WISE Conference 2023: Empower Your Workforce

Master effective methods of attracting, retaining, and growing the number of talented STEM women in your business

Employers are having to work harder than ever to recruit and retain female talent.

The ONS reports that almost 800,000 UK employees switched jobs last summer alone – demonstrating a clear rise in demand for a more suitable work-life balance – with STEM businesses already facing a chronic skills shortage. 

The Institute of Engineering and Technology estimated a shortfall of over 173,000 workers in the STEM sector in summer 2021.  

Empowering Women in STEM

The WISE Conference 2023 will explore how employers can empower their female STEM employees – with a view to improving gender balance in the sector. The event will appeal to STEM business professionals looking to recruit and retain female talent, as well as women working in (or with an interest in) STEM.

An Overview:

  • Hear from inspirational speakers.
  • Engage in knowledge sharing with other thought leaders in the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) space.
  • See project showcasing by companies committed to an inclusive and diverse culture.
  • Gain sector insight to get your D&I projects on the right track.
  • Benefit from positioning your company as an employment destination of choice and attract diverse talent.
  • Network with high-profile STEM business representatives looking for female talent. 

WISE Conference in more detail

We will hear first-hand from Jamila Bhaiji, a women returner, who will describe how her organisation’s scheme helped her move into a senior leadership role. She will explain how the programme was developed, and the ways in which it has helped replenish her organisation’s talent pool with experienced and skilled women workers.  

Nina Lawrence from the Government Equalities Office (GEO) will provide the robust economic argument for supporting women returners. She will review programmes and schemes already delivered in this space, highlighting the diversity of returner pools they have supported.  The presentation will then cover practical advice for organisations looking to strengthen their support for returners and provide a signpost to available resources.  Finally, Nina will share an update on exciting opportunities for both organisations and individual returners to get involved in a new STEM returners pilot funded by the GEO. 

This panel discussion will explore the importance of retaining and supporting women returners into the STEM industry. It will also discuss what makes a good returners programme. 


  • Trudy Norris-Grey, WISE Board (session chair)  
  • Nina Lawrence, GEO  
  • Lilly Kitchen, Network Rail  
  • Jilly Calder, Atkins Global  

Natalie Desty from STEM returners will outline the organisation’s recent research describing the barriers that individuals face when returning to work after a career break. She will give an overview of the opportunities a returners programme can offer individuals.  Debbie Kempton from BAE Systems will then describe their returners programme, the challenges faced, and how and why their scheme is so successful.   She will describe the best approach to take when recruiting returners to fill a variety of roles across a business and offer tangible take aways for business leaders to use when implementing a returners programme.  There will be an opportunity to ask questions following the presentation.  

The world’s largest chemical company, BASF, shares a practical example of how to sharpen recruitment processes, putting diversity and inclusion in focus.  Join us for a thought-provoking reflection on some of the challenges, compromises and considerations needed to deliver successful, sustainable culture change.   

Drawing on personal experience, our speakers will share insights on how to navigate and access government funding available through the apprenticeship levy. We will hear how the levy can be used to deliver on strategic EDI objectives.  The speakers will challenge the status quo on what ‘apprenticeship’ really means and demonstrate the art of the possible in using the apprenticeship levy to fund returners programmes and provide the support needed to individuals returning to the workplace

Returning to work after taking a break to start a family or care for a loved one is often fraught with both financial and emotional concerns. Childcare expenses, medical or nursing-care costs combined with a lack of flexible working options can deter women carers from returning to work. This in turn deprives organisations of valuable and experienced employees. This session will explore measures and initiatives you can take to retain the people you have invested in.   

Keynote speaker Merritt Moore is an inspirational, female quantum physicist and world class professional ballet dancer who has combined her physics and ballet expertise to create dances with industrial robots, as featured in TIME, Financial Times, BBC and Vogue.  She was awarded Forbes 30 under 30 and was one of the 12 selected candidates to undergo rigorous astronaut selection on the BBC Two show ‘Astronauts: Do you have what it takes?’ during the pandemic.  Speaking at the WISE conference, Merritt will talk about the challenges and synergy of pursuing two exceptional careers and the benefits of bringing one’s full self to work. She will explain how very different skill sets can be complimentary, as well as how recognising transferable skills can lead to diverse, innovative and happy employees.  

The afternoon panel session will explore the benefit of recognising transferable skills – both for employers looking to widen their recruitment net and employees when considering their own attributes. The four-person panel will discuss the focus on transferable skills as outlined in our WISE Exploring Pathways into Tech Careers research report and look at how they are important for gender balance in STEM.  


  • Stephen Fox, WISE Board (panel chair)  
  • Merritt Moore, quantum physicist and professional ballerina 
  • Julie Denis, ACAS  
  • Lydia Fairman, Network Rail  
  • Jacqui Kendall, Rail Delivery Group  

If reskilling is allowed to become behaviour-centric, rather than overly focusing on transferable technical skills, it can help us realise a truly diverse workforce and offer real benefits to a business and culture.  In this session, Network Rail and the Great British Railways Transition Team help show how reskilling the workforce can also be a catalyst for real cultural change.  


Imposter Syndrome is a very specific self-esteem issue – the belief that you are not worthy of success: a deep belief that you are not as good as others seem to think you are, and that you will be exposed at any time.    40-60% of high performers are dealing with Imposter Syndrome – men and women!  

Imposter Syndrome affects your career in these ways and more:  

  • You are not progressing, evolving or improving   
  • You do not have the visibility you need for promotion  
  • You are just coasting along… not fulfilling on your potential…and you feel it!  

By embracing your imposter, you will:  

  • Have the courage to speak up and be heard   
  • See opportunities and take them with confidence  
  • Show your value and not be embarrassed just to say ‘this is what I do well, this is the value that I bring’.  


There are very specific actions you can take to transform your imposter syndrome so that you are free to be your authentic self.  It begins with really understanding your particular kind of imposter syndrome.   In this workshop, you will identify your particular imposter syndrome type and learn new strategies for moving beyond your imposter syndrome, to achieve your career goals with freedom and ease.   

Development Session 7: How to talk confidently about your achievements in a factual way – translating this into a cut through CV to enable your transferable skills to shine, Dagmar Alber & Ursula, Pfizer 


WISE invites you to join pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, who will discuss how their test/ learn/adapt approach has enabled them significant success in addressing the Gender Pay Gap within their business.  


Sharing tips and tricks on how to approach job descriptions, how to embrace metrics, how to talk about achievements based on facts.  


This will be followed by a discussion and workshop on ‘How to structure your CV to enable your transferable skills to shine’.  


This will be of particular interest to those starting their career in STEM and those looking to make an exciting career change.  


Pfizer will explain why moving away from a traditional chronological CV and focusing on transferable skills, capabilities, metrics, achievements and stakeholder engagement will help applicants to be more successful in securing job interviews for high calibre roles.  

My Skills My Life is our research-based outreach resource that encourages girls to discover more about themselves and shows them how their skills and strengths could lead them to exciting jobs and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) by using role models from within the STEM industry.  In this session we will look at how unconscious bias can impact on young people, discuss the importance of role models and showcase how you can use My Skills My Life within your outreach work to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals.  

AWE will showcase its ‘Immersive experience’ in the IET’s exhibition space throughout the day, providing attendees with an immersive experience. Mara Tafadzwa Makoni from PA Consulting will conclude by hosting an engagement session with the experience creators, Andrea Macfarlane & Lesley Hoile, AWE, will discuss the project’s successes and challenges and provide advice around futureproofing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion work by being resourceful and openminded to change and innovation in ED&I.  

Sponsored By: