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Who's Who: Pearly Queen Vanessa Vallely is on an equality drive with WeAreTheCity

PUBLISHED: 14:49 12 September 2016

Vanessa Vallely with Maighread Neligan, president of the Dalston Darlings WI

Vanessa Vallely with Maighread Neligan, president of the Dalston Darlings WI

Archant

Emma Bartholomew catches up with Pearly Queen and womens' rights champion Vanessa Vallely after a talk for the Dalston Darlings.

Vanessa Vallely giving a speech at the Dalston Darlings' WI meetingVanessa Vallely giving a speech at the Dalston Darlings' WI meeting

Pearly Queen Vanessa Vallely is driven by the belief companies would be better if they offered equal opportunities to everyone.

The founder of women’s networking and news site WeAreTheCity left school in Haggerston at 16 because she couldn’t afford to go to university.

She fought her way up the career ladder, working in nine different banks, to become global head of business management at an asset management firm.

After a 25-year City career, the mother of two teenage girls set up WeAreTheCity eight years ago to gather news affecting working women that was “scattered everywhere” on subjects like the pay gap, women on boards and pension reforms.

In April she was picked as one of the “world’s biggest names in digital” to sit on a panel advising the government on delivering world-beating digital public services.

“It’s about seeing the world through different lenses,” said Vanessa. “You will never get diversity of thought if we have people at the top of organisations who look and think and talk the same. But you have cultures embedded for years – line managers used to hiring people who look and sound like them.”

Vanessa, who now lives in Rayleigh in Essex, returned to her roots in Dalston last week when she delivered a motivational speech to the Dalston Darlings Women’s Institute group at The Duke of Wellington pub, De Beauvoir.

She was brought up here by her mum, attending Haggerston Girls School in Weymouth Terrace.

Aged three she became the Pearly Queen of Hoxton – a title that has been in her family for a century.

Later she got the title Pearly Queen of the City of London, inheriting the honour from her father.

“I always say, ‘I’m made in Hackney’. That’s made me the person I am,” said Vanessa.

“Growing up in that environment you appreciate everyone has different backgrounds and beliefs.

“As you get older you realise how important your heritage is, and being a Pearly Queen is a big part of London’s heritage.

“If I don’t keep it alive, who is going to?”

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