Celebrating the achievements of women in research

Achievements of women in research and their power to inspire others have been recognised in a coveted awards scheme.

Organised by water@leeds, in partnership with Athena Swan teams at Leeds, recipients of the Water Woman Award 2023 were fittingly honoured on International Women’s Day (8 March). IWD is a global initiative celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness about discrimination and taking action to drive gender parity – aims very much echoed by our own University values, in particular that of inclusivity.

By rewarding achievements of women whose work contributes to the objectives of water@leeds in securing competitive research funds, producing world-class research or achieving significant societal impact, the Water Woman Award shines a light on their efforts in an academic world in which the hurdles are still greater for females.

Now in its third year, the award is based on two equally weighted criteria: the nature of the achievement plus its potential for empowering and inspiring other women into following their example. Water Woman places a particular emphasis on recognising the value of female researchers across all disciplines, including those in supporting roles. It’s open to any colleagues at Leeds identifying as women and contributing to water@leeds missions.

Inspiring power

Nominations were received across all categories, and the Water Woman Award panel (listed below) was overwhelmed by the inspiring power of all applications.  

Panel Chair and awards founder, Professor Julia Martin-Ortega, is Associate Director of water@leeds.

She said: “After this third edition, we now feel the Water Woman Award has consolidated as a clear feature of institutional recognition of the value of our female researchers. 

“We were honoured to receive first prize in the Personal Development, Reward, and Recognition  category at the University’s inaugural Research Culture and Engaged for Impact Awards last year, which continues to inspire us. 

“We encourage all members of the University to get curious about what their excellent female colleagues have to say about the research they develop, and to support and champion a more inclusive and nurturing environment for all.”  

Amazing contributions

The Water Woman Award is aligned to the University strategy in its recognition of the importance of developing and rewarding others and in contributing to a positive research culture. It’s objectives also chime with the ambitions of our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, for which exciting new plans have been announced this week by the University’s Director of EDI, Fiona McClement.

Ann Marie Boyle, water@leeds Administrator and awards co-ordinator, said: “It has been inspirational to learn more about the high-quality research taking place in Leeds and to hear the stories of women who are making an impact with their work around the world.”

The Women at Leeds Network, which helped judge the awards, said: “The Water Women Award provides a brilliant platform to showcase the amazing contribution and achievement of our hardworking, talented colleagues. We’re surrounded by inspirational colleagues who deserve to be recognised and celebrated as role models.”

water@leeds would like to thank all applicants and all those involved in making the awards possible, as well as all of those that have helped communicate the scheme.

Posthumous tribute

The awards also provided a poignant moment of reflection with the announcement of a posthumous Lifetime Contribution accolade for Dr Fiona Zakaria.

Fiona, who died last December, was a rising star of public health engineering research, with more than 10 years’ research experience. She was an active part of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) research group at Leeds during the past five years, working extensively to develop new approaches to costing of urban sanitation, while also helping to launch ground-breaking research on methane emissions. 

Professor Barbara Evans, from the School of Civil Engineering, said: “She was a team player and an embodiment of the values of inclusivity, equity and partnership of water@leeds.” 

Read the full tribute.

Celebrating the achievements of women in research. March 2023

A posthumous Lifetime Contribution award recognised the work of Dr Fiona Zakaria

Water Woman Award for Research Excellence 

Amanda Maycock, Professor in Climate Dynamics, School of Earth and Environment, and Director of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science (ICAS) 

Dr Juliane Schwendike, Associate Professor in Meteorology, nominated Amanda for the award. 

She said: “Amanda is an internationally recognised expert in climate dynamics, climate modelling and midlatitude dynamics, with many highly cited papers in these topics. The roles Amanda holds in internationally acclaimed organisations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Climate Research Programme are evidence of the outstanding work she does and how invested she is to contribute to the global climate change community. 

“Amanda inspires others by being a role model for women in mathematical sciences, particularly through leading the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science. Witnessing how she creates a supportive environment for her staff is inspiring leadership. And the level of scientific achievements Amanda has reached in the past five years is truly outstanding.”

Celebrating the achievements of women in research. March 2023

Professor Amanda Maycock is a role model for women in mathematical sciences

Water Woman Award for Funding Excellence 

Dr Anna Hogg, Associate Professor, School of Earth and Environment, and co-director of the NERC SENSE Earth Observation Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT)

Anna was honoured for the high level of her funding achievements and how her work has influenced and driven EDI practice.  

