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Carla Cohen shares her experience of the RisingWISE programme for women in science and engineering.

Lego models of different concepts

Lego models of different concepts

It is well documented that across the sciences women are disadvantaged in their careers compared to men, and are underrepresented at senior levels. Equally, the advantages of diversity and inclusion of scientific teams are increasingly well known and a number of programmes have been initiated to address gender inequality in science. In Oxford University, the Enterprising Women group, founded within the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division (MPLS), “encourages, inspires and supports the participation of women STEM researchers in innovation and entrepreneurship through a variety of events and programmes”.

In spring 2023 I attended “RisingWISE: An enterprise course by and for women”, an Oxbridge programme from MPLS that aims to support women in science and engineering progress in their careers. The course runs once per year and is targeted towards post-doctoral researchers from Oxford and Cambridge. The first four days are held online, followed by two days in person at the Egrove Park, Said Business School in Oxford. Crucially, it is fully funded for participants which makes it accessible to those who would benefit most. 

The RisingWISE course covers professional skills that are essential for careers in and outside academia. Sessions on Networking, Leadership, Negotiation and Communication were led by experienced professionals in these areas, and the mix of lectures and interactive sessions was engaging and informative. We heard from several former RisingWISE participants and senior leaders about their careers, and had the opportunity to reflect on our own ideals and competencies as we prepare for our futures. As prospective entrepreneurs, we took part in a “Dragons Den” scenario, pitching start-up ideas to an experienced panel posing as potential investors. The weekend culminated in an evening of networking drinks, a keynote speech by a sustainable fashion entrepreneur, and of course an enjoyable dinner.

As well as delivering essential training, the RisingWISE course provides an immediate professional network of like-minded scientists for advice, collaboration, and future employment opportunities. The many hours spent together in discussion throughout the course meant that strong bonds were formed within the group. Subsequent intentional and chance meetings have been most welcome, and several participants attended the RisingWISE alumni day held annually in September. The organisers are keen to maintain the network in the long-term by running additional short courses and cultivating online communities such as LinkedIn

Women building lego.

Personally, I took a lot from the course and thought it was well worth the considerable time commitment. I particularly enjoyed the chance to identify my non-technical skills and consider how I would market them to future employers. It was inspirational to hear from skilled scientists and senior leaders about the failure and uncertainties on their own career journeys, alongside the obvious successes. It was a real pleasure to get to know the RisingWISE group and to receive advice from two skilled facilitators, whose experience from the fields of policy and finance brought a fresh perspective to our academic ears.

I look forward to a future of scientific gender equality where the aims of courses like RisingWISE will be modified to support scientists of all genders, as women will be equal amongst their male peers.


If you would like to take part in the RisingWISE course, full details can be found on their website. Applications open in the autumn and the course runs once a year in the spring. Due to the success of RisingWISE, a similar scheme for DPhil students, SeedWISE, has also been launched. Please do get in touch with Carla Cohen or one of the organisers if you have any questions.