Michelle Partington won the Woman of the Year 2018 Award.
In the year marking the centenary of suffrage, the winners of the Women in Defence UK Awards were announced on Tuesday.
The Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, presented the awards at a ceremony, which took place at The Imperial War Museum.
Women in Defence UK aims to promote the value of women in defence, as well as to inspire women to succeed, share experience, build networks and encourage talent at all levels to join the defence sector.
Angela Owen, founder of Women in Defence UK and a defence expert at PA Consulting, said: “We’re delighted to have seen such an inspiring and diverse list of finalists during this special year marketing the centenary of suffrage.
"Each finalist – ranging in rank from Lance Corporal to Captain Royal Navy and comprising women and teams from all three of the Armed Forces, the MoD Civil Service, GCHQ and MI5, defence industry and the Houses of Parliament Security – should feel rightly proud of their exceptional achievements and recognition within the defence community.
“At PA, our main focus is on exploring ingenious ways to bring real transformation to organisations and the Women in Defence UK Awards demonstrate what can be achieved when there is a commitment to change.”
This year, in the awards’ third year, there were 300 nominations received from across the defence community including the Armed Forces, MoD Civil Service, GCHQ, MI5 and SIS, defence industry, the defence third sector and the Houses of Parliament Security.
The 2018 winners
Woman of the Year 2018 Award Michelle Partington, Former Royal Air Force
Inspirational Award Major Nics Wetherill, Army
Major Wetherill was nominated for devising, organising and leading Expedition ICE MAIDEN, the first all-female crossing of Antarctica, using muscle power alone. She led a team of 5 other women, battling temperatures of -40 degrees and wind speeds of over 60mph to complete the 1700km in just 61 days. The expedition marked the first all-female team to cross Antarctica, the largest all female team ever to make the crossing and the first team of novices ever to make the crossing.
Outstanding Contribution Award Corporal Karen Jones, RAF
Corporal Jones was nominated for exceeding expectations in her role as an imagery analyst where her work has tangibly increased Defence Intelligence’s ability to defend the nation. Her work, which she initiated herself, was a significant piece of multi-national collaboration.
Most Collaborative Award Sarah Padley, Defence Intelligence
Ms Padley was nominated for her work establishing international collaboration in the intelligence community that has had a significant impact. Sarah has nurtured a high performing team that has consistently delivered an output that is respected at the highest levels of partner agencies and government department and has done much to safeguard British interests.
Special Award Michelle Partington, Former Royal Air Force
Ms Partington was nominated for her extensive work since retiring from the RAF which she joined as an Aircraftwoman, commissioning from the rank of Sergeant as a Medical Support Officer paramedic. After being diagnosed with PTSD, Michelle created a foundation called Behind The Mask, providing free online support to help other individuals in a similar position to her. She also undertakes public speaking engagements talking about her operational experience and subsequent journey with PTSD. With no competitive sporting background, she competed as part of TeamGB at the 2017 Invictus Games.
Emerging Talent Award Lucy Finch, DE&S
Ms Finch was nominated for her work as the Lead Integration Engineer delivering an Initial Operating Capability for Paveway IV Mk2 on F35-B (a GPS and laser guided bomb and a future candidate for integration onto UK F-35 aircraft). Aged 24, she manages and engages with stakeholders such as the US Government and industry partners and is happy to challenge the status quo or the general consensus if she believes that an approach can be improved.
Innovation Award Professor Petra Oyston
Professor Oyston was nominated for developing synthetic biology techniques for the generation of novel materials for protection. Her work has included using genetically modified E. Coli to provide a toughening mechanism for ceramic armour, and has enhanced materials for opaque and transparent armour, protective textiles and for adhesives and surface modification – in other words; camouflage. Truly innovative work. Thanks to Professor Oyston, there is now a vibrant, thriving and growing community working in this field.
Unsung Heroines Award Maggie O’Connell-Western, Northrop Grumman
In the eyes of her Northrop colleagues, Ms O'Connell-Western is the epitome of an unsung heroine. She was nominated for her work as the receptionist at Northrop Grumman, a role which Ms O'Connell-Western has transformed into much more. She is the receptionist-cum-party planner, travel arranger as well as customer visits liaison.
Promotion of Gender Balance Award Victoria, MI5
Victoria was nominated for her work transforming MI5’s policies, making them fit for a modern employer and improving the lives of both men and women in the organisation. A founding member of the women's network, she introduced 'baby-days', allowing staff members on maternity leave or away from the office to continue to feel connected and was instrumental in beginning discussions with MI5’s board about gender diversity. Victoria tackled difficult issues with real barriers, proposing practical solutions that will have an enduring impact.
Inclusive Teamwork Award Joint Operational Team, GCHQ
The Joint Operational team from GCHQ were nominated for their work establishing a collaborative and inclusive team environment to expand their operational effectiveness. Mainly consisting of Junior Non-Commissioned Officers, the team has worked together across national boundaries to advance the skills, confidence and expertise required to fulfil their specialist role, whilst simultaneously developing a productive and enjoyable working environment with a strong focus on inclusivity. In doing so, they have ‘lived’ inclusivity rather than just talking about it.
STEM in Defence Award Lieutenant Colonel Deborah Taylor, Army Reserve
Lieutenant Colonel Taylor was nominated for masterminding the first STEM Careers Showcase for secondary school aged girls hosted at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The showcase was attended by 900 secondary school girls from 80 schools from across the country. The event presented them with the opportunity to meet with inspirational female STEM speakers, 70 military female role models and 50 interactive and inspiring stands from across industry and the technical Corps.