Celebrating #WomenInStem for Womenspire

Before the coronavirus pandemic, this Thursday would have been the annual Chwarae Teg Womenspire Awards 2020 - celebrating the achievements of women from all backgrounds and stages in life or work across Wales. 

Hi, I'm Hannah. Hi, my name is Youmna Mouhamad. I've been teaching science for seven years, and I'm really proud to be given women and girls the opportunity to engage with, succeed at and recognise themselves as champions in science and education. We are the Vaccine Tinkerers and we launched Wales’s first charity escape room based on the vital cancer research being carried out by our team. For me being a Womanspire finalist means two things. First is the recognition of the importance of including race when looking at equality within STEM, but also, all of the young girls of colour that are going to see themselves in me and think , she can lead, so can I and that for me is the real win. I'm a mom of two and the creator of Big Bang UK. We make STEM learning easier and faster for children. Throughout my career as a civil engineer, I have faced judgement because of my gender. I want to show other women, girls, and my own daughter, that anything is possible. I'm thankful to my students who took the time to nominate me, as well as those who support the work I'm doing. I want to say a huge thank you for shortlisting our project. Thanks for Chwarwe Teg and ABPI. We all want to inspire other women, and we believe strongly in supporting cancer research.

While the event has been moved to September 29, we wanted to celebrate the achievements of those nominated in the STEM category this summer and have spoken to the finalists about what it is they do and what it means to them to be nominated.

The ABPI is proud to support Womenspire and sponsor the Women In STEM award. Read the profiles below from five amazing women, four of whom have been nominated this year and one former winner who tells us what she's been up to in the last year.

I think being nominated it's a testament to the incredible support I have received that have helped me to overcome some of the barriers I've faced. Amy Rattenbury

Amy Rattenbury

Who you are and tell us a little about the work that you've been nominated for?

I've been teaching science for seven years and have always been passionate about supporting women to pursue their education and careers. My role as Programme Leader in Forensics has helped people see women can be successful in science and take powerful roles. This has given me the perfect platform to engage with many initiatives.

I run outreach workshops for girls in schools as well the local community. I've developed new programmes which allow my students, around 70% of whom are women, to study at not only undergraduate but postgraduate level.

I'm an equality and diversity representative for my union and the Women's representative for Wales, helping me found the University's Women in STEM action group, championing female staff across the institution. I also mentor student teachers and over the last four years have supported eight women through their qualifications and into successful careers as the next generation of educators.

What does being a Womenspire finalist mean to you?'

I'm still early in to my profession and I'm only 28. I have been fortunate to have had a successful career already. Add to this the fact my students nominated me makes this recognition for the work I'm doing even more significant. For them to take the time to say 'we think people need to know you're doing a great job' is humbling.

I think it's a testament to the incredible support I have received that have helped me to overcome some of the barriers I've faced. So thank you to my supportive colleagues who helped me make things happen, to my incredible group of girlfriends from school who are doing fantastic and inspirational things in their professions and, of course, my family who have always gone out of their way to ensure I have had every chance to succeed.

I hope that this will inspire the leaders in Higher Education in Wales to be intentional about progressing racial equality. Youmna Mouhamad

Youmna Mouhamad

Who you are and tell us a little about the work that you've been nominated for?

I was nominated for the Chwarae Teg  womensprire for leading the the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students within Swansea university College of engineering. This network aims to progress racial equality by raising awareness of the challenges that BAME students and staff experience, then suggest interventions or strategies that look into overcoming the challenges.

Since the Networks launch in October 2019, we have organised three events and invited more than 100 people to learn and reflect on subject such as  the intersectionality of gender and race, the importance of sponsorship to advance the careers of BAME and the impact of organisational culture and racial inequality.

What does being a Womenspire finalist mean to you?'

Although leading the BAME network requires lot of energy and time, it is very rewarding. The most satisfying aspect of this project is the eagerness and enthusiasm of BAME students to be part of the change. For me being a Womenspire finalist is a recognition of the efforts and sincerity that myself and the committee have demonstrate to in this project.

It also a recognition of the necessity to include race when advocating for diversity and equality in STEM. I hope that this will inspire the leaders in Higher Education in Wales to be intentional about progressing racial equality. I believe that this nomination send a clear message to BAME and particularly women that our stories and experiences matter and that we can lead, to me that is the biggest win!

Hannah Pearce

Who you are and tell us a little about the work that you've been nominated for?

Hi, I am Hannah. I am a mum of two and the creator of Big Bang UK. Big Bang launched into the children's education sector last year and has been an enormous success, growing rapidly. Before Big Bang, I was a Civil Engineer working for a multinational construction company. 

Big Bang makes learning easier and faster for children. We run hands-on holiday camps, monthly STEM labs and provide enrichment days in schools. I believe children from all backgrounds should have the opportunity to creatively develop and encourage the skills that will allow them to thrive in life and a STEM-related career.

