Fri, March 08, 2024


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Celebrating Women in OR

As a celebration of International Women’s Day, we mark the event by highlighting the achievements of pioneering women in Operational Research (OR) and signpost networks that support women in OR careers today.

Tracing the Legacy of Women in Operational Research

Among the most famous female names in OR is Ailsa Land (1927 – 2021), the first female OR professor.  Before computers were widely available, Land devised pencil and paper methods to solve problems without resorting to the “brute force” approach of trying every solution one by one. She took the opportunity computers offered to automate such methods, structuring data effectively and devising strategies to produce computer code that was as efficient as possible.

Her contributions to OR techniques, particularly her work on the branch-and-bound method in integer programming, remain foundational even today. Her pioneering efforts, alongside Alison Harcourt (neé Doig), introduced groundbreaking methodologies that continue to influence contemporary integer programming solvers and methodologies. Land’s academic career also resulted in her taking a professorship at the London School of Economics in 1980, the first woman in the UK to hold such a post in operational research.

Other notable women include Pamela Rose (née Gibson), who is known for her work during World War II at Bletchley Park and for being one of the few women promoted to head the Naval Indexing department, which has been hailed as a precursor of the Information Age. Her coordination of vital fact-finding forays, despite the lack of technological advancements, cements her role in history. Let us not forget Margaret Hamilton, who was renowned for her work at NASA as the lead programmer for the Apollo guidance computer, stands as a symbol of excellence in software engineering.

Addressing the Gender Gap in STEM Careers

This year’s International Women’s Day is focusing on the theme of inclusion, and this also makes us reflect on the underrepresentation of women in OR and STEM fields.

Until 2018, there wasn’t any specific research into women's low representation in OR until The OR Society sponsored three MSc research projects on the theme.

This led to the establishment of The Women in Operational Research and Analytics Network (WORAN), which offers events, mentorship and support for women in OR.

We wanted to flag up some of the inspiring events they have coming up for women in OR including:

WORAN Book Discussion: Inferior by Angela Saini
Date: 21 March 2024
An engaging discussion on Angela Saini's book "Inferior," exploring themes of gender and science.

Workshop: Presence and Personal Impact
Date: 18 April 2024
Hosted by Piers Ibbotson, Business Trainer/Consultant, and Associate Professor, Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Warwick Business School
This workshop will explore techniques for confident and impactful communications in both one-on-one and group settings. Attendees will increase their self-awareness and develop a broader range of communication styles to build rapport and influence. They will understand the link between authority, status, and power, with a focus on gender dynamics.

To sign up for these events and for more information, please visit Women in OR & Analytics Network - The OR Society

Another thriving women’s group is The EURO WISDOM Forum (Women in Society Doing Operational Research and Management Society) which has been set up to empower all genders in OR within EURO. Collaborating with other women's groups, WISDOM has conducted some groundbreaking research, including a systematic review of OR literature through a gender lens, set to be published in JORS.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we want to amplify the voices and contributions of women in OR and highlight that through WORAN and EURO WISDOM Forum, progress is being made toward gender equality and inclusivity in the field, which we hope will lead to a more diverse and dynamic OR community.