The Suffrage Science scheme celebrates women in science for their scientific achievement and for their ability to inspire others. It encourages women to enter scientific subjects, and to stay. This public engagement scheme was initiated in 2011, by the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre (CSC)*, a biomedical research institute of the UK’s Medical Research Council.
The scheme began with a focus on women in the life sciences. In 2013, Suffrage Science expanded to recognise women in the engineering and physical sciences. On Tuesday 11 October 2016, a date recognised globally as Ada Lovelace Day, the scheme expanded again, with the formation of a third specialty area. This latest addition recognises women in mathematics and computing. *On January 1st 2017, the CSC was renamed the London Institute of Medical Sciences, or LMS.
The awards themselves are pieces of jewellery designed by students of the art and design college Central Saint Martins-UAL, long-standing science-arts collaborators with the LMS. After two years, each of the 12 winning women in each group hand on their jewellery to a recipient of their choice, at an awards ceremony. This scientific “relay” creates an ever-expanding cohort of talented women with a connection, encouraging all to reach senior leadership roles.
Handing on the Suffrage Science jewellery is a vote of confidence by one woman for another. This resonates with the Suffragette movement for votes for women, from which the scheme draws both its name and its inspiration. Dr Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, is a loyal supporter of the scheme. Emmeline founded the Women’s Social and Political Union, with the motto “Deeds not Words”. The union presented women with specially commissioned medals featuring the colours of the Suffragette movement: white for purity, purple for dignity and green for hope, to acknowledge their contribution to cause. The student designers from Central Saint Martins-UAL draw on research into the history of the Suffragette movement, as well as themes from maths and computing, to inform their winning designs.