In the year marking the centenary of suffrage, the winners of the Women in Defence UK Awards, in association with innovation and transformation consultancy PA Consulting, were announced on Tuesday, 6 November. The Secretary of State for Defence, The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP, presented the awards at a ceremony at The Imperial War Museum, London, to the winners of each of the 10 categories and an overall award for Woman of the Year. This year, in the awards’ third year, there were 300 nominations received from across the defence community including the Armed Forces, MOD Civil Service, GCHQ, MI5 and SIS, defence industry, the defence third sector and the Houses of Parliament Security.
Women in Defence UK exists for a community of people who wish to promote the value of women in defence. The organisation aims to inspire women to succeed, share experience, build networks and encourage talent at all levels to join the defence sector.
The 2018 winners
Woman of the Year 2018 Award – Sponsored by PA Consulting
Michelle Partington Former Royal Air Force
Inspirational Award – Sponsored by Thales
Major Nics Wetherill, Army
Major Nics Wetherill is nominated for devising, organising and leading Expedition ICE MAIDEN, the first all-female crossing of Antarctica, using muscle power alone. She led a team of 5 other women, battling temperatures of -40 degrees and wind speeds of over 60mph to complete the 1700km in just 61 days. The expedition set the following records: the first all-female team to cross Antarctica, the largest all female team ever to make the crossing and the first team of novices ever to make the crossing.
Outstanding Contribution Award – Sponsored by BAE Systems
Corporal Karen Jones, RAF
Corporal Karen Jones is nominated for exceeding expectations in her role as an imagery analyst where her work has tangibly increased Defence Intelligence’s ability to defend the nation. Her work, which she initiated herself, was a very significant piece of multi-national collaboration which will endure for years to come.
Most Collaborative Award – Sponsored by Aspire Defence
Sarah Padley, Defence Intelligence
Sarah is nominated for her work establishing international collaboration in the intelligence community that has had a significant impact. Sarah has nurtured a high performing team that has consistently delivered an output that is respected at the highest levels of partner agencies and government department and has done much to safe guard British interests.
Special Award – Sponsored by DXC Technology
Michelle Partington Former Royal Air Force
Michelle is nominated for her extensive work since retiring from the RAF which she joined as an Aircraftwoman, commissioning from the rank of Sergeant as a Medical Support Officer paramedic. After being diagnosed with PTSD, Michelle created a foundation called Behind The Mask, providing free online support to help other individuals in a similar position to her. She also undertakes public speaking engagements talking about her operational experience and subsequent journey with PTSD. With no competitive sporting background, she competed as part of TeamGB at the 2017 Invictus Games.
Emerging Talent Award – Sponsored by the The Army
Lucy Finch, DE&S
Lucy is nominated for her work as the Lead Integration Engineer delivering an Initial Operating Capability for Paveway IV Mk2 on F35-B (a GPS and laser guided bomb and a future candidate for integration onto UK F-35 aircraft). Aged 24, she manages and engages with stakeholders such as the US Government and industry partners and is happy to challenge the status quo or the general consensus if she believes that an approach can be improved.
Innovation Award – Sponsored by QinetiQ
Professor Petra Oyston
Petra is nominated for developing synthetic biology techniques for the generation of novel materials for protection. Her work has included using genetically modified E. Coli to provide a toughening mechanism for ceramic armour, and has enhanced materials for opaque and transparent armour, protective textiles and for adhesives and surface modification – in other words; camouflage. Truly innovative work. Thanks to Petra, there is now a vibrant, thriving and growing community working in this field.
Unsung Heroines Award – Sponsored by Dell EMC
Maggie O’Connell-Western, Northrop Grumman
In the eyes of her Northrop colleagues, Maggie is the epitome of an unsung heroine. She is nominated for her work as the receptionist at Northrop Grumman, a role which Maggie has turned into so much more. She is the receptionist-cum-party planner, travel arranger, customer visits liaison and the list goes on for quite some time.
Promotion of Gender Balance Award - Sponsored by ATOS
Victoria is nominated for her work transforming MI5’s policies, making them fit for a modern employer and improving the lives of both men and women in the organisation. A founding member of the women's network, she introduced 'baby-days', allowing staff members on maternity leave or away from the office to continue to feel connected and was instrumental in beginning discussions with MI5’s board about gender diversity. Victoria tackled difficult issues with real barriers, proposing practical solutions that will have an enduring impact.
Inclusive Teamwork Award Sponsored by the Royal Air Force
Joint Operational Team, GCHQ
The Joint Operational team from GCHQ are nominated for their work establishing a collaborative and inclusive team environment to expand their operational effectiveness. Mainly consisting of Junior Non-Commissioned Officers, the team has worked together across national boundaries to advance the skills, confidence and expertise required to fulfil their specialist role, whilst simultaneously developing a productive and enjoyable working environment with a strong focus on inclusivity. In doing so, they have ‘lived’ inclusivity rather than just talking about it.
STEM in Defence Award – Sponsored by Northrop Grumman
Lieutenant Colonel Deborah Taylor, Army Reserve
Deborah is nominated for masterminding the first STEM Careers Showcase for secondary school aged girls hosted at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The showcase was attended by 900 secondary school girls from 80 schools from across the country, quite a significant proportion of a key target area at school age. The event presented them with the opportunity to meet with inspirational female STEM speakers, 70 military female role models and 50 interactive and inspiring stands from across industry and the technical Corps.
Angela Owen, founder of Women in Defence UK and a defence expert at PA Consulting, says: “We’re delighted to have seen such an inspiring and diverse list of finalists during this special year marketing the centenary of suffrage. Each finalist – ranging in rank from Lance Corporal to Captain Royal Navy and comprising women and teams from all three of the Armed Forces, the MOD Civil Service, GCHQ and MI5, defence industry and the Houses of Parliament Security – should feel rightly proud of their exceptional achievements and recognition within the defence community.
“At PA, our main focus is on exploring ingenious ways to bring real transformation to organisations and the Women in Defence UK Awards demonstrate what can be achieved when there is a commitment to change.”
The judges who selected the shortlist, finalists and winners were: