Five inspirational female STEM role models named among the 2021 WeAreTheCity Rising Stars were put in the spotlight at a glittering virtual celebration event for winners, sponsors and judges.
Alexandra Mather from Canadian engineering company WSP; Chidinma Okolo from the Diamond Light Source science facility in Oxford; Frida Nzaba and Nipuni Karunaratne from Rolls Royce and Sylvia Lu from u-blox AG, a Swiss company that makes wireless semiconductors and modules, were the winners in the Science and Engineering category, sponsored by 3M.
They joined winners from a further 19 industries to make up 100 new Rising Stars to join the alumni of 650 created by WeAreTheCity since the programme was launched. This year a record 1,344 nominations were received that were assessed by a panel of 51 independent judges.
The Science and Engineering Rising Stars were announced at the virtual celebration event held on 15 July by 3M’s Diversity and Inclusion leader for North Europe, Tina Monk. Speaking via a video link from Denmark, she said: “Connecting young people with inspiring female role models helps to counter stereotypical views and can demonstrate the diverse and rewarding career opportunities that science and engineering can lead to.
“Science is becoming a uniting factor as the world moves towards a common mission of building a safer, equitable and more sustainable future. We need everyone to have a seat at the table to understand the value that diverse thinking can bring.
“There is still a way to go to achieve gender-balance in science and engineering professions, and through sponsorship of this category, we are delighted to shine a spotlight on exceptionally talented individuals who are driving this cause with energy and passion.”
In response, Sylvia said: “I’m proud to be a role model and a big thank you to my colleagues in telecoms who have kept us connected. The best is yet to come.”
Nipuni added: “I’m super excited to join these amazing women. Thank you.”
During her introduction, Tina also spoke about the 3M State of Science Index - independent research that tracks and explores global attitudes toward science. The UK is one of 17 countries included in this year’s study and the results showed that trust in science grew significantly after a year of living through lockdowns.
It also showed that the pandemic has renewed the need to focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) – especially among younger generations, but that more still needs to be done to address STEM inequities faced by women and to keep women and girls engaged in these subjects. There was also agreement that corporations should play a key role in improving diversity in STEM.
The online celebration event was hosted by managing director of WeAreTheCity, Vanessa Vallely, and Julia Streets, CEO of Streets Consulting and a champion of fintech entrepreneurship, innovation and diversity. The headline speaker was Dr Heather Melville, director and head of client experience at PricewaterhouseCoopers, who was awarded an OBE in 2017 for services to female entrepreneurs, diversity in business and gender equality.
Introducing the awards ceremony, Vanessa said: “I am proud of what you have all achieved and would like to congratulate every one of our outstanding role models.” She also encouraged all the winners to ‘pay it forward’ by nominating others and shining a light on their achievements to keep the momentum going.
During the evening, guests were entertained by singer and winner of The Voice 2014, Jermain Jackman, and poet and award-winning spoken word artist, Jaspreet Kaur. The celebration closed to the sound of Elle Yaya from the Southend Vox Choir.