I was thrilled to learn recently that the Welsh organisation Chwarae Teg had shortlisted me for the ‘Womenspire STEM Pioneer’ award for 2017, alongside two other women whom I greatly admire. (There’s more information about the Womenspire awards in the press notice below.) I learned that many of my colleagues from across Swansea University had nominated me and I am delighted to note the goodwill messages via social media too, when the University announced my shortlisting. I recognise that, as one gets later in their career, the opportunities to be recognised for various achievements in turn increase and I am very grateful to my colleagues, thank you all.
I have been pondering on such awards, on the purpose they serve and whether there should there be separate awards for women. Thinking back to both the Womenspire and the WISE 2016 award evenings it was an absolute delight to feel the sense of empowerment of the women in the room and see the very apparent ‘can do’ attitudes of all that attended. I note that there are many other such awards internationally too and I consider that they serve a highly valuable function. It is highly beneficial to raise the profile of women in STEM and in leadership, to increase the visibility of women’s contributions and create a culture of celebrating all of women’s talents and achievements. I have noticed, time and again, that the women in organisations feel that they have a voice, that they make significant and worthwhile contributions and that they are appreciated when there are such awards, in summary it does make a difference.
And now, with my STEM colleagues, we are preparing for Swansea’s Soapbox Science to give a platform/soapbox for women researchers across the STEM subjects to share their passion about their work with the public. In doing so many young girls are able to see that lots of women have very worthwhile work and that they too could have such careers – and maybe out there, there are the future women in STEM!
Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Swansea University has been shortlisted for an Individual Award in the Chwarae Teg Womenspire Awards.
The Womanspire Awards celebrate the amazing achievements made by women across Wales. They include a wide range of categories to ensure that the winners will be reflective of the achievements being made by women from all walks of life.
Professor Lappin-Scott has been shortlisted in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Pioneer category. The nomination and shortlisting recognises her personal and professional work to develop opportunities for women in STEM. Hilary works tirelessly to inspire, support and encourage women in STEM at all levels locally, nationally and internationally.
Hilary, a Professor of Microbiology, has been a scientist for over 30 years and has supervised fifty PhD students to their successful completion and has published 200+ scientific papers. Her work is recognized as internationally excellent e.g. she received the prestigious Schlumberger Stichting Award .
Hilary is the Vice President of the Federation of European Microbiological Societies, steering the development of the discipline on a global scale. She plays numerous leadership (UK wide and international) roles within STEM, shaping the future direction of research, supporting the international networking of scientists and the exchange of scientific ideas for the benefit of the global scientific community.
At Swansea University Hilary leads, directs and supports the progress of STEM through her current role as Senior-Pro-Vice-Chancellor.
Recently Prof Lappin-Scott devised the “Utilising All Our Talent” initiative at Swansea University, which established a senior group of female staff, facilitating both networking and support. For International Women’s Day 2015 she created the “Inspiring Women” campaign, whereby women from all areas and careers stages are showcased and celebrated, with STEM women well represented throughout and devised the Mary Williams Award which recognises staff who supports others to achieve their full potential. Hilary co-authored the Welsh Government paper ‘Talented Women for a Successful Wales’and delivered a TEDXTalk, which discussed the barriers girls face and challenges they need to overcome when entering the STEM arena
In 2014 Hilary brought “Soapbox Science” a public outreach platform promoting female scientists, from London to Swansea to challenge the public’s perception of women as scientists too, and inspiring the next generation of female scientists. She also attracted the very successful British Science Festival to Wales which Swansea University not only hosted last year but also provided the impetus for the Swansea University Science Festival being held in September this year.
Hilary received the 2016 WISE Campaign “Hero” award in recognition of “her passion about change on a global level and without boundaries. The award citation said that Hilary was “ Busy, visible and creative and she brings together science and industry to improve lives.”
Speaking about Hilary’s Womanspire Award shortlisting Professor Richard B Davies Vice Chancellor, Swansea University said: “As a highly respected scientist and a Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Swansea University, Hilary has a demanding and hectic schedule. But her infectious enthusiasm for science never falters and it is hugely to her credit that she always manages to find the time to encourage and support other women to have successful careers in science. She also makes important strategic contributions, nationally and internationally, to addressing the under-representation and retention of women in STEM. This includes policy development, conference contributions, and membership of advisory and review panels.
“ I thank Chwarae Teg for giving Hilary the opportunity, through her shortlisting for their Womenspire Awards, to champion here in Wales the opportunities for women in STEM.”
Chwarae Teg received over 300 nominations across the 12 categories recognising the extraordinary achievements many individuals and organisations have made in leading equality in their industry such as business, arts, sports, STEM, rural and education.
Chief Executive, Cerys Furlong said, “Following the success of last year’s event we knew that there were more incredible individuals achieving and championing equality here in Wales. We’ve been overwhelmed with the stories and have seen some empowering and compelling nominations that we can’t wait to share with you on 21 June at the Wales Millennium Centre.”
Chwarae Teg, Womenspire, STEM, diversity, women, STEM pioneer, Swansea University, Hilary Lappin-Scott, empowerment, Richard B Davies, inspiring women, soapbox science.
