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WISE emphasises importance of role models at 2018 awards

Gender balance campaign WISE used its 2018 awards ceremony to highlight the importance of female role models, and called on men to lead the charge for equality

WISE emphasised the importance of shining the light on female role models during its 2018 WISE awards ceremony.

The annual WISE awards, now in its seventh year, showcases exceptional women from the science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) sectors to celebrate diversity in these industries and create visible and accessible role models.

“We need UK employers to do more and follow the great example of our award winners who are leading the way,” said Helen Wollaston, WISE CEO. “They have managed to get more women into engineering and technology, removed barriers preventing women moving up through the ranks and seen the benefits of doing so in terms of improved business performance.”

A lack of visible female role models is often cited as being one of the reasons many girls overlook Stem subjects, and young women have claimed they would like to see more encouragement from women in the sector.

The lack of girls choosing Stem subjects could be set to change, with research from WISE finding the UK is on track to meet its target of one million women working in core Stem roles by 2020.

WISE patron Anne, Princess Royal claimed the UK’s goal of having one million women in Stem roles could be easily achieved if employers hired just half of the estimated 200,000 girls currently studying Stem, as well as encourage more girls into these subjects.

But even with visible female role models, the Stem industries are still male dominated, with a majority of hiring decisions left up to men.

Read more about women in Stem

Many men are doing their part to try to encourage more women into the industry, as well as boost the careers of women already in the Stem sector.

Wollaston encouraged men in the industry, as well as employers in the sector, to use their positions of privilege to increase the pace of change for diversity in the industry.

“There is a major opportunity for companies in the UK to step up their efforts to ensure they retain the women they already have in Stem roles, as well as opening doors for those who may want to retrain from other roles or return after career breaks,” she said.

“The great news is that there are more women than ever before coming onto the labour market with engineering and technology qualifications. If employers manage to recruit just half of these women, the UK will have achieved a major milestone.” 

The winners of the 2018 WISE awards

  • Apprenticeship programme award, sponsored by MBDA: EDF Energy
  • Career award, sponsored by AWE: Network Rail
  • Employer award, sponsored by AVEVA: Costain
  • One to watch awards, sponsored by Intel: Alexandra Lawson, operations supervisor at Shell and Jessica Poole Mather, engineering graduate trainee at Rolls-Royce PLC
  • Rising star award, sponsored by Babcock International: Fritha Bevin-McCrimmon, project engineer, Santec
  • Innovation award, sponsored by BAM Nuttall: Professor Yamni Nigam, biomedical science at the University of Swansea
  • Technician award, sponsored by Royal Air Force: Alison Dolling, teaching technician at University College London
  • Technology award, sponsored by Goldman Sachs: Chetna Arora, domain/development manager at Plusnet
  • Man award, sponsored by WISE and EDF Energy: Alasdair Henderson, people and culture director at BAM Nuttall
  • Woman in industry award, sponsored by Rolls-Royce PLC: Kate Hall, design director, HS2

It is well known that women only make up around 16% of the tech sector, but with the looming skills gap set to widen with Brexit, many believe the industry needs to encourage more women into Stem roles to tackle this skills crisis.

Trudy Norris-Grey, WISE chair and Microsoft managing director, said: “The step closer to one million women in Stem is fantastic, however, we have much more to do in the technology industry, as it is not making the progress that is being seen elsewhere in Stem industries.

“Faced with a huge growth in demand for technology skills in every sector of the economy, we have to increase the number of women working in tech or face a severe skills shortage.” 

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