She said: “Satellite observations have revolutionised our ability to monitor environmental change on Earth. The talented and happy group of 70 Earth observation PhD students recruited through SENSE will be ideally placed to make the exciting science discoveries of the future. I’m very proud that it will be a defining element of my academic career to have enabled the scientific careers of the next generation of experts.”

Celebrating the achievements of women in research. March 2023

Dr Anna Hogg was recognised for the high level of her funding achievements and how her work has influenced and driven EDI practice

Water Woman Award for Research Support   

Sarah Hunt, Research and Facilities Support Technician, School of Geography

The panel was impressed by Sarah’s commitment to research support and her essential work on a range of projects, which often goes unseen.  

Sarah said: “I feel I’ve been integral in the data collection of water research projects, and that I’m regarded as essential by the researchers involved. My knowledge wouldn’t have been gained without them, and my willingness to learn new skills and ways of working. I’ve worked at the school for 10 years and I’ve enjoyed my role, as it has allowed me to work on a varied range of different projects.” 

Celebrating the achievements of women in research. March 2023

The panel was impressed by Sarah Hunt’s commitment to research support and her essential work on a range of projects

Water Woman Award for Early Career                  

Dr Josie South, Lecturer, School of Biology

Josie was honoured for her research excellence at this early stage of her career, along with her leadership skills and work across cultures and languages.

Josie said: “Working well with people, enabling full participation of a team and valuing contributions of each team member is the biggest lesson I’ve learnt, and would be the main thing I would recommend to any young female researcher. 

“Much of this was only possible because I had been empowered and given opportunities by my mentor, Professor Olaf Weyl of the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, which gave me the confidence and experience to be able to be a leader in a manner that I’m proud of.” 

Celebrating the achievements of women in research. March 2023

Dr Josie South was honoured for her research excellence at this early stage of her career

Water Woman Award for Societal Impact/Knowledge Transfer         

Addi Manolopoulou, Administration Manager in the School of Business

Addi created a 10-day-long paddling adventure (Pirates of the Canal IV) with her daughter, Athina, to highlight the issue of invasive non-native species (INNS). 

She used her social media as a platform to provide updates and help share the latest INNS research. 

Addi said: “I possess no superpowers – creative thinking and creative solutions are key to making things happen. ‘Collaboration’ and ‘networking’ are some of my favourite words. I encourage other women to put themselves out there, begin a conversation about their research and dream big because if I can, so can any other woman out there.”

Celebrating the achievements of women in research. March 2023

Addi Manolopoulou on her paddling adventure with her daughter, Athina

Special Commendations

Dr Paula Novo, Lecturer in Ecological Economics, School of Earth and Environment

Paula was rewarded for her innovative approach of combining art and the feminist culture of work with environmental science.

Paula said: “By widening the range of methods we consider, we can also widen the range of voices included, and this is key if we want our research to contribute to building a more inclusive society and future.”

Celebrating the achievements of women in research. March 2023

Dr Paula Novo combines art and the feminist culture of work with environmental science

Dr Megan Klaar, Associate Professor in the School of Geography

Megan was nominated by Dr Nir Arielli, Associate Professor of International History, who said: “One of the greatest obstacles to interdisciplinary research is the inability of researchers from different academic backgrounds to ‘speak the same language’ and therefore to fully understand how different types of knowledge can complement one another. 

“Megan’s willingness to spend time with colleagues who don’t have a scientific background, to carefully and respectfully explain the principles of her field, and to answer what must have been very trivial questions, is commendable.” 

Celebrating the achievements of women in research. March 2023

Dr Megan Klaar received a special commendation for her willingness to support coleagues who don’t have a specific scientific background

Panel members

Professor Julia Martin-Ortega – Associate Director water@leeds
Dr Laura Carter – Associate Professor in Soil and Environmental Chemistry, School of Geography, Water Woman Award winner 2021 
Dr Tao Jiang – Associate Professor in Marketing, Leeds University Business School, Co-Chair: Women At Leeds Network 
Sarah Budello – Digital Practice Advisor, Organisational Development and Professional Learning (OD&PL); Co-Chair: Women At Leeds Network; Creator: Pregnancy Support Hub
Ann Marie Boyle – water@leeds Administrator

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