The full list of finalists is available at https://www.cteg.org.uk/womenspire-17/womenspire-2017-finalists/.
hilary.lappin-scott June 14th, 2017
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Like many of us I joined in events celebrating International Women’s Day this year. I have been considering what strategies work to bring about the changes needed, to raise awareness of the work and contributions of women in organisations, to make women feel a visible and valued part of work communities and to celebrate women’s achievements, helping to empower female staff. I am invited to speak at numerous events on these very topics so thoughts I would share some of the initiatives that these audiences really respond to, one of these being the #InspiringWomen initiative. This is based around one of the ways that we celebrate International Women’s Day at Swansea University, whilst helping to drive culture change – but it has a few twists to it too!
We wanted a way to showcase the range of successful women that are working, studying or supporting Swansea University now, or in the past. When we put out a call inviting staff across the university to nominate suitable candidates we were overwhelmed with both the scale and quality of the response. After scrutinising each nomination there was still a huge pool to draw from. So we decided that, instead of celebrating for just one day, we would run this campaign for the entire month of March and feature all of these #InspiringWomen.
Here’s the #InspiringWomen from 2017, all have wonderful stories of their contributions and achievements.
So instead of limiting this to one day of celebration on March 8th we run this campaign over four weeks. Each week a different set of women are featured, with a ‘click through’ to open up and learn more of their inspiring stories. We have used this format for three years now and it really has grabbed attention, getting very high volumes of ‘click throughs’ and people reading the stories. Other organisations have also really warmed to the idea, enjoying the celebratory nature of the campaign, the fact that it is highly effective and yet very low cost. The feedback I get is how thrilled the participants are to have their contributions recognised in this way.
I would be happy to hear of other ways to recognise and celebrate the contributions of women in the workforce, to help us prepare for IWD 2018.
hilary.lappin-scott March 15th, 2017
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Finding and celebrating your heroes: The Mary Williams award
I am really pleased by the widespread interest in Swansea University’s Mary Williams Equality and Diversity staff award so I thought I would expand on what the award is, why we set it up and the perceived benefits of the award. I encourage others to set up similar schemes to find and recognise their female heroes whilst simultaneously celebrating the achievements and contributions of their staff towards greater gender equity in the workplace.
First of all, we established the Mary Williams Group at Swansea University. This started really as a spin off from a small group of senior women from across the University that I invited to a celebration of Ada Lovelace day in October 2013. We all felt it beneficial to meet up and share experiences and so agreed that we would like this group to be sustained, to provide a supportive networking for senior women across the University. Note, this was not limited to women in the STEM subjects nor to academics. When searching for a name for the Group I recalled being told that Professor Mary Williams was the first woman appointed to an established Chair at Swansea University and similarly the first to hold such a Chair in the UK (in 1921). I know that there are other claims to be the ‘first female Professor at a UK university’ rather than the first to an established Chair – we celebrate her as a pioneer at Swansea University! So the Mary Williams Group was established and provides a networking group for women, with workshops, discussion groups and leadership in equality and diversity.
At Swansea University we are working hard to ensure greater equality and diversity in all that we do, to fully utilise all of our talent to be a successful university. We thought it would be fitting to recognise staff who go ‘above and beyond the day job’ to support increasing inclusivity and the development of others via a prize called the Mary Williams award and to award this annually. There is more about the award here http://www.swansea.ac.uk/personnel/equal-opportunities/marywilliamsaward/
A little more detail about the Mary Williams award – it is open to all staff, males and females, academics and professional services staff to find a worthy recipient each year. We established the terms of reference for the award, inviting staff to nominate colleagues for the award and why the person (or team) is worthy of such an award. A team of judges makes the final decision. It’s so heartening to see the wide range of staff put forward by their colleagues from every area of the University, for the award. The entire process is run by the Human Resources Equality and Diversity team, amongst their other duties. They notify the winner, but importantly they also notify and thank the nominators and everyone who was nominated to thank them for all their work and congratulate them on being nominated.
We commenced this in 2014 and so have had three winners so far. The award and recognition has made a huge difference to the university community and ensures that we celebrate our work on utilising all of our talent. The Vice Chancellor includes the presentation of the annual Mary Williams award to the awardee at the summer graduation ceremony, thus consolidating the Mary Williams award as a central part of university activities. I have spoken of this award and scheme at many external events and am heartened by the warmth towards this.
I encourage others to consider establishing similar awards to celebrate and recognise all of the talent at their universities and work places too, it was very easy to set it up, is low cost yet is a highly acclaimed, celebratory award, good luck!
hilary.lappin-scott March 2nd, 2017
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It’s conference season in the academic world and lots of us are preparing our presentations or already away with our extended academic community. I’m currently in the beautiful city of Montreal at the International Society of Microbial Ecology, the #ISME16 meeting. It’s probably the most significant conference for me, covering virtually every area of my research interests. Also I’m ‘time served’ on ISME, having been elected onto the Executive from 2001 to 2012, including being Vice President, President (twice) and Board member and am now the UK Ambassador. If you don’t know this learned society – it’s big! The meetings are generally over 2000 delegates from 60-70 different countries, so it’s a massive exchange of the latest findings in this important field of Microbiology.
