Senior industry figures gather to honour AWiSE pioneer


A meeting has been held in memory of the distinguished chemist Dr Joan Mason MBE, a Cambridge city resident, who died aged 80 earlier this year.

Joan was an energetic and committed lifelong supporter of women scientists and engineers.

After raising three children, she returned to her career as a successful chemistry researcher and lecturer. With her vision to support women in science careers, she founded and Chaired the networking Association of Women in Science and Engineering (AWiSE).

The discussion meeting 'Enriching Science and Engineering: The Business Case for Gender Diversity' on November 11th was attended by Joan's family, industry leaders, University Heads of Department and local women engineers and scientists. The meeting began with a tribute to Joan by Dr Anne McLaren DBE FRS, of the University of Cambridge, a fellow of King's College and President of AWiSE.

Dr Gill Samuels CBE, Senior Director of Pfizer, referred to the 'leaky pipeline' paralleling the loss of senior women in high-tech research with the attrition in the R&D pipeline of candidate drugs in the pharmaceutical industry. Dr Jenny Holmes of AstraZeneca commented that creating gender diverse teams adds benefit to company research programmes. Both stated that diversity and inclusion stimulates innovation and is as important as technology in business strategy. Prof Alan Windle of the University of Cambridge discussed the policies and practices in gender diversity in the Department of Materials Science.

One of Joan's last projects was to support a local AWiSE survey by the Cambridge Branch whose Chair, Dr Jenny Koenig, presented the findings on Women's Experiences of Part Time and Flexible Working which highlighted the need for these working patterns to retain highly qualified women scientists and engineers.

She said: 'We want local enterprises also to see that the business case for gender diversity coincides with the aspirations of women scientists.'

Dr Jenny Brookman of Cambridge AWiSE added: 'Higher education also needs to look at ways of retaining experienced women researchers.'

Cambridge City MP Anne Campbell outlined the Government's perspective on childcare provision and family friendly policies, an essential component of the Work/Life Balance and Positive Action for women to overcome disadvantages still experienced in careers and pay inequality. A lively discussion followed and Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas, Provost of Kings College hosted a reception where the discussion continued.

The meeting was organised by Cambridge AWiSE and University of Cambridge Women in Science Engineering and Technology Initiative (WiSETI) and supported by Schlumberger and King's College.

For more information on Cambridge AWiSE () and the Report of Women's Experiences of Part Time and Flexible Working, contact Dr Jenny Koenig at


Cambridge AWiSE is a regional network for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine (STEMM) in both industry and academia. It supports recruitment, retention, promotion and return to a STEMM career after a break. We bring together women with common interests and act as a source of support, information, and inspiration. We provide regular workshops, training, talks, networking opportunities and information through our website and newsletter.

Cambridge Association for Women in Science and Engineering (AWiSE)