As part of this month’s client spotlight, we spoke to the team at the WISE Campaign – an initiative that promotes women and girls in the science, technology and engineering sectors.
The company refreshed their website with us in 2015 and have seen great success year-on-year with increasing membership numbers and greater awareness of the campaign. Their mission is to get one million more women into the UK STEM industries, leading workshops, events, awards and other projects to achieve their goal.
We asked Tamsin Spain, their Communications Officer, a few questions about WISE and what the future holds for such a proactive and inspiring organisation.
Can you sum up your company in no more than 30 words?
WISE enables and energises people to increase the participation, contribution and success of women in the UK’s scientific, technology and engineering (STEM) workforce.
What was the initial inspiration behind WISE?
WISE was established in 1984 following the Finniston Report on the future of engineering in the UK. The report emphasised the need for a broad talent pool of scientists and engineers. Since then, it has helped a huge number of individuals, organisations and businesses, and contributed to a wide range of campaigns to raise the profile of women and girls in STEM. In 1984, the Engineering Council collaborated with the Equal Opportunities Commission to launch the Women into Science and Engineering (WISE) year. Spear-headed by Baroness Beryl Platt, Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission at the time, the initiative intended to highlight the career opportunities for girls and women in science and engineering professions.
What drives your business forward?
Comments from girls and young women like these:
"I thought only men did engineering"
"I'm more of a creative person so I am not going to choose science subjects"
"A girl doing science at University would be lonely as there aren't any other girls”
Things are improving slowly, but there is still the notion that STEM subjects, especially engineering and construction, lead only to a ‘man’s job’. There are so many career choices in STEM that help make the world a better place. If you want to read more about the exciting careers out there for women, you can read some of the inspirational blogs on our website from women already working in STEM.
Our work is encouraged by role models working in the industry who are passionate about inspiring the next generation to follow in their footsteps. We have a lot of positive feedback from girls and women about the work we do and the ‘need’ for us to continue until we are finally out of a job – but this will only happen when the gender balance in STEM has been achieved.
What has been the most exciting moment for you, personally, since being at the company?
Apart from getting a great new website, there are four main exciting projects which have grown significantly in the past three years:
The WISE Awards, an annual event presented by HRH The Princess Royal, has grown significantly in the past 3 years. In 2012, we were struggling to sell tickets and get sponsors; now we have people clambering at our door a year in advance and we have large corporate sponsors such as Bloomberg, Intel and Rolls-Royce.
The number of seats for the event has risen from 150 in 2012 to 450 in 2016. This year we have 10 award categories where both individuals and organisations can nominate. We have also extended the day of celebration to include a WISE Conference, where individuals and companies can share in the process of building a more diverse workforce.
Membership of WISE
We have increased our membership following in the past 2 years significantly and included a new Member Area on the website. As well as having around 3000 new individual members (and we’re still rapidly growing) we now have 130 Corporate / Educational / Organisational Members that are helping to build and sustain the pipeline of female talent in STEM.
‘People Like Me’ Resource for Teachers and STEM Ambassadors
The launch of the new ‘People Like Me’ resource last year is continuing to inspire teachers and STEM ambassadors to spread the word to girls about how exciting careers in STEM are. We have developed bespoke packs in Digital, Electronics and Physics and all can be downloaded from our website.
Industry-led Ten Steps
And lastly, the Ten Steps initiative highlights companies that are committed to the retention and progression of women in STEM in their organisation. Nearly 50 CEOs have signed the Ten Steps showing that commitment from the top is critical and is a business imperative.
What is the biggest challenge for your business?
The main challenge is keeping focused on what’s going to make the most difference. There is so much we could do and in the past we said ‘Yes’ to everything. Now we are stricter about sticking to priorities and only focusing on certain key projects.
Another challenge is dealing with emails! We get a lot of enquiries and being such a small team, we are always very busy.
How important is a digital presence for WISE?
It’s absolutely essential - we need to get our message across to a wide range of people and organisations. Having a website and different social media platforms is a cost effective way of increasing engagement. Our Twitter account has now reached 17K followers!
How did you first hear about Statement?
WISE’s Chief Executive, Helen Wollaston, was attending a Goldman Sachs programme at Leeds University Business School for small businesses and met one of Statement’s existing clients who then recommended them.
When you initially contacted us, what were you looking for?
We were going through a lot of changes and needed to refresh our website so that it was more contemporary, clear, exciting and easy to navigate. We also wanted a new Member Area and wanted to showcase our members throughout the website.
We also wanted a flexible web development company who only charged for the extra work they did and not charge a monthly fee… and a company who was there when we needed them!
Statement met all our objectives and their customer service is excellent.
What kind of comments do people make about your website?
People have said they really like the look and feel of the website. We’ve been asked by some of our partners who created the website and so we have recommended Statement a few times.
What’s next for WISE?
We are working on a new project to support training providers and employers to increase the number of girls and women on to STEM apprenticeship programmes. We are also going to be expanding the Jobs section on the website and Statement will be working with us to improve the experience for recruiters and candidates. We recently moved to Leeds where there are a lot more business opportunities so we will be continuing to make more contacts across the region.
If you want to find out more about the WISE campaign, you can visit their website at www.wisecampaign.org.uk and if you want to read more about our web project with them, you can read their case study too.