Warwick’s very own researcher Professor Jane Hutton of the Warwick Statistics department has been chosen as one of the first five women to ever receive the Suffrage award in mathematics. The award ceremony held at Bletchley Park fittingly coincided with Ada Lovelace day 2016- an international celebration of women in science held each year on the second Tuesday of October.
Jane, recognised for her work principally based in medical statistics, has contributed to cerebral palsy legal cases, epilepsy drug studies, research ethics and guidelines. Not only has her work been recognised by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence but she has also taught probability and statistics in Tanzania, South Africa and Ghana.
Alongside other winners, including researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Oxford, Jane has been presented with a piece of jewellery as a mark of her achievements. While it’s easy to become indignant that recipients were awarded ‘girly’ trinkets as opposed to ‘proper’, awards, the items actually have historical significance. Designed alongside scientists by students at the Arts and Design College at Central St Martins-UAL the award, consisting of a necklace and bracelet, are inspired by scientific research and are reminiscent of the pieces worn by the suffragettes in the Edwardian era. What’s more, the 2016 winners are then expected to pass down the pieces to a recipient of their choice in 2018. This has the purpose of widening the network of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) – looking to the future using the legacy of the suffragette movement. By treating the award not just as a trophy that collects dust in a case but as an heirloom, like-minded, talented women in science can be further connected.
Over recent years it has become increasingly apparent that there is a serious lack of women in senior scientific positions, and many STEM-based university courses have a very uneven boy to girl ratio. In fact, in a study conducted in 2014 by Wise (Women in Science and Engineering) using UK labour market statistics, women make up just 12.8% of the STEM workforce. Consequently, over recent years more effort has been made to encourage women to pursue jobs in the STEM sector and produce leading research just as Jane has.
Women make up just 12.8% of the STEM workforce
The Suffrage Science award is just one such scheme implemented to increase the network of women in science, set up in 2010 by the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre. For the last five years awards have been introduced to recognise pioneering research in physical sciences, engineering and life sciences, but this year marks the very first year that awards have been received by women working in maths, computing, international research and communication. With supporters of the scheme ranging from STEM academics to Dr Helen Pankhurst, great grand-daughter of pioneering suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, the Suffrage science award has plans to extend further to recognise more branches of the STEM network. While it is uncertain when this development will take place, what is certain that all recipients of the award this year are well deserving and an inspiration to other women both inside and out of the STEM sector.