Being at the meeting, enjoying interactions with colleagues old and new over 5 days has me reflecting on past meetings of ISME. Early this week I ran, with two senior scientists, a packed session (500+ delegates at their first ISME meeting) for early career researchers to help them get the most from the conference and support them to get started in networking to enhance their research and opportunities. This very much reminded me of my first ISME meeting, ISME4 in Ljubljana in 1986, so exactly 30 years ago. I was there alone as a post- doc researcher badly in need of my next academic job. I took my first ever poster (I’d no idea how to make a poster so overdid the glue and it stuck on the poster board unaided!) and had to learn how to get the most from the conference by making a lot of mistakes first. For example, I tried to catch a bus from my hotel to the conference centre but inadvertently stood on the wrong side of the road, ended up on a bus that went slowly into the hills and stopped at a terminus a long way from the conference centre. The bus driver and I looked at each other, I couldn’t understand any Serbo-Croat but assumed that the bus would eventually go back into the city, which luckily it did!
In fact I had a job offer before I left Heathrow, bumping into someone who became highly influential in my career, Bill Costerton, when the flight was delayed. (I was working at Calgary University with him two months later.) I recall sitting in the opening ceremony in awe of all that was going on around me, little did I know that one day it would be me on the stage as ISME President, opening the ISME meetings in Cairns and then Seattle in 2008 and 2010. Yesterday, when speaking to the early career researchers I told them of this story of my first ISME meeting and that I was ‘keeping the stage warm for them’ as we need some of them to take over running the Society, to ensure our subject continues to flourish. I always enjoy these sessions with young researchers and work with them, visiting their posters and discussing their research.
On the final day of ISME16 I will present the Bill Costerton prize to the best young scientist’s poster, in memory of this fine scientist. And it reminds me too of how its important that senior scientists give time to support our next generation too.
Sent from my iPad
hilary.lappin-scott August 25th, 2016
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Welcome to my first blog! I’ve been meaning to start a blog for some time and here it is. In my postings I’m planning to cover the types of things I do in my working and personal life on global issues around universities and higher education, the challenges and need for achieving greater diversity in all we do, about the STEM world in particular, musings from some of my travels, some of my experiences as a member of the team that runs a university and occasionally about all things microbiology and my research! So an eclectic mixture of topics which I hope will be of interest.
As a senior female scientist I am frequently asked to speak at events about ‘my story’ so I thought that I would cover a little of this, to give some context. I am from a widening participation background, born into a town of low aspirations and under achievement in the north east of England. The life expectations for the girls, at the time, was to leave school at 15 or 16 and to work to provide some money to supplement the family’s income, before marrying and having children. The girls in my school year had virtually no opportunities to study. For the boys, at the time, the ambition was to get an apprenticeship at one of the large ‘works’ in the area and follow their fathers and brothers into shift work, early marriage and children.
I followed the ‘leave school early’ and worked in several jobs before giving it all up and like others, spent time traveling in Europe and North Africa. This gave me time to think about what I wanted to do. I always liked travel and I was keen to have a job that might take me to different places in the world, so I thought ‘why not try science’ as this might support such choices? I needed to get more qualifications so enrolled in night classes whilst working full time to support myself. I got two A levels in nine months and was delighted when Warwick University offered me a place. Once in higher education I loved it. This enabled me to progress from BSc to PhD, through various post-doctoral Fellowships in the UK and internationally, prior to my first academic post at Exeter University.
The years slipped by and before I knew it I became the first ever (there were two of us promoted on the same day) female Professor appointed to the experimental STEM subjects at Exeter University, the first female Head of Biological Sciences and then Dean of the Postgraduate Faculty and eventually moved into the senior team at Swansea University.
Along the way I’ve played various leadership roles in universities, government, learned societies, nationally and internationally and lots of other external roles besides these. What I have noticed is that at every single career stage the numbers of women that I’ve worked with have got fewer and fewer, until it became a regular occurrence for me to be the only woman in the room. In the Biosciences fields there are lots of women studying for BSc and PhDs but they seemed to disappear and the majority of the senior level posts are held by men. I’ve looked around and not liked what has been happening with girls and women in STEM subjects.
Fast forward to 2016, I so often hear stories of impediments to girls and women’s career and life progression, in STEM subjects and more broadly too. It’s important to stress that this is not a UK phenomenon, I’m currently involved in projects in Australia and Canada too. So I was pleased to be invited to be a TED speaker at the recent TEDx event in Swansea. I decided that, rather than speaking on my research, that I would instead focus around the imagined scenario of girls growing up in 2016 and what their life opportunities might be within STEM careers and also covering what things work to raise the visibility of women and support them to progress. The TED talk is available here –
MOVE OVER BOYS: Why we need more girls/women in STEM Careers | Hilary Lappin-Scott | TEDxSwansea
I hope that it is useful and I look forward to preparing further blogs to share other ways to support women in STEM.
hilary.lappin-scott July 28th, 2016
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