News

Suffrage Science celebrates fantastic women in science today

 20 July 2018   Public Engagement

Suffrage Science Life Sciences award holders at the 2018 awards.

Every two years 11 inspirational female scientists are recognised and celebrated through the Suffrage Science Life Sciences awards.

Described by Amanda Fisher, Director of MRC LMS,

“The awards showcase and bring prominence to the importance of women in the life sciences, inspiring future generations.”

This year’s Life Sciences awards was held at the Academy of Medical Sciences and highlighted researchers from across the world with nominees from Australia, Israel, USA, UK, Denmark, France, Germany and from a variety of different career stages.

Vivienne Parry hosted the event and guests were treated to a “then and now” panel discussion, the handover ceremony in which the awards are passed down by the previous 11 recipients, and a longer networking session which allowed guests to meet and reflect on their own experiences and the event itself.

The awards were described as “inspiring”, “enlightening” and “empowering” and Max Luitpold Reuter, Postdoc in the DNA Replication group at Imperial’s Institute of Clinical Sciences described the community of our previous awards holders and recipients as “leading female scientists whose ideas and actions shall pave the ‘equality’ way for current and future generations of women in science.”

Anat Mirelman, Director of the Laboratory for Early Markers of Neurodegeneration (LEMON), Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, one of our 2018 award recipients, shared her experience,

“I met inspiring women, in different fields, accomplished, and strong hoping to showcase achievements and encourage other women to strive to achieve higher scientific positions, through example. The true meaning of “deeds not words.” It was exhilarating and motivating.”

Through the panel discussion we reflected on the current landscape for women in science, explored why change is taking so long and discussed how to make a difference for those that follow in our footsteps.

Stacy-Ann Ashley, Partnership Communications Manager at the MRC, enjoyed the panel discussion, appreciated the wonderful mix of perspectives and said: “Being able to draw on the themes of the suffragette movement with Helen Pankhurst was fascinating.”

The panel was chaired by Vivienne Parry. Panellist, Helen Pankhurst shared some of the stories from her book ‘Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women’s Rights – Then and Now’ highlighting areas of progress and regression and some of the challenges still faced by women in Society. Sally Davies shared her views on the importance of women in leadership representing, mentoring and sponsoring others. Anna Zecharia spoke of the rise of global movements such as #metoo trying to affect change, highlighting that the challenges faced in the UK or science are not limited to our borders or sector.

Chiara Prodani, PhD student in the Lymphocyte Development group at MRC LMS summarised her thoughts on the panel,

“Some of the speakers started their scientific careers during quite unfriendly times for women; in times when, as Helen Pankhurst mentioned during the panel, it was completely normal for a woman to be asked what she would pack in her husband’s suitcase for his business trip. It is inspiring to see how far we have come in just a few decades, and how much easier it is to carry out science as a woman today, because some brave and dedicated individuals persevered and paved the way for the younger generation.”

The awards take the shape of heirloom jewellery designed by students from Central Saint Martins. The pendant, designed by Benita Gikaite and the brooch, designed by Anya Malhorta are passed down the Suffrage Science lineage, like a family heirloom.

Pendant (Left) by Benita Gikaite. “I have taken this Masonic charm as a symbol of men’s power and I have given it to women.” Engraved inside the pendant are the dates 1897, 1903 and 1918. These correspond to when the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies was founded; the first Nobel prize was awarded to a woman, Marie Curie; and when British women first obtained the right to vote. Brooch (Right) by Anya Malhorta. “The women who have contributed to science are like the nucleus, surrounded by negativity but they still break through these barriers.” The design evolved from a spherical atom-like structure into a brooch with domed magnifying glass engraved with the words ‘invention’, ‘discovery’, ‘innovation’, ‘creativity’ and ‘power’.”

Michelle Kokkinou, Postdoc in the Psychiatric Imaging Group at the MRC LMS spoke of the handover ceremony,

“It is so empowering to see women being awarded for doing excellent science and having an impact in their scientific field! It is such an inspiration to early career women scientists to pursue their scientific mission!”

Some images of the Suffrage Science 2018 Life Sciences handover: (from L to R) Elizabeth Bradbury, Catherina Becker, Vivinenne Parry, Irene Miguel-Aliaga, Corinne Houart, Mandy Fisher, Denise Head.

Helena Cocheme, Head of Redox Metabolism at MRC LMS provided a valuable reflection about the event,

“In her closing remarks, Mandy made a special point to thank the male members of the audience for attending, which I thought was particularly important. It was great to see many male post-docs and group head colleagues from the LMS attending this ceremony celebrating the success of women in science. Tackling gender balance and diversity issues needs awareness, support and action from everyone.”

David Rueda, Head of Single Molecule Imaging at MRC LMS noted,

“As a male-scientist, I found the Suffrage Science Awards both inspiring and enlightening. We don’t always fully appreciate the specific difficulties that women in science experience, and in that regard the panel discussion was particularly interesting. I also enjoyed having the opportunity to network with such an accomplished group of women-scientists. I felt proud that my institute is spear-heading in this aspect.”

There are currently three categories for the Suffrage Science awards: Life Sciences, Maths and Computing, and Engineering and Physical Sciences. Since the awards were established in 2011 there have been 103 holders of the Suffrage Science heirlooms. A special thanks to Amanda and Vivienne, who together, inspired all aspects of the Suffrage Science awards to commemorate women in science.

Our previous article shared all of the 2018 Life Sciences recipients, to find out more about the Suffrage Science awards head to suffragescience.org.

 

Photography of Suffrage Science Life Scienes 2018 by “Casey Gutteridge/CPG Photography”. Photographed for Fergus Burnett.