Fiona Clark wins Princess Royal's WISE Lifetime Achievement Award

21 February 2024

Fiona Clark, Head of Capability (EW Sensors) at Leonardo UK, won the Princess Royal’s WISE Lifetime Achievement Award last night, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to STEM outreach and her professional achievements during the past four decades.

The WISE Awards celebrate outstanding women in STEM, as well as organisations that are making impactful changes to their gender balance. This year is the first time that the Princess Royal has given her name to the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The judging panel commended Fiona “as an inspiring example of a role model who actively demonstrates how a woman can rise to senior levels in an organisation without sacrificing her motivating values. Using respect and kindness, Fiona senses when someone is struggling, and takes the time to have a coffee with them and offer support.” The judges also noted that “this intelligent compassion is a rare quality in someone at her level,” and that they were impressed by her outreach work, encouraging more women to enter the STEM sector.

Speaking after receiving her award, Fiona said: “I am absolutely over the moon to have been given this award, recognising not just my work achievements, but also my passion for supporting our young engineers and encouraging young women, in particular, into STEM careers. The event was packed with amazing, inspirational women, all of whom had great stories to tell but firmly believed we are all ‘just doing our day jobs’. I’d like to say a huge thank you to my colleague, Olivia Freestone, for nominating me, WISE for the award and a lovely, uplifting evening, and to Leonardo for the last 40 years of fun!”

International Engineering Recognition

Since joining Leonardo in 1984, after completing her maths degree at Cambridge University, Fiona has enjoyed a fascinating and varied career. Today, she is recognised internationally as an expert in the field of Electronic Warfare (EW), having designed and optimised equipment to protect front line Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft from missile attack, and developed defensive tactics that the RAF and allies around the world now use.

Her contribution to academia – having taught an estimated 2000 military and civilian personnel about EW – was recognised in 2022, when she was made a Visiting Professor at Cranfield University, the UK’s Defence Academy. As Head of Capability, Fiona is responsible for defining and driving the development of future EW systems for everything from helicopters to remotely piloted aircraft through to 6th generation fighters out to 2035 and beyond.

STEM Ambassador

Fiona is also a strong advocate of STEM, being at the forefront of Leonardo’s engagements with many schools, colleges and universities, and inspiring future generations to see the opportunities that STEM offers and pursue related careers. Over the years, she has also mentored many female apprentices and graduates within the company, and more recently has been mentoring RAF personnel.

“It gives me great pride to see many of these women now carrying out senior roles in industry and in the military, while continuing to trail blaze as role models themselves,” adds Fiona.