The WISE (Women into Science and Engineering) organisation is on a mission. Founded in 1984, it was set up to encourage and inspire more girls to consider pursuing science and engineering careers. WISE has an ambitious goal – increase the number of female employees in the high-tech workplace from 13% today to 30% by 2020.
Much of the work that WISE does involves working with role models
The process starts in the classroom, showing young girls that they can succeed in so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and careers. Much of the work that WISE does involves working with role models and the annual WISE Girl Award (sponsored by Intel) has just added Charlotte Kerr to that ever growing list.
The WISE Girl Award “celebrates a girl/young woman under the age of 18 with a passion for science, technology, engineering or mathematics, whose outstanding achievements have already inspired other girls.” Kerr, studying at Grantown Grammar School in the highlands of Scotland, has battled dyslexia to pursue her passion for engineering, leading her school’s Young Engineers Club and founding a “Positively Pink Engineering” Facebook page to inspire other young girls.
Charlotte Kerr won the Wise Girl Award ahead of Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin, who writes a science blog called ‘Darwin’s Beard’ that aims to make new scientific research accessible for a young audience. Other nominees included young physics blogger Rebecca Wang and leukaemia survivor turned cancer researcher, Sara Zaidi.
“In Year 12, I was the only girl in my Physics class. I know if I can do this, anyone can do this,” Charlotte Kerr told us. Her advice for any young girls curious about a career in technology is simple. “Face your challenges and go for it. Explore your interest, fulfil your potential, it will build your confidence and ability.”
I know if I can do this, anyone can do this – Charlotte Kerr, WISE Girl Award winner 2014
Kerr cites the female teachers at her school as her inspiration and thanked them for their encouragement and support. She plans to finish her MEng degree in Civil Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, before joining her scholarship sponsor Mott MacDonald Consultants as a Chartered Civil Engineer. Her ambition? To work on a big infrastructure project that improves society and makes a lasting difference.
“I could be any girl who has an interest and passion in engineering,” said Kerr. “The hardest thing I had to do was to face up to my weaknesses and reconsider them as enabling strengths. Diversity [in the workplace] is good, it is inclusive and it brings a more complete solution. Challenges inspire me – they make us grow stronger. Let’s change the future and make it more diverse!”
To find out more about WISE and the WISE Awards, visit www.wisecampaign.org.uk.