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The History of Cambridge AWiSE

The impetus for the founding of AWiSE was ‘The Rising Tide’, a Report on Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, published by the UK Government (HMSO) in 1994. Its remit was to advise the Government on ways in which the potential, skills and expertise of women could best be secured.

This Report documented the loss of girls and women to science, engineering  and technology (SET) at every stage. Even in biological sciences, where women students outnumber men, few women survive to reach positions of seniority and  influence. In 2004/2005 only 11.5% of bioscience professors were women.  The Rising Tide: A report on Women in Science, Engineering and  Technology‘ made recommendations for encouraging girls and women to study  SET, for improving their education and training, and to help women continue in SET or return after a career break. Employers and Government need to develop  equal opportunities policies, and family friendly measures, also career advice,  and help for women returners.

‘The Rising Tide’ recognised the value of networking and mutual support among Women in SET. The Government’s ‘Response’  (HMSO, 1994) ‘looks forward to the work in this area of the newly formed Association for Women in Science and Engineering’.

Joan Mason 1923-2004
Image of Joan MasonJoan Mason was the founding Chair of AWiSE. She passed away in March 2004 and is sorely missed by many. Her passing leaves a great void in the women in SET  field.  Anne McLaren, a founding member of AWiSE and Cambridge AWiSE member said “Joan studied science at a time when it was not considered an appropriate occupation for a woman, but went on to do research and later taught at University College London, the University of East Anglia and the Open University. Joan met her husband, Stephen, at UCL and, at 33, took a career break to have a family. She managed to write up much of her research while looking after her 3 young sons. She returned to academia after 8 years. She was appointed to a lectureship at the Open University in 1970. She retired in 1988 but was still active, conducting historical studies on the achievements of women  scientists and serving as a secretary to the committee that produced The Rising Tide, which recommended that a networking association of women scientists and engineers should be set up. This was followed by the foundation of AWiSE.”
The complete version of Anne McLaren’s obituary for Joan Mason can be read here.
Joan Mason, Scientist.  Born 1923, died March 2004.

Anne McLaren 1927-2007
Image of Anne McLarenDame Anne McLaren played a fundamental role in the setting up of AWiSE and served as AWiSE President for many years.  She was tragically killed in a car accident on 7th July 2007.  as Anne McLaren was a distinguished scientist working in reproductive biology, developmental biology and genetics. She became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1975, won a Royal Medal in 1990 in recognition of her distinguished research on mammalian embryology, particularly for providing much of the scientific basis for in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer, and for analysing sex determination in mammals. She was Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society from 1991 to 1996, the first female officer of the Royal Society. She was also President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science from 1993 to 1994. Together with Andrzej K. Tarkowski, she was awarded the Japan Prize in 2002 for their contributions to developmental biology. She was made a DBE in 1993. Anne McLaren was also an advocate for women in science. She had three children and understood the difficulties of combining family life and a scientific career. She remained a stalward supporter of Cambridge AWiSE until her death. She will be greatly missed.
Anne McLaren, Scientist. Born 1927, died July 2007.

Cambridge Association for Women in Science and Engineering was originally set up in 1994 as a local branch of AWiSE. It had an active program of events, although it was primarily academic in focus. Cambridge AWiSE was expanded in 2004 to provide greater local support and networking opportunities for women in SET in both industry and academia in Cambridgeshire and beyond. Cambridge AWiSE  is a voluntary organisation run by a Steering Group and we have our own constitution If you would like to join the steering group and be involved in setting the direction of Cambridge AWiSE please contact us!


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