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News > Alumni News > International Women's Day: Catching up with Sofia Barton

International Women's Day: Catching up with Sofia Barton

To celebrate International Women's Day 2023 on 8 March, we're shedding a spotlight on female Allanians who have gone on to achieve success in their chosen careers. 
10 Mar 2023
Alumni News

We have caught up with some of our fantastic female Allanians in celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March and found out what inspired them to pursue their different careers.

Sofia Barton, who left Dame Allan’s in 2003, is an artist who promotes those underrepresented in society, including women. She creates contemporary artwork inspired by nature and heritage. Last year her artwork, Blazing Trails, was displayed on the Tyne & Wear Metro.  

Tell us about your career and what inspired you to follow this path?

My earliest childhood memories involve drawing. It was a form of observing and learning. Now my visual language as an illustrator stems from the need to translate my impressions of everyday life from both South Asian and Western perspectives. As I grew older I had a natural passion for all things creative and this translated into the exploration of multidisciplinary forms of art. 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a good time to reflect on how far Women’s rights have come from women gaining the vote with suffragettes such as Sophia Duleep Singh. However it still highlights how far we still need to go in terms of equality, representation and change. It also reminds us that present issues such as violence and abuse against women still exist.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘Embrace Equity.’ How do you embrace equity in your daily life?

I avoid assumptions about people. This can include their gender, so I use gender inclusive language. I think it’s important to avoid assuming someone’s identity marks such as ethnic origin or religious affiliation. I often find the best way is to listen and be proactive in educating myself on the topic.

Which women inspire you the most? 

I’m often inspired by stories of my grandmother who survived the partition of India, where 10 million people became refugees during the ethnic violence, that still has a bitter legacy to this day. Tales of her strength, resilience and survivalism during that time still resonate with me today.

My most memorable teacher was Mrs Rushworth in Year 6. She had a motto ‘Just Do It’ (basically the same as Nike) but she would translate this message so passionately to her class. She certainly instilled a positive reinforcement that we could do anything if we put our minds to it. I don’t think I have ever met another teacher, or lecturer with that determination or will. 

How has your schooling at Dame Allan’s influenced your career choices?

My education at Dame Allan’s enriched my knowledge and gave me the spark to pursue my arts career. It was a sharp contrast to my familial and patriarchal background. My teachers would always motivate me, whatever subject that was in. When I was doing my GCSEs my arts teacher, Mrs Heatherington, realised I was embarking on a very eccentric project. Instead of just stopping me, she brought more art supplies so I could finish my work. I think the difference was she believed I could do it, so that belief stayed with me.

Have you experienced any barriers in the workplace due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?

Whilst doing my work experience at BBC Scotland I was told by a male colleague that I couldn’t be part of a group interviewing Alan Cummings. His excuse was I wouldn’t be able to lift the camera equipment and I would be more comfortable making coffee in the office. I overcame this by calling him out directly for being sexist. This behaviour is tough when you face it- but it is critical to act on it to create an equitable workplace as well as having allyship when others face this.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

‘Shy Bairns Get Nowt’ It’s a common saying and ultra Geordie but it rings true. If you don’t reach for something, basically you won’t get it. It’s a good reminder to have confidence and not be discouraged. 

If you could invite three inspirational women (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be?

I’d love to converse with the historic suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh and the novelist Jane Austen, about their thoughts on women’s rights. I’d also like to meet Lady Phyll - who is very much alive and the founder of UK Black Pride, about her work for racial, gender and LGBT rights.

What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers?

Everyone you meet can be a potential door to a new opportunity - either personally or professionally so build good bridges early on because you never know how it’ll weave into your life later on.


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