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Jazz Shapers

Shaper: Vanessa Vallely

“I was a washer upper – I used to wash up, clean the eel stand…”

“I come from an area where girls didn’t go on to work in
banks. I think there was always this part of me that liked to
kind of reboot the system”

 “…I had some fairly strong role models in my family. My grandmother was an entrepreneur….”

 “when you actually turn up for work, there’s the corporate
hymn sheet. I hadn’t really learnt to speak from
that when I went into my first ever job.”

 “I think when you get to a senior level, it’s our job to act as role models, to kind of put our arms round the next generation….”

I wasn’t a natural networker. I’ll be honest with you, the first
ever event I went to, I walked in, put my got down, got my water,
put my water down, got my coat and went.”

“I truly believe we’re paying a price for our generation”

“when I work with kids, the girls have got no boundaries, they
don’t see that there’s anything to stop them getting where they want to get…”

“I’m more like the 16 year old

me than I think I’ve ever been.”


Vanessa Vallely

In 2008, Vanessa started the networking site:, as a vehicle to help other City Women connect and grow professionally and personally.  WeAreTheCity (WATC) experiences over 4 million hits per month and an average of 260,000 unique visitors.

Today, WATC has become the Little Black Book for London’s female workforce. Its 30,000+ members rely on it for information ranging from professional to personal; to connect with others or to access interests that are centric to working in the City. Vanessa also recently created, which is a niche female job board aimed at raising visibility of the career opportunities open to Women.

Vanessa has worked tirelessly towards furthering the Diversity Agenda. To this end, Women in Banking & Finance (WiBF), recognized her achievements with the ‘2011 Women’s Champion Award’.  In 2009, Vanessa co-founded the citywide diversity forum, The Networks of Networks (TNON). The TNON includes the Diversity heads and heads of women’s networks from 48 firms.

As testimony to the success of the knowledge she shares with others, Vanessa is on every watch list following top women in the City, such as: Financial News’ ‘Top 100 Rising Star across Europe, Africa and EMEA’; Financial News’ ‘Top 100 Women in Finance’; The International Alliance for Women’s ‘Top 100 Women who are making a notable difference’ and most recently, Brummels ‘Top 30 Inspirational Women in the City’ and the UK Leadership Award from Womensphere.

Vanessa has recently released her first book, “Heels of Steel” which tracks her career climb as a corporate woman in a man’s world. The book also imparts tips and advice aimed at helping the next generation to achieve career success.

Vanessa is committed to community work, serving as a Non-Executive for Prostate Cancer UK and NYMT. She is also the Pearly Queen of the City of London, which represents a fundamental aspect of London’s heritage.

Shaper: Neil Wright

As Founder and Managing Director of World Wide Internet Insurance Services (WWIIS), the parent company of Cover For You, Cedar Tree, Insurance & Escape and Outbacker, Neil Wright is not your average insurance type. Following a 10-year military career that began at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Neil served in The Queen’s regiment all over the world [...]


Jazz Shapers - 6 days ago

Shaper: Dame Rosemary Squire OBE

Dame Rosemary Squire OBE is one of the most prominent women in British theatre of the modern era. Since she co-founded the Ambassador Theatre Group in 1992, it has gone onto become the world’s number one live-theatre company.  In 2016, Squire stepped down from her post as CEO to move into a new creative phase.  [...]


Jazz Shapers - 2 weeks ago