Who we are


Caren Gestetner, Chief Executive and Co-founder

Caren was a Partner at Mishcon de Reya Solicitors for many years, until leaving law to pursue her interest in gender through a masters degree in Gender, Policy and Inequalities at the LSE. Caren wrote her dissertation in the field of gender in education. Her study, together with the experiences of her then primary-age children and work in schools, convinced Caren that many gendered inequalities seen throughout society can be traced back to how children learn society’s gendered expectations from a young age. Caren’s work in primary schools to address gendered stereotyping has included workshops with pupils, presenting to staff, providing resources and carrying out gender audits of the school environment and curriculum. Caren also delivers talks to working parents in workplaces.

Kirsty Ruthven, Head of Education

Kirsty is an experienced teacher and school leader having taught from the Early Years Foundation Stage through to Key Stage Two. Previously an Assistant Headteacher in a large primary school and an Early Years Advisory Teacher for a Local Authority, Kirsty has worked with Nurseries, Childminders, Children’s Centres and a variety of local and national organisations.

A passionate advocate for gender equality and a belief that schools and settings are in a unique position to challenge gender stereotypes from an early age, Kirsty believes that even small changes made by educators can have a positive effect on outcomes for children. Her masters degree in Education researched Leadership and Management and she is at the beginning of an EdD at Roehampton University, researching inequalities in education. Kirsty teaches part-time in a South London Primary School. 

Sarah Johnstone, Programme Manager

Sarah has extensive experience managing programmes and partnerships, principally supporting civil society organisations working with children, both internationally and across London. Sarah has established and set up processes and systems for a variety of programmes, and is a huge enthusiast for evidence-led, data-driven approaches.

Passionate about gender equity, Sarah has provided consultancy support to funders at the intersection between child and LGBTQI+ rights, and to organisations supporting girl-led activism globally. She has also volunteered on a number of helplines supporting survivors of gender-based violence. Sarah recognises that Lifting Limits’ approach to shaping children’s understanding at an early age will pave the way for a society that doesn’t define people by their gender, a world without gender-based discrimination or abuse, and a generation with improved mental health. 

Sarah is a keen linguist with a passion for dancing and is currently studying Food Growing at a local city farm on her day off.


David Bartlett, Project Lead, Global Boyhood Initiative

David is an internationally-known consultant and researcher on gender equality, masculinities and fatherhood, offering strategic support, training and leadership coaching to statutory and third sector service providers.

David co-founded the Fatherhood Institute, the UK’s fatherhood think tank, and has been Chief Executive of the UK White Ribbon Campaign, and Director of the Good Lad Initiative (now Beyond Equality).

David believes passionately that achieving gender equality and ending restrictive gender norms is profoundly important for everyone in our society to achieve their full potential. He is a strong advocate for including men and boys in conversations about gender equality.


Fiona Miller Smith, Chair

Fiona is Chief Executive of Barts Charity. In her previous role Fiona was COO of an impact investment firm, leading the firm’s work with charities and social enterprises.

Mike Yule

Mike is a former lawyer turned primary school teacher, now teaching at the University of Chichester in the Education Department, specialising in Global Citizenship Inclusion and Professional Studies. He was also chair of Governors at his local primary school and is still on the governing body.

Anneke Van Woudenberg

Anneke Van Woudenberg

Anneke is the Executive Director of corporate watchdog NGO, Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), which she joined in March 2017. Previously she was the Deputy Africa Director at Human Rights Watch where for 14 years she led in-depth fact-finding on human rights violations across sub-Saharan Africa, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Africa’s Great Lakes region. She has testified at international war crimes trials, briefed the UN Security Council, the US Congress and the British and European parliaments, and is a frequent commentator in the international press. Anneke has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

Vanessa Leung, Treasurer

Vanessa is the Director of Actuarial Policy in the Financial Reporting Council where she leads a team responsible for setting standards and other policy initiatives.  Prior to that, Vanessa was at the Bank of England Prudential Regulation Authority where she led the implementation of the actuarial aspects of the new insurance regulatory regime.  Vanessa is a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and has a Mathematics degree from University of Cambridge.  Having worked in  a male-dominated profession, Vanessa is passionate about gender equality and how this can be achieved for future generations. 


Rachel Hermer, Co-founder

Rachel worked in the media industry before pursuing her interest in education.  Much of her media career was spent at the BBC, starting in production and settling in policy, where she led both internal and external facing projects, represented the BBC on a number of professional bodies and completed an MBA part time. Lifting Limits combines her commitment to fairness and equality with a deep held interest in education. She has been very active as a primary school governor for over 8 years, including several as Chair of Governors, and is also a governor at her local secondary school. 

Emma Tong

Currently a Deputy Headteacher and Teaching School Director, Emma has been a primary school teacher for the last 13 years. After completing her masters degree in 2012, Emma developed a specific interest in promoting opportunities for pupils to learn through classroom talk. More recently, Emma’s interest has been in challenging gender stereotyping in schools specifically through looking at the choices of texts, topics and learning approaches schools are using.

John Jackson

John is a freelance strategy consultant helping non-profit organisations with their public engagement campaigns. John has 20 years experience running major international campaigns and has helped in the development of some of the key campaigns of recent years: Burmese democracy, landmines, poor country debt, child bonded labour, world bank/IMF reform, low wage workers’ rights and housing rights.


Professor Dame Alison Peacock

We are delighted that Professor Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of the Chartered College of Teaching, has agreed to be our first Patron.  A renowned educator whose career has spanned primary, secondary and advisory roles, Dame Alison is also a trustee of Teach First and the author of Assessment for Learning Without Limits.