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About Us

Portia is a not-for-profit organisation based in London. It was set up in 2001 by a group of women scientists at Imperial College London to advance understanding of gender issues in science, in participation, in organisational practices, and in science knowledge.

We are often asked about the reasons for our name. There are two. Firstly, Portia is a female character in Shakespeare’s plays portrayed as a woman with a strong sense of self-worth and of being intellectually equal to the men around her. So, she is an excellent role model for contemporary generation of women. Secondly, there is a spider called Portia labiata, which is the cleverest spider in the world, used in Artificial Intelligence to model intelligent behaviour. Portia labiata is known for its high cognitive ability, fast and accurate decision making, complicated foraging strategies, including choosing the most optimum route to get it prey and effectively responding to an unpredictable behaviour of the prey. We felt this was an excellent metaphor for how our organisation could function.