Suzie de Rohan Willner and Vicky Featherstone
Suzie de Rohan Willner and Vicky Featherstone
© Dan Wooller

In the lead up to International Women's Day on 8 March, University Women of the Arts - a mentoring scheme dedicated to helping get women studying the arts in university actually working in the arts - is running a day-long event open to female students studying arts subjects at any university in the UK. International Women's Day was originally known as International Working Women's Day and via the event, the scheme hopes to assist with the transition from studying to working.

Statistics from Tonic Theatre reveal that only 30 per cent of professional playwrights and theatre directors are female. However, the majority of arts students at university level are female, for example at the University of Arts London, over 70 per cent of students are female.

So where do they go? Over the last year, several mentors from University Women of the Arts have tried to answer to that question, encouraging women and giving practical advice about what to do when faced with challenges in the industry. Here are some nuggets of advice from a few of them.

Trust your intuition

Vicky Featherstone, artistic director at the Royal Court

"So many situations challenge our instinct and sense of self. And make us think: Do I know enough? Allow yourself to trust your instinct and to not be scared of it or over question it. It's the core of who we are."

Turn challenges into opportunities

Suzie de Rohan Willner, CEO of lifestyle company TOAST

"Don't play down your achievements, do each job as well as you can. My family and I used to do a vision board, where we'd visualise where we wanted to be in three years time."

Be creative

Kate Rowland, BBC Writersroom

"You have to create something. I can't stress enough how important I think it is to create your own thing. To say 'I can do it because I can make it'."

Women should help women

Kate Bryan, presenter of Sky Art's Portrait Artist of the Year

"Those starting out in the arts need to believe that they have a value as an individual and that their success is part of a larger framework that depends on women empowering other women to create a balanced landscape."

Be resiliant

Anne Edyvean, boss of BBC Writersroom

" When you do have setbacks, you have to believe you have talent and you have to learn resilience. Put your head up, pull yourself together, go in looking fabulous, smile, look confident, ask their advice about the next step. Go in as somebody positive."

Get a mentor and be a mentor

Suzie de Rohan Willner, CEO of lifestyle company TOAST

"Generous mentors throughout my career have changed the course of my life. I see it as my responsibility to now give back and inspire the next generation of leaders.

Pinky Lilani, founder of the Women of the Future Programme

"It is imperative that we help students to hear stories of success by making role models visible. We hope our collaborative engagement will influence the next generation to fly even higher."


By Jennifer Tuckett, University Women in the Arts Director.

University Women of the Arts Women's day event takes place 2 March at Tara Arts.