Inspire, Create, Grow & Learn

That is my core vision for Big Bang. I want to embed STEM subjects and skills in our future generations through fun and creative environments. Being a female from a STEM career, I want to break the stigma. We need more girl power! 

What does being a Womenspire finalist mean to you?

When I had an email at the beginning of the year to say someone had nominated me for the Women in STEM award, it honestly gave me butterflies. So when I had the email to say I was a finalist, those butterflies turned into an explosion. 

Throughout my career in Civil Engineering, I have faced judgement along the way due to my gender. Every time I have always been an advocate for equality for women. As after all, everything needs a woman’s touch. Through all of this, I never would have imagined being a finalist for an award relating to ‘inspiring women’.

I am incredibly honoured and grateful for this, from the bottom of my heart. I want to be able to show other women, girls and my daughter that anything is possible. You can be anyone you want to be and overcome the challenges that you face in life. 

Dr Lisa Whittaker

Who you are and tell us a little about the work that you've been nominated for?

We are the Virus Tinkerers – a group of women (Lisa and Bethan; Tenovus Cancer Care, Tabitha; Cardiff University and Ceri and Ellie; Exitus Escape Rooms) who created Wales’ first charity Escape Room.

Tenovus Virus Tinkerers Escape Room is based on the vital cancer research being carried out by Tabitha (funded by Tenovus Cancer Care) and her colleagues. It’s an exciting and innovative way for people to engage with and learn about cancer research and the important work going on here in Wales.

Escape Rooms are a male dominated industry but we have shown what women can achieve when they bring their various skills and expertise together. The Escape Room has also generated vital funds for Tenovus Cancer Care and we hope that others will learn from us and replicate what we’ve done.

We’ve opened the door to a new form of public engagement with research which is suitable for almost all ages.

What does being a Womenspire finalist mean to you?'

We are absolutely delighted and honoured to among the amazing group of finalists in 2020. Lisa and Bethan are proud to work for Tenovus Cancer Care because they invest in the future of cancer research. But it’s so important that people know about amazing scientists like Tabitha and the vital cancer research she is conducting.

By joining forces with Ceri and Ellie we gave people of all ages the chance to find out more about cancer research in a fun accessible way. We knew we created something brilliant but we also know the barriers women face, particularly in STEM areas.

We’re so pleased to be shortlisted by Chwarae Teg and to have the chance to share our stories, we really hope we will inspire others in all areas including  science, public engagement and escape rooms!

Sarah Morgan

Womenspire Winner 2019 of the Women in STEM category

Tell us a bit about yourself, your work, what you’re up to now?

My business Eco-explore Education provides free science engagement sessions in areas of economic deprivation in South Wales.

A key part of what eco-explore does is making science as accessible as possible and one of the most exciting ways we are doing that is the REACH project in collaboration with Cardiff university. The REACH project aims to learn from the children we work with to design activities, resources and techniques that work best for learners with a range of additional needs including ADHD, ASD, Dyslexia, and Dyspraxia. We will then share everything we learn in an open-access toolkit for other educators and science communicators to learn from.

If anything, Covid-19 has taught us that understanding science is key to facing some of our greatest challenges. The scientists of the future need to be as diverse as the challenges they face making accessibility key to everything we do.

What did being a Womenspire finalist and winner mean to you?

First and foremost being nominated for a Womenspire Award by a colleague I really respect and admire was a wonderful feeling. It meant the world to me that a woman that I look up to as a role model valued my work enough to nominate me. 

The community around Womenspire is also incredible, I met so many amazing women who are doing inspiring work. I’m still in contact with the women I met during the Womenspire awards process and am following their careers with great interest! 

Winning the Womenspire award and being part of the awards ceremony was an unforgettable experience, I invited my mum to the awards ceremony and one of the most unforgettable parts of the evening was my mum crying when I won, that made me cry, strangers were crying with us, it was a messy, emotional, brilliant evening.

About Chwarae Teg

Chwarae Teg (meaning Fair Play) is the charity inspiring, leading and delivering gender equality in Wales. It works for a fairer Wales, where women achieve and prosper across all sectors of the economy, society and in public life.

The Womenspire Awards, now in their 5th year, are run by Chwarae Teg to highlight the achievements and contributions of remarkable Welsh women from all backgrounds.

The Woman in STEM award, sponsored by ABPI, celebrates the women making a real difference to the STEM sectors in Wales, who have a passion for encouraging other women to enter STEM fields and supporting them to progress.

Other awards range for Rising Star and Entrepreneur and there are also two categories for business.

To find out more about the awards and Chwarae Teg visit: https://chwaraeteg.com/projects/womenspire/#2020-award-finalists

Last modified: 20 September 2023

Last reviewed: 20 September 2023