Captain Preet Chandi arriving into Heathrow after her successful solo expedition to the South Pole (Picture: MOD).
Captain Preet Chandi was not present to collect her awards as she is on an expedition in the Antarctic (Picture: MOD).

Polar Preet named Woman of the Year at Women in Defence Awards 2022

Captain Preet Chandi arriving into Heathrow after her successful solo expedition to the South Pole (Picture: MOD).
Captain Preet Chandi was not present to collect her awards as she is on an expedition in the Antarctic (Picture: MOD).

British Army Officer Captain Preet Chandi – known as Polar Preet – has been named Woman of the Year at an annual awards ceremony.

Capt Chandi wasn't present to collect her honour – or the Inspirational Award she also won – as she is currently on her latest challenge in the Antarctic in which she hopes to become the first woman to cross the frozen continent solo and unsupported.

In a pre-recorded message played at the Women in Defence Awards 2022 at London's Guildhall, the explorer said: "It is an absolute privilege and honour to receive the Woman of the Year Award."

The Army captain, who less than a year ago became the first woman of colour to reach the South Pole solo and unsupported, went on: "There are so many women who have helped me every step of the way, especially when it got tough. So, to me, you are all women of the year!"

Her message continued: "It's really important to help and support one another. I really believe that nothing is impossible.

"Wherever we're from, whatever we look like and whatever our experiences – we really can achieve anything. And I really want to inspire more people to believe that."

The awards, run by Women in Defence UK, recognise and celebrate incredible work, provide inspiration and promote the value of women in defence.

This is the awards' seventh year and they received 2,700 nominations in 11 different categories from awards for Inspiration and Outstanding Achievement to an award for Equality of Opportunity.

This year, for the first time, the awards also included a presentation for the Most Improved Charter Signatory, which was open to organisations who have signed the Women in Defence Charter.   

Watch: 'Astonishing' to see progress of women in defence sector, Babcock says.

Babcock won this category, judged by Denise Wilson, chief executive of the FTSE Women's Leaders Review, and Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, who is also patron of the MOD Charter. 

Ruth Cairnie, chair of Babcock and Charter industry patron, said: "The Most Improved Charter Signatory recognises progress across the defence enterprise to meet the charter ambition of 30% female representation at all levels by 2030.

"Whilst we still have some way to go, the brilliant work under way in public and private sector organisations means that the dial is beginning to shift." 

The founder of Women in Defence UK, Angela Owen OBE, said the event was unifying: "The awards bring the whole of the defence enterprise together to recognise and celebrate the amazing individuals, teams and organisations working in defence of the nation, be they in the Armed Forces, Civil Service defence industry, or the defence third sector.

"In an uncertain world, the deeds of the finalists and winners demonstrate what can be achieved and showcase what defence has to offer as a career," she added.

Watch: Women in defence hailed as 'incredible' at awards dinner.

The winner of the Most Collaborative Award was Lieutenant Commander Annabel Roberts of the Royal Navy.

She was nominated for her performance since joining HMS Dauntless, where she has vastly improved morale and operational capability.

Watch: 'I'm quite gobsmacked', Women in Defence award winner says.

The full list of the 2022 Women in Defence UK Awards winners are:

• Woman of the Year: Captain Preet Chandi, British Army

• Inspirational Award: Captain Preet Chandi, British Army

• Outstanding Contribution Award: Tpr Sally Faulkner, British Army

• Most Collaborative Award: Lt Cdr Annabel Roberts, Royal Navy

• Resolute Spirit Award: Azaria Coupe, QinetiQ

• Equality of Opportunity Award: Caroline Paige, Fighting with Pride

• Emerging Talent Award: Cadet WO Zoe Webb, RAF

• Unsung Heroines Award: Mo Bingham, DE&S

• Innovation and Creativity Award: Dr Alison Hawks, Common Mission Project

• STEM in Defence Award: Elcin Ada Sayin, Radius UK Ltd

• Inclusive Teamwork Award: HMS Artful, Royal Navy

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