St John's College Oxford

Women's Network

We are delighted to announce the launch of the St John’s College Women’s Network.
Women's Network Logo

The Women’s Network aims to celebrate and support St John’s College women by bringing together current students, fellows, staff and alumnae from across the world. Building on the success of the 2000 Women celebrations, the Network aims to further women’s engagement with the College, and to support their education, well-being and life opportunities.

What does the Network do?

Women's rowing croppedThe Women’s Network brings together existing events and initiatives for St John’s women into one network, and provides a platform for more extensive connections to be made.

  • Through the online platform for St John's alumni, women students of St John's are able to connect with alumnae for mentoring.
  • Speaker events, in a variety of locations and formats, with women speakers sharing their experience and insights. These events are open to all genders.
  • Women's Leadership Programme
  • Annual London Women's Network Dinner, organised in association with Eyedea. 

The Network is open to all St John’s women, past and present, and is overseen by a Steering Group made up of St John’s students, fellows, alumnae and representatives of the Development and Alumni Relations Team.

Note the St John’s Women’s Network defines a woman as anyone who identifies wholly or partially as a woman and/or as transfeminine.

Recent events

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore_WNtalk1On Saturday 18 May St John’s College Women’s Network was delighted to welcome alumna Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore back to College to discuss her work and recent award-winning book, Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain

It is, strangely, acceptable to mock and demonise teenagers; the same stereotypes of lethargy, bad manners and disrespect for authority have endured through millennia and across cultures.  Adolescence is a transitional period that we all experience between puberty and adult independence, so undergraduates arriving at St John’s College are, for the most part, still adolescents, and Freshers’ Week reflects these classic behaviours.

Sarah-Jayne matriculated in 1993 to read experimental psychology, then continued with post-graduate studies at UCL.  During her PhD research in self-monitoring in schizophrenia, she observed how many symptoms of mental illness first manifest in adolescence, and yet we know comparatively little about the adolescent brain, its development or why it may increase vulnerability to mental health.

As Professor Blakemore notes in her book, technological advances, notably MRI scanners, meant neuroscientists could finally conduct longitudinal studies of adolescent brains, and at scale.  Science textbooks had to be rewritten as researchers discovered that substantial and protracted changes occur in the brain right into adulthood.

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore_WNtalk3Professor Blakemore described how particular aspects of these neurodevelopmental processes are influenced by environmental experiences, notably social environment and peer pressures.  Why might teenagers sometimes take risks that seem irrational in the face of the known consequences – why might your teenage daughter smoke, for example?  Because she simply perceives the social risk as higher than the health risk.  Blakemore highlighted how these same peer pressures can be harnessed in positive ways to empower and engage: an anti-bullying campaign co-created by school children was more successful than other interventions imposed from above.  You can read more of Professor Blakemore’s work in this article recently published in The Lancet. 

We were all teenagers once, and many of us are, or will be, parents of teenagers at some point.  Sarah-Jayne’s work, her accessible writing and engaging talks mean the workings of the adolescent brain are now less mysterious.  Parents, policy makers and education practitioners everywhere can pause for thought and a little more empathy before we rush to judgement.  

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore_WNtalk2This was the first event that the Women's Network has organised with a more academic focus, engaging an audience of alumni (not just alumnae), their families, College fellows, and faculty academics.  A delicious tea followed with plenty of time to catch up or confer further: very much reflecting the aims of the St John’s College Women’s Network to inspire, celebrate and empower all women associated with the College. 

For more information, a list of future events, or to share a suggestion of your own please contact us.

Read about our January event, Not The Milk Round, here.

Four Ways to Get Involved

The Women’s Network will work best as more people get involved! Pick from the options below...

  • Would you like to speak at a future Women's Lunch?
  • Can you contribute to the Women's Network by speaking or running a workshop?
  • Do you have an idea for an event, or something else the Women's Network could do?
  • Would you like to be an alumnae representative on the Steering Group?

We’d love to hear from you. Email with the subject line ‘Get Involved’.