Professor Wendy Hall

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Professor Wendy Hall honoured for outstanding technical leadership

Wendy Hall, Head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and one of the leading figures in UK engineering and technology, will receive the 2006 Anita Borg Award for Technical Leadership at a ceremony in San Diego, California, on Thursday 5 October.

The award, which was established in 2004 in memory of the late Dr Anita Borg, honours outstanding leaders who embrace Borg’s vision to change the world for women and technology. It will be presented at the Grace Hopper Conference and Professor Hall is the first UK recipient.

Professor Hall is an acknowledged leader in intelligent information systems. Her research team developed the well-known Microcosm open hypermedia system, which was patented and spun off into a commercial company. Recently, she has joined with the inventor of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and colleagues at Southampton to develop a new research initiative in the emerging field of Web Science.

‘I am truly thrilled to be the recipient of the Anita Borg Award for Technical Leadership this year,’ she said. ‘It is a tremendous honour and one I shall always be proud of.’

Professor Hall is currently Senior Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and Vice-President of the US Association for Computing Machinery. She is a member of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology and of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council. She was only the second woman President of the British Computer Society (in 2003-4), and earlier this year, as Executive Chair, she successfully brought the annual World Wide Web conference to the UK for the first time. In March 2006 she was named one of six outstanding women in UK science by the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. She was awarded a CBE in 2000 and made a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in the same year.

From early in her career, she has been committed to attracting more women into computer science and while her efforts and roles have given her influence at the highest levels, she says there is still a long way to go to ensure that science and technology do not lose the powerful insights and skills that women can bring.

‘There is no quick fix,’ she comments. ‘Being a good role model and mentor is not enough. We need big initiatives that are sustainable over a long period of time.

‘We need to excite young people today, particularly girls, by inspiring them with visions of the wonderful careers they could have in the computing and IT industries when they graduate from university in 10 or 12 years from now. Our industry will be very different then – radically different from how it is today.

‘If I can make a difference by encouraging more women to realize this then I will feel I have achieved something really important.’

Wendy Hall is interviewed by Stephen Ibaraki distinguished expert and currently President of the Canadian Information Processing Society, for his regular CIPS interview series

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