Civil servants win big at Women in Defence UK Awards

By on 21/11/2019 | Updated on 25/09/2020
DSTL’s Phillippa Spencer takes to the stage to collect her Woman of the Year Award

Civil servants at the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) scooped three awards at the fourth annual Women in Defence UK Awards, held on Tuesday at London’s Guildhall, while three of the department’s employees and two of its teams were finalists.

Phillippa Spencer, senior principal statistician at the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), won the Outstanding Contribution Award as well as being crowned Woman of the Year – the main award of the night.

Women in Defence’s founder, Angela Owen, described her as a thoroughly worthy winner. “Phillippa is a polymath,” she told Global Government Forum. “She applies mathematical and statistical thinking across a wide range of technical domains which include cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, ‘data fusion’, chemistry and biology. The Department for International Development used her statistical model of likely ebola infections amongst healthcare workers in Sierra Leone to determine aid spend. She’s also someone who really promotes gender balance.”

Spencer posted a photo of her award on LinkedIn and said she was “honoured and flummoxed in equal measure”.

Spencer’s colleague, Dr Cerys Rees, a fellow at DSTL and leading expert on chemical and biological weapons, was a finalist in the Outstanding Contribution Award category, along with Caryl Russell at the MoD’s Submarine Delivery Agency.

Making sure every person has a voice

The MoD’s EU Exit Virtual Team, which consists of 50 people working in six groups, won the Inclusive Teamwork Award. “The team is helping the MoD prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU and is working to ensure that should a no-deal Brexit happen, it won’t have an adverse effect on defence and people,” Owen said. “They work is a highly collaborative way and make sure that every single person has a voice.”  

She added that the team also provides military support to 26 government departments and local authorities and does a good job of “blending the military and civilians together, which doesn’t always happen in defence”.

The MoD’s Cyber Delivery Team were finalists in the Inclusive Teamwork Award; DSTL’s TPS STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Club were finalists in the STEM in Defence category; and Natasha Gedge, who works at the MoD Joint Forces Command’s innovation centre, jHub, was an Innovation Award finalist.    

Armed forces winners included the Royal Navy’s surgeon lieutenant commander Ruth Guest; the Royal Air Force’s wing commander Toni-Jane Hoare; the Army’s warrant officer class 2 Kay Howells; and the Royal Air Force’s chief technician Paula Cil.

Private sector winners included Jeanette Pope and April Wiles of BAE Systems – who picked up the Promotion of Gender Balance Award and the Emerging Talent Award respectively – and Rolls Royce’s Anne Kenyon.  

“The winners and finalists are inspirational, and I believe that the awards do a lot of good,” said Owen, who is an ex-Army officer and founded Women in Defence in 2011. “They give women confidence that it’s fine to be a woman in a defence environment and that they don’t have to be a pseudo man to thrive and succeed. The awards will continue to do a sterling job highlighting the value of both individual women in defence but also the impact, collectively, that women have on defence.” 

The Awards, first held in 2016, are hosted by Women in Defence – an organisation which aims to achieve gender balance in the UK defence and security sectors. PA Consulting, which specialises in management consulting, technology and innovation across a range of sectors, is the organisation’s founding partner.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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