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Winners of Women in Defence UK Awards 2019 announced

Winners of Women in Defence UK Awards 2019 announced


17 Dec, 2019

The winners of the Women in Defence UK Awards were recently announced at a ceremony attended by guests from across the defence enterprise. Air Marshal Sue Gray presented the awards at a ceremony at the Guildhall, London, to the winners of each of the 10 categories and an overall award for Woman of the Year. This year – the awards’ fourth – more than 470 nominations were received from across the defence community, including the Armed Forces, MoD civil service, GCHQ, MI5, defence industry and the defence third sector.

Women in Defence UK is a thriving community of women, men and individuals who champion the direct impact and force-multiplying effect women bring to the defence of the nation.

Says Angela Owen, founder of Women in Defence UK: ‘Yet again, we’ve been blown away by the inspiring achievements and courage of the finalists and winners. These are truly exceptional people, who deserve to be celebrated. They exemplify our watchwords for the year, “Deeds not Words”, as rather than comment or complain, they actively work to make defence a better place for all.’ 


Woman of the Year 2019 Award – sponsored by PA Consulting 

Phillippa Spencer, Ministry of Defence, Defence Science & Technology Laboratory

Phillippa was nominated for her more than 17 years of service at DSTL, contributing to the defence and security of the UK. A polymath, she has applied mathematical and statistical thinking across a wide range of technical domains including cyber, artificial intelligence, data fusion, chemistry and biology. This year Phillippa was awarded a patent for her method of interrogating mixtures of nucleic acids by short tandem repeat analysis, complementing her other patents including one for the pre-symptomatic diagnosis of sepsis.

Inspirational Award – sponsored by Lockheed Martin

Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Ruth Guest, Royal Navy

Ruth was nominated for her pilot project, REBALANCE, which aims to improve the flow of medical information of serving women on maternity leave between military and civilian providers. She identified that, for many women, there are barriers to support-seeking, feelings of isolation and gaps in their knowledge of services available to them.

Outstanding Contribution Award – sponsored by BAE Systems

Phillippa Spencer, Ministry of Defence, Defence Science & Technology Laboratory

(See the information on Phillippa’s achievements, above.)

Most Collaborative Award – sponsored by KBR Aspire Defence

Wing Commander Toni-Jane Hoare, Royal Air Force

Toni-Jane was nominated for her work heading up the Programme Management Office of the £20 billion UK Lightning programme. Her sphere of work is extensive, crossing service, national and international boundaries, requiring an ability to pull together disparate stakeholders in an incredibly complex environment.

Special Award – sponsored by the Royal Navy 

Warrant Officer Class 2 Kay Howells, Army

Kay was nominated for her contribution to the Army as an exceptionally skilled Explosive Ordnance Engineer and Ammunition Technician. Kay has overcome significant adversity, breaking her back early in her career. This made operating in a 40kg bomb suit far more challenging.

Emerging Talent Award – sponsored by the Army

April Wiles, BAE Systems 

April was nominated for her remarkable achievements over the past two years at BAE Systems. She made a significant contribution to the design and build of the Challenger 2 tank ‘Black Night’ upgrade vehicle. In doing so, she has become an example for early career engineers of all genders of the qualities needed to excel in defence enterprise.

Innovation Award – sponsored by QinetiQ

Anne Kenyon, Rolls-Royce 

Anne was nominated for her innovative approach to reactor physics at Rolls-Royce. She displays strong leadership when making challenging decisions that significantly improve the company’s engineering capability. Anne has developed and delivered a new experimental Physics Analytics Tool Suite, resulting in great efficiencies. 

Unsung Heroines Award – sponsored by Dell Technologies

Chief Technician Paula Cil, Royal Air Force

Paula was nominated for her commitment and outstanding contribution to her job as a PUMA engineer, and for the extensive support she provides to the RAF Benson community and young people across the country.

Promotion of Gender Balance Award – sponsored by ATOS 

Jeanette Pope, BAE Systems

Jeanette was nominated for her passionate commitment to improving gender equality at BAE Systems, and in the wider aerospace industry. Driven by a desire for equity and personal frustrations with the cultural status quo, she established the BAE Systems Inspiring Women Network in 2017. Her endeavour contributed to a 2.4% increase in the number of women working for BAE Systems between 2015 and 2018.

Inclusive Teamwork Award sponsored by the Royal Air Force

EU Exit Virtual Team, Ministry of Defence

The team, including more than 50 members (female and male, civilian and military) across more than six groups, was nominated for its collaborative, dedicated and passionate approach to preparing for EU exit. With leadership shown at every level, together they delivered the MoD’s EU Exit No Deal preparation and supported other government departments.

STEM in Defence Award – sponsored by Northrop Grumman

STARRSHIP, Royal Air Force, Rolls-Royce, Royal Air Forces Association

STARRSHIP – an RAF, Rolls-Royce, Royal Air Forces Association charity and STEM collaboration – was nominated for its creative and inclusive approach in inspiring the next generation of girls and boys to believe they can succeed in STEM, building on the enthusiasm generated by the RAF’s centenary. 

About Women in Defence UK

Women in Defence UK is an independent group that exists for a community of people who wish to promote the value of women in defence. It has been created to provide a platform for networking, discussion, and the exchange of ideas and experiences for the thousands of women working at all levels of UK defence. We aim to encourage women to succeed authentically, share experiences, build networks and encourage talent at all levels to join the defence sector. Our membership stands at 5,000-plus and continues to grow.

To find out more, click here.