March 2023  

Speaking at the ‘Empower Your Workforce’ Conference on 21 March, WISE CEO Kay Hussain drove home the economic argument for employing more women in STEM careers. 

Hundreds of STEM leaders, organisations and global names met at the IET in London for the WISE annual conference ‘Empower Your Workforce’ – designed to both help employers create a workplace of inclusion and belonging, and empower talented women to progress their STEM careers. 

Among the speakers and panellists were Nina Lawrence from the Government Equalities Office (GEO) who provided insight into government research around returners and how they can help fill the skills shortage. 

Women into STEM: “An economic imperative” 

WISE CEO Kay Hussain addressed the crowd in her opening speech with a powerful message, that getting more women into STEM is “not a nice-to-have, but an economic imperative.” 

She added “The UK economy is experiencing one of the toughest labour markets in recent history.  We have over one million unfilled vacancies across the country – and a shortfall of 173,000 STEM workers. 

“According to some estimates, the UK could forgo up to £140bn in economic growth from missed tech opportunities over the next decade. 

“Ensuring we attract and retain more women in STEM is an economic imperative, not a nice to have.” 

Women returners 

Nina Lawrence from the Government Equalities Office spoke of how inequalities in the labour market must be addressed – by supporting people to return to work at levels that recognise their skills and experience. 

She said: “The pool of potential returners to the labour market is hovering around the 1 million mark and women make up nine out of ten potential returners in the UK. She added: “around 75,000 of these are from a STEM background.” 

Nina also provided information on the STEM ReCharge programme which supports technology and engineering returners in the Midlands and the North of England, as well as employers who wish to benefit from this returner talent pool. 

The afternoon keynote speaker Dr. Merritt Moore, an American quantum physicist and professional ballerina also gave an insightful talk into personal discovery, the fight between creative and academic virtues, and the importance of transferable skills. 

Dr. Merritt Moore

Dr Moore was recently awarded Forbes 30 under 30 and was one of the 12 selected candidates to undergo rigorous selection on the BBC Two show “Astronauts: Do you have what it takes?” 

Addressing the WISE crowd, she said: ““For most of my life I’ve been trying hard to quit either physics or dance because I felt this pressure, partly societal pressure, but I felt that I had to choose one or the other in order to be successful.” 

Dr Moore’s dancing with robots started in the pandemic because, as she put it, “robots don’t get COVID”, but it has quickly become a stunning combination of arts and academic skill, which is rolls together beautifully in her current work.  

She added: “I always believed that I couldn’t merge the two together and that my artistic, dance side was fluffy. I felt like I had to choose one to succeed. But it’s not been the case. 

She also offered priceless advice to the audience: “ 

After the panel discussions, innovation sessions a development talks, the crowds were gathered for a drinks reception and networking event, sponsored and run by WISE member AWE (Atomic Weapons Establishment).

A huge success for women in STEM 

Following the conference Kay said: “This year’s conference was a huge success, and we were delighted to see so many STEM organisations and representatives from across the country. 

“The theme, ‘Empower Your Workforce’ really shone through in our panel discussions and sessions, especially on women returners, and the importance of recognising transferable skills. 

“These are all things which are integral to the inclusive workforce of 2023. 

She added: “A special thanks to our keynote speaker, physicist and ballerina, Dr. Merritt Moore, who travelled all the way from the USA to be with us, and of course Nina Lawrence from the Government Equalities Office who delivered an excellent talk on how to recruit from the returner talent pool. 

“The day was full of inspiration and knowledge from outstanding people, and I couldn’t be prouder of how it went. 

“A special thanks to our headline partner and sponsors who helped make the day the success that it was.” 

More about the WISE Conference 2023 

The WISE Conference 2023 was designed to explore how employers can empower their female STEM employees – with a view to improving gender balance in the sector. 

The event was created to appeal to STEM business professionals looking to recruit and retain female talent, as well as women working in (or with an interest in) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). 



A full list of speakers, panellists, sponsors and exhibitors can be found here.  

For more information, questions or requests for interviews, contact Communications Lead Kirsty Rigg: