we started Kids Against Plastic in the first place!

Evie | 12

What are you most proud of?

I’m very proud to have been asked by the BBC to present a Newsround piece. I also had the honour of giving Sir David Attenborough the smallest ammonite in his collection.

What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

“Keep on being kind and always talk to your mum. Talking is good.”

Two years ago I started a campaign called Mary Anning Rocks for my hero, a working-class Victorian fossil hunter known today as the mother of modern-day palaeontology. Mary Anning discovered important things, like the first fossilised remains of dead animal, which made her question the age the Earth and how animals and plants evolved. However, because she was poor and a woman she was never recognised and has been forgotten. I want to put that right.

I’m excited about things like being able to get letters and meeting people like Sir David Attenborough and Professor Alice Roberts. It makes me happy that they’re noticing my campaign for Mary and asking to help me.

Mary Anning and my mum inspired me to make the statue for Mary. My mother is very passionate about getting things that should be done, done.

If you want to help, please pledge your support by following this link, maryanningrocks.co.uk/pledge

Saraswati Sridhar Venkatasai | 16

What are you most proud of?

Presenting my Science Fair Research Project on Brain-Computer Interfacing for Cognitive Assessment at the Intel ISEF last year.

What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?


Dream big, work hard to achieve your goals, and don't let anyone put you down or tell you that you are not capable of doing something you want to do.

It’s 2040, you’re standing somewhere, happy, what do you see?

After many years of effort in research, I finally created an effective vaccine for malaria that passed all of the necessary clinical trials and is about to be available to all those who need it.

I am active in research in Brain-Computer Interfacing and Computational Genomics at my local university. I teach a biweekly advanced math skills class for school kids in my community, started a Biotechnology Club, am organising a speaker series and am fundraising for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. I have also organised an awareness day for Alzheimer’s disease at my school. Through my Ambassadors program, I am developing an online learning platform about biomedical engineering for girls in Puerto Rico. This platform also has an associated workshop series at the end of this year.

I am excited about the future of medicine, given all of the advances being rapidly made in genetics such as CRISPR-Cas9, gene therapy, and tissue engineering. I can't wait to be a part of this technological revolution, and I want to inspire others to do the same.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico where I live and many schools across the island closed down. This aggravated the fact that there are already very few educational opportunities for young girls in my community to explore STEM. This need inspired me to set out to make a difference in my community through my Ambassadors project. 

Sophie Mei Poole | 16

What are you most proud of?

Gaining my PADI Advanced open water scuba diving certification.

What advice would you give your 10 year old self?

I’d tell my 10-year-old self what I tell myself now, to stay true to myself and follow my bliss!

I was fortunate to be chosen as a 2019-2020 Engineer Ambassador for the awesome Engineer Girl organization (affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences). Through this I had the opportunity to attend the Society of Women Engineers conference where I met amazing women in engineering, got training and some awesome mentorship.

My project for Engineer Girl is STEM outreach to girls in foster care and other challenging circumstances where they have little access to STEM. It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve put in over 100 hours of service and received the Presidential Gold Award for that! I’m also a PADI advanced open water scuba diver and I have been participating in a study out of the University of California at Santa Barbara as a citizen scientist tracking and photographing endangered Giant Sea Bass to try to help understand them and increase their numbers. I even got to name a few that I discovered – Fat Albert and Megabite. The study is working to help grow this endangered population!

Both of these experiences have been so exciting. For me, I get most excited by the idea of using maths, science and technology to try to help the world around me and work on the big problems we face. I was inspired to begin this work when I visited the orphanage where I spent the first year of my life. I am adopted from China and when I returned for the first time and learned that the girls who were left behind had developmental disabilities stemming from lack of stimulation, I wanted to help share the exciting things I have been privileged enough to learn with other girls who might not have been so lucky.

Mya-Rose aka Birdgirl | 17

What are you most proud of?


Becoming the youngest person to be awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science for setting up Black2Nature, running nature camps for Visible Minority Ethnic (VME) teenagers, Race Equality in Nature conferences and campaigning to change the environmental sector.

What advice would you give your 10 year old self?

Get outside and enjoy yourself in nature. Having a personal connection will help you fight to save our planet. Then choose the most important thing you want to change or talk about, and focus on that passion.

It’s 2040, you are standing somewhere, feeling happy, what do you see?

I am standing in my Nanabhai’s (granddad’s) village in rural Bangladesh looking out onto the beautiful hoar, monsoon flooded plains, with water as far as the horizon and I am feeling happy taking in the view and because the village still exists despite climate breakdown

I am a British Bangladeshi 17-year-old sixth form student passionate about birds, studying for my A-Levels, write the popular Birdgirl Blog. I am passionate about nature and conserving our planet and everything thing on it in a way that is fair for everyone, both in this country and around the world. I use my blog, writing and talks to highlight the issues that need to change, such as deforestation in the Amazon and palm oil plantations in Asia. I also campaign to make the environmental sector include people of every colour and background and give the opportunity to young people living in the city to go to a nature camp and get connected to the outdoors.

It is the most amazing thing to witness a child engage with nature for the first time. I do bird ringing at my camps where we catch birds, weigh them, put a ring on their leg for scientific research before releasing them. It is so exciting to see a young person hold a bird and release it, smiling and laughing as they do it.

When I was 13-years-old, I decided to organise a birdwatching camp for teenagers but realised that everyone apart from me was a white boy from the countryside. It made me think and from there I started trying to encourage inner-city teenagers to come as well.

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