Tribute to co-founder and patron of WISE Baroness Platt of Writtle, 1923-2015

“WISE is the word”  

Beryl Platt, who co-founded WISE in 1984 when she was chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, maintained an active interest in the campaign throughout her life as a WISE Patron. Last year, she was absolutely delighted to hear about our plans for a WISE Student Colloquium, but urged us not to name the event in her honour , saying it was not about her but about the campaign itself – “WISE is the word”, was how she put it to me.

In 2011 she wrote to David Willets MP, then Minister of State for Universities and Science, urging the Government to allocate funding so that WISE could continue its activities promoting engineering careers to girls by giving them access to young female role models. Writing in WISE news in 2004, she warned that the shortage of skills in key areas of industry would increase if we fail to encourage more young people – boys and girls of all academic abilities – to take up training and careers in science, engineering and technology. Her message celebrating 20 years of the WISE Campaign is just as pertinent today:

“Our quality of life and the success of our economy depend on these vital skills so we must persevere with encouraging over 50% of the population  – girls – to enter SET in the future.

So I celebrate the excellent achievements of WISE during the past 20 years, and acknowledge with gratitude the many, many partners, individuals, organisations and companies that have supported and financed its work in promoting SET to girls and women. For WISE to achieve the success so vital to our nation, we need that support to continue with the same enthusiasm in the future”

Hearing the news, Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton and a Director of the Web Science Institute, said, “She was an amazing lady and great supporter of so many women in engineering including myself.” Professor Wendy Hall was also a winner of a UKRC Women of Outstanding Achievement Award in 2006

Squadron Leader Glyn Dean, RAF also added “She has been a terrific and loyal supporter of WISE for so long it is hard to imagine her not being in this space. I had the pleasure of meeting her on our very first RAF WISE week at RAF Cosford in 2008. She came to the unit and our engineers had a fine time hearing her stories. She was a true inspiration to women and to men as well.”

The campaign has lost a powerful advocate. I am proud and honoured to keep her legacy alive.

Helen Wollaston
Director of WISE

2003 – The WISE Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to Baroness Platt of Writtle, Founder and Patron of WISE, by HRH The Princess Royal, The Royal Patron of WISE. 

Marie-Noëlle Barton, former Director of WISE, remembers Beryl Platt
Beryl Platt was an inspiration to so many people, whatever their age, position and gender.

She was deeply passionate about encouraging women to enter science and engineering and she swept us all with her enthusiasm, commitment and drive.

To me, who worked closely with Beryl for over 18 years and who remained in regular contact until her death, she was a never failing ally, brimming with intelligence, ideas, knowledge, and contacts which she shared generously.

She was also truly kind, warm, friendly, down to earth and very funny. I will never forget the day when we left a meeting where some men patronised us both and when, in the safety of our taxi, she turned to me and said I would not breed from these men. We laughed so much, we were crying.

The last time I saw Bery l was at her 90th birthday party and she was happy, chatty, and still scheming about what we could do to encourage more women into science and engineering. She supported WISE and me 100 percent.

Marie-Noëlle Barton MBE
Director of WISE from 1988 to 2006

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