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Achieving extraordinary things against the odds - Portraits put women high achievers in the limelight

Published: 
7 March 2006

Professor Wendy Hall named one of UK science's outstanding women.

International Women's Day, 8 March makes a fitting backdrop for the launch of a contemporary photographic collection celebrating the outstanding achievements of six world-class British women working in the fields of science, engineering and technology (SET) who have achieved leadership positions.

One of these six women is Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton and Head of the world-leading School of Electronics and Computer Science. She is one of two winners in the category 'Scientific Discovery and SET Innovation'.

Professor Wendy Hall has achieved real research eminence in computer science in the areas of hypermedia, multimedia and knowledge technologies, and now holds important strategic roles in science and technology education and policy formation. She is currently Senior Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a member of the Prime Minister's Council for Science and Technology, and was recently appointed to the Scientific Council of the new European Research Council.

"I am really thrilled to have been named among these six outstanding women and to be part of the collection's foundation," says Wendy Hall. "It is a tremendous honour for me to be able to represent women's achievements in science and technology in this way, especially on International Women's Day, and I hope the exhibition will inspire many other women in the future."

Commissioned by the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET (UKRC) and executed by acclaimed photographer, Robert Taylor, the collection offers a personal and unexpected interpretation of the groundbreaking women. On show for the first time at the British Library at the UKRC's 2nd annual conference on Wednesday 8 March, the visiting collection will be enlarged each year to create a comprehensive and inspiring legacy for future generations.

Rt. Hon Tessa Jowell MP, Minister of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equality comments: "We know that 70 per cent of women with science, engineering and technology qualifications are not working in these professions, so it is particularly appropriate to celebrate those that are making significant contributions. I hope by launching this exhibition on International Women's Day it will not only inspire and encourage more women into SET, helping to create a more equitable and diverse workforce in the UK, but also ensure that women in these fields are included and celebrated as part of our scientific heritage."

The women featured in the collection come from a variety of backgrounds, united by their outstanding contributions to pioneering work, for which many of them have received international recognition. The photographed women were nominated to take part in the exhibition earlier this year. A judging panel selected two finalists to be photographed in each of the following three categories:

Scientific Discovery and SET Innovation:

Jocelyn Bell Burnell CBE, Visiting Chair in Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, whose research on pulsars was recognised by a Nobel Prize to her supervisor

Professor Wendy Hall CBE, Head of School of Electronics & Computer Science at the University of Southampton, one of the world's leading computer scientists

Science Communication

Professor Kathy Sykes, who holds the Collier Chair for Public Engagement of Science & Engineering at the University of Bristol, regarded as a leading figure in Britain promoting public engagement in science (regular presenter of BBC's Rough Science and other BBC science/society programmes)

Dr Maggie Aderin, Senior Project Manager of Space Science at SIRA Technology Ltd, and runs a public engagement company in her spare time aiming to improve the participation of girls and ethnic minorities in science.

Breaking through the Glass Ceiling into Leadership

Dr Julia Goodfellow CBE, Chief Executive of the Biotechnology & Biological Research Council, the first female chief executive of any UK research council;

Rebecca George OBE, who manages IBM's Central Government Business in the UK and is one of the most senior women in the 25,000 strong company. Her achievements earned her an OBE in 2005.

The supply of scientists and engineers is critical to the UK economy, which is targeting an increase in research and development investment to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2010. Despite forming half of the working population women represent just 24.1 per cent of those working in SET and of all managers, only 12.5 per cent are women. This is an average and hides even more extremes within certain areas such as physics. The recruitment, retention and progression of women in SET are considered intrinsic to future success.

The portrait collection will be exhibited at various public buildings and galleries throughout the UK; exhibiting opportunities include the National Portrait Gallery, Welsh Assembly and Westminster Hall.

Notes for editors

  1. The UKRC's 2nd Annual Conference, entitled Gender & Leadership, will tackle the issues contributing to the under-representation of women in science, engineering and technology careers, particularly for women reaching senior management and leadership positions. It will draw on organisations that have benefited from women SET leaders, the expertise and experience of women in leadership positions, and current research on women in SET leadership.
  2. Chaired by Jenni Murray (Woman's Hour BBC Radio 4) speakers include:Norma Jarboe, Director Opportunity Now; Val Singh, Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the Centre for Developing Women Business Leaders, Cranfield School of Management.
  3. A comprehensive list of speakers and workshop leaders is available.
  4. Biographies of the six women are available.
  5. A jpg of the image of Wendy Hall is available from Joyce Lewis (details below).
  6. Photographer, Robert Taylor, currently has collections in the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Biography available. Please contact Naomi Sullivan on 07710 830072 (n.Sullivan@bilk.ac.uk)
  7. or Kathryn McLaughlin on 07899 693401, (kathryn1.mclaughlin@ntlworld.com)
  8. The University of Southampton is one of the UK's top 10 research universities, with a global reputation for excellence in both teaching and research. With first-rate opportunities and facilities across a wide range of subjects in science and engineering, health, arts and humanities, the University has around 20,000 students and 5000 staff at its campuses in Southampton and Winchester. Its annual turnover is in the region of £274 million.
    Southampton is recognised internationally for its leading-edge research in engineering, science, computer science and medicine, and for its strong enterprise agenda. It is home to world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton; the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research; the Optoelectronics Research Centre; the Textile Conservation Centre; the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease; and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.

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