On 12th November I had the pleasure to attend the annual WISE (Women In Science and Engineering) Awards at the Grange St Paul’s Hotel. The awards are designed to celebrate female talent in science, technology and engineering, with the nominees ranging from school girls through to established professors and experts in various fields.
The evening started with a vibrant drinks reception, where I was introduced to several members of the WISE Young Women’s Board by the wonderful Jess Wade (who also sits on the board). It was fascinating to learn of the different occupations all these girls had, from a Missions Systems Space Engineer to a Technology Business Analyst. It was great to chat with them all about their routes into particular careers and what they have been doing to encourage girls into STEM subjects – definitely some interesting points to take on board for my own outreach efforts to schools.
The dinner took place in the Wren and Shakespeare suite, a beautifully decorated room illuminated in pink, purple and white for 400 guests. I was seated at a table with a very diverse group of people, including two representatives from LEGO, professors of microbiology and chemistry, a doctor, a member of the WISE committee, Princess Anne’s security guard and an award winner. The award winner was Amrita Ahluwalia who won the WISE Research Award (in summary she discovered that beetroot lowers blood pressure – pretty cool!). To find out more about her research and her win click here. As you can imagine the conversation was rather interesting with such a variety of people. At one point there was definitely a moment when I got far too excited speaking to one of the LEGO men about the new Star Wars, especially as he knew stuff I didn’t (don’t worry he didn’t spill the beans to some top secret information, much to my dismay!).
The dinner kicked off with a special LEGO Education challenge. Each of us had a small bag of LEGO containing 6 different
sized pieces of yellow and red bricks. The challenge: to build a duck out of those bricks in 30 seconds. I must say my LEGO building skills have not been challenged since I was about 10 years old, however I am rather proud of my duck, despite its rather odd looking lower half!
Shortly after this mildly hilarious fiasco, watching a bunch of scientists and engineers manically put together a tiny duck out of LEGO, the next challenge was announced. Each table had the pieces to make quite an elaborate LEGO car. By the time we had eaten our desserts, we were to have made a car with the aim for it to travel the furthest out of all other cars in the room. The car could be made in several different ways and we had to figure out the best way to make it and then literally make it….shame we had no engineers on our table!
Afterwards the Royal Party entered, followed by inspiring and though-provoking welcome speeches made by Trudy Norris-Grey, chair of WISE, Dame Mary Archer, on behalf of the evening’s sponsor Bloomberg; and by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal. Princess Anne is the patron of WISE and it was fantastic to see just how enthusiastic she is about women in STEM and her passion to ensure more girls and women pursue science and engineering as a career.
Dinner was served, which was absolutely delicious! Before the Awards, the table who won the car race was announced; unsurprisingly, the table from the Royal Academy of Engineering won. Following this was the part many had been waiting for, The Awards Ceremony. I won’t list all the categories, nominees and winners, as there were many!
However, you can find the full list of wonderful girls and women nominated and their fascinating bios behind their nominations (as well as other details of the evening) by clicking on the online Awards Role Model Booklet and programme for the evening here.
The shortlist videos can be found by clicking here.
You can read more about the WISE Award winners, Highly Commended and Shortlist at this link.
Finally, if you just want to see who won you can find the list at the main Wise Awards 2015 page here.
I’m going to pick out a few people who were of particular interest to me – of course with connections to Imperial. Both a PhD researcher, Clementine Chambon and a Professor of Chemistry, Prof Charlotte K. Williams were nominated for the same award; the WISE Tech Start-Up Award. Prof Williams won the award! You can find out more about her, her tech start-up and her win by clicking here.
In addition, Dr Marily Nika, an Imperial alumnus, won the WISE Influence Award! She is an incredibly inspirational young woman, a program manager at Google, founder of the Women in Computing group at Imperial and director of the London Geekettes. Since I met her in person at the Awards I’ve had a read about all she has done and achieved. It has blown me away with how talented and brilliant she is; all whilst being such a lovely down-to-earth person! If you would like to find out more about Marily and the bio behind her winning the Influence award click here.
Soon after the Awards the formal proceedings closed. The party did not stop there, with an after party taking place in clubTEN downstairs. However, because I now have to ‘adult’ and go to bed for work the next day, I unfortunately didn’t make it to the party (although I’m sure it was great fun!).
All in all, it was a fantastic evening; a chance to meet lots of interesting and inspiring people and hear their stories. It is also wonderful to see just how celebrated women in STEM are and I hope evenings and campaigns like these will continue to recruit increasing numbers of women and girls into science and engineering. Currently, 14% of the UK’s STEM workforce are women. WISE’s aim is to make this 30% by 2020. An exciting target for what will be an influential 5 years, I’m sure.
The press release for the Awards can be found via the link: https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/news/2015/11/tokenism-a-thing-of-the-past-for-women-in-science-and-engineering
If you would like to explore the Awards in further detail please click here for the main WISE Awards 2015 page (as referenced also earlier in this post): https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/wise-awards/wise-awards-2015