Saturday, 27 February 2016

WISE 'Women in Science and Technology Day'



I met up with Edna, an enterprising master’s student within the College of EPS. She is also PR Officer of the WISE Society. I was lucky to have had a chance to meet up with her and discover how the WISE Birmingham Society and Computer Science Society managed to organise the WISE ‘Women in Science and Technology Day’ Conference, which was held on February 6th







The WISE Team
WISE Birmingham (Women in Science and Engineering Society) is a free society to join at the University of Birmingham with the primary focus of getting more women involved in science, engineering and technology. This year, for the first time ever, together with the Computer Science Society (CSS), they organised the ‘Women in Technology Day’ - a day consisting of talks, workshops and networking sessions from invited industry speakers, event sponsors, alumni and University researchers. The event was free to attend and is for both men and women – all you needed was a passion for technology. Edna told me about how their enterprising ideas actually became a reality.

It all started at good old Costa Coffee. WISE and the CSS got together in October 2015 because they felt that there was a general lack of careers and networking events in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences which primarily focussed on women. In addition, there wasn’t really an event for women with a general interest in technology. WISE and CSS wanted a way to display their dedication to empowering women and promoting equality.  Last year, WISE focused more on outreach events and speakers came in and talked to a predominantly female audience. However, the ‘Costa meeting’ turned this year’s conference into an even bigger event. 
The conference in full swing!

First and foremost, they needed funding. Emails were fired off to sponsors and to the Head of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. The professional use of sponsorship tiers has meant that the conference had 10 big sponsors, such as Goldman Sachs and PWC.  This has meant that the WISE Society had not only managed to break-even but more importantly, it allowed the event to become a day-long conference, rather than an all-morning event. The sponsorship money was used to provide lunch and refreshments for all attendees and helped them to publicise the event. 


Next, they needed to get their message out there. With the help of CSS, they created a snazzy website for the event. From there, you can find out who the industry speakers will be, who the sponsors are but more importantly, how to sign up the event. This was done via ‘Eventbrite’. The event was also on Facebook – a simple way for the WISE society to get a rough number of attendees. The event was been a big hit, with the maximum number of tickets having been registered! University of Birmingham students were not the only attendees – Aston University students and even Birmingham City University Students attended.

How do they make this a day-long event then? Edna reached out to secure 6 influential female speakers, such as Naomi Mitchison (IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2014) and Jessica Rose (Head of Developer Relations, DreamFactory). With the day starting at 10:30am and finishing at 5:00pm, it really was a jam-packed day which will help women to ‘get their foot through the technology door!’ WISE and CSS were volunteering all day in order to ensure the event ran smoothly. 

What was the enterprising impact on the WISE and CSS committee members?

Edna told me that she has acquired personal skills which she feels she would never have acquired from her degree. As time consuming as it is being the WISE PR Officer, it has made her into an excellent team plyer, especially when having to cope with a disagreeing team member. On top of this, the challenging task of finding speakers has shown her how to effectively ‘pitch a sale’ – she had to sound convincing and confident in order to secure their time for their event.  This has even given her the opportunity to master the art of correspondence. She admitted that her degree never taught her how and when it is appropriate to email someone who has not replied. This skill will most definitely come in handy, especially when hoping to remain in the ‘good books’ of future employers.

WISE Team distributing lanyards to attendees
So, would Edna consider a job in PR after this? She most definitely hasn’t dismissed the idea. She said, as a result of her role played in organising the conference, she now looks forward to opportunities to tackle new projects and meet new people. Due to the positive action flowing from WISE, she’s definitely up for the job next year!

- Pavinder Bhangu
   PR Team

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