The First Women Awards Ceremony held on the 12th June at the London Marriot, Grosvenor Square was a truly amazing experience. The First Women Awards were created 8 years ago by the CBI and Real Business to recognise the trailblazing women across many sectors whose achievements are inspiring the next generation; and it was evident from the turnout on the evening that these Awards have a tremendous following and support from a diverse cross section of businesses.
Hearing the achievements of all the shortlisted candidates and the points of note that the judges picked out to decide on the winners for each of the categories was both inspiring and humbling. I was rather shocked when I was declared as the winner in the First Women of Tourism & Leisure category - simply put, I considered the competition within the category to be too fierce for me to make a mark so it was a real privilege to be selected. After being presented with my award I had the honour of a brief interview from the host for the evening, sports personality and broadcaster Clare Balding. Clare made a really good observation; although there were other technical and engineering related awards (First Women of Manufacturing, Engineering, the Built Environment and Science & Technology), here was an engineer winning in one of the other non-technical categories as well!
In fact, throughout the shortlist of women selected across all of the categories there was a heavy bias towards scientific and technical qualifications or vocations. It was an incredible demonstration of the diversity and choice offered by a technical foundation. I can highly recommend reading through the back-stories of all of the shortlisted candidates - especially if you are choosing options or career paths and wonder where certain subjects can take you. Indeed, on the 16th June the Sunday Times Magazine had a great double page spread showing the leading women engineers of the future covering a wide range of engineering disciplines; mechanical, electrical, structural, environmental services, motorsport, civil and biomedical. Another great example of what can be achieved and the range of possibilities. Maybe some of the young ladies featured in the magazine article are the First Women Award winners of the future?
When I set out on my engineering career I really did not consider myself to be a trailblazer or pioneer. But, upon reflection, I can see where I have faced challenges that no woman stepped into before me and I can see that in reaching down to the girls that are following me I have tried to ensure that they will not have to face the challenges that I did. I have no doubt that there are many more women out there who are in unique positions and have really made a difference or broken new ground. Let everyone know about it and let that inspiration flow! Or if you are just starting out on your career and you see someone lighting the way, seek their advice as they, like me, might not have considered that they had a good story to tell.
Dawn Elson was a winner at the 2013 First Women Awards.
The awards ceremony took place on Wednesday 12 June and was hosted by Real Business in association with Lloyds Banking Group.