It may have looked like an event from the 1920s but the mindspace was in the 2020s when 250 technology industry professionals gathered to honour industry role models at the 12th annual Women in Technology Awards on Saturday night.
Staged at The Tivoli in Fortitude Valley and themed on the 1920s, the event was a celebration of the massive contribution women are making in the information and bio technology industries.
The Women in Technology (WiT) Awards focus on recognising the achievements of women working in the IT and biotech industries, including as students, researchers and in executive roles. In its lifetime, 88 awards have been made with the winners sharing in over $570,000 in cash and prizes, and achieving recognition for excellence in their field.
Special guest Karen Struthers, the Minister for Women and Minister for Community Services and Housing, praised the contribution of those who had forged new ground in their fields, especially the eight winners and more than 25 nominees.
"Throughout history many brilliant women have not been recognized for their incredible contributions to science and technology," said Anne-Marie Birkill President of WiT. "The WiT awardsaim to ensure the current cohort of female scientists and technologists are recognised and rewarded for their achievements and to identify wonderful role models for men and women working or aspiring to work in technology."
For the first time in 2009 WiT awarded an Employer of Choice, a new category sponsored by the Queensland Government Office for Women. This award was made to the Mining Industries Skills Centre in recognition of their commitment to providing both men and women with a supportive and flexible work environment.
The winners of the 2009 WiT Awards were:
Sonja Bernhardt, CEO of ThoughtWare, was awarded the WiT ICT Outstanding Achievement Award, sponsored by Optus. Passionate about her industry, since 1997 Ms Bernhardt has consistently encouraged others to either take up a career in technology or adopt technology in their daily use through a multitude of career, role model, mentoring and board readiness programs.
A certified developer of enterprise (CDE) and fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, she was the first Australian inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame (Silicon Valley 2005). Ms Bernhardt was a founder of WiT and AWISE and has held, and continues to hold, a string of impressive board and executive appointments locally, nationally and internationally. She has founded several start-up companies including her current venture, award-winning Thoughtware.
Hannah Cullup of Mater Medical Research Institute won the WiT Biotech Rising Star Award Sponsored by IHBI, particularly for her work on graft versus host disease (GVHD). GVHD is caused by the new transplanted immune system recognising the patient's body as foreign, attacking the skin, liver and GI tract. Dr Cullup hopes to determine whether depleting dendritic cells, a specialised white blood cell which controls the body's immune responses, could play a major role in preventing GVHD.
Yvonne Buckley of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland won the WiT Biotech Research Award Sponsored by UQ. Ms Buckley works jointly in the School of Integrative Biology at UQ and CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and is interested in various aspects of applied theoretical ecology. In particular she works on the population dynamics, species interactions and management of invasive plants.
Zee Upton of the QUT Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation was awarded the WiT Biotech Outstanding Achievement Award sponsored by QCTN. Professor Upton is a biochemist, inventor, tissue engineer and dedicated developer of new intellectual property opportunities. She is an inaugural Smart State Senior Fellow, a professor in Life Sciences and leader of the Tissue Repair and Regeneration Program in the QUT Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation. Prof. Upton is also technical founder and consulting chief scientific officer for Tissue Therapies Limited. Her diverse expertise in growth factor protein, molecular and cellular technologies underpinned her discovery of VitroGro, a growth factor-extracellular matrix protein complex that stimulates cells to grow and migrate.
The only make to accept an award on the night, Mining Industry Skills Centre (MISC) CEO Derek Hunter said on receiving the WiT Employer of Choice Award, sponsored by the Office for Women, that his organization had no special policy on employing women. Rather, he said, MISC employed on skill and merit - which meant more than 70 percent of his employees were women and the majority of the MISC board was also made up of women. MISC is a Queensland based, not-for-profit organisation that partners with industry and informs government to maximise the skills of workers in the resources industry to assist in the sustainability of the industry.
Katherine Dann of the Department of Education and Training was awarded the WiT ICT Professional Award, sponsored by UNISYS. Ms Dann's knowledge and experience of enterprise technology is both broad and deep. She holds a Masters of Commerce, majoring in information systems, and has contributed 15 strong years to the ICT industry working for government. The judging panel felt that Ms Dann's ‘hands-on' approach, technical experience, and aspirations for the future provided an excellent grounding for a very successful career in ICT.
Therese Seldon, a PhD student at the Mater Medical Research Institute was awarded the WiT PhD Career Start Award, sponsored by Griffith University. Ms Seldon is hoping to develop therapeutic DC antibodies to treat or prevent GVHD as well as develop antibodies for DC vaccination of patients against leukaemia and other cancers. She is using antibodies already developed at the Mater Medical Research Institute that recognise DC. Ms Seldon has a promising future in the development of new diagnostics and therapies that will bring health and other benefits to all.
Barbara Tobin of the Queensland Youth Orchestra has taken out the WiT Executive Award sponsored by 3W. Ms Tobin has held a range of senior positions in the ICT industry, and has a proven record in the difficult field of sales, including growing the revenue of an IT distribution company from $7million to $38million in seven years.
While committed to her busy professional career and the demands of her extended family, Ms Tobin has found time to make extensive commitments to the community, including as immediate past-president of WiT and AWISE, and currently as vice-president of the Queensland Youth Orchestra. She was the founding project manager for the first WiT Board Readiness program, and a driver behind the development of many other WiT products.
The WiT Awards have been running since 1997 and have grown from three awards to nine this year. The WiT Awards have enjoyed tremendous support from industry, including from long-term sponsors such as Optus.
In its lifetime, 88 awards have been made with the winners sharing in over $570,000.
Women in Technology is one of Queensland's most respected and active technology industry associations. Founded in 1997 by just 10 women, the association has now grown to a membership to over 400 women and men.
In 2002 Women in Information Technology became Women in Technology; recognising the relationship between IT and emerging fields of science and engineering.
In 2005 WiT launched Women in Biotech and Women in Infotech, separate chapters to cater to the needs of the rapidly growing membership. WiT now offers cross-chapter and chapter-specific programs and events to members.
WiT represents the interests of all women working in the technology industries - from students to senior researchers, women working in micro-businesses to multinationals, the public and private sectors, the city and the regions.
WiT runs a range of programs and events including the much lauded Board Readiness Program, which prepares women for roles as directors on for-profit and not-for-profit Boards.