According to the IET 2013 skills survey, only 7% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female, which is a shockingly small number. So why is that number so low?

Gender stereotyping dissuades some women from pursuing traditionally male dominated industries, such as manufacturing and engineering. ‘National Women in Engineering Day’ is a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in engineering and to raise the profile of women in this field.  

The Women’s Engineering Society is a professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists who offer inspiration, support and professional development. This not-for-profit organisation works to encourage women to succeed as engineers, scientists and leaders.

WES stands for Women, Education and Sustainability, which are the three core values of the network. Working with organisations and influencers to promote gender diversity, it is the aim of WES to support women and promote the education, study and application of engineering.

Lets take a look at some of the truly inspiring women from Engineering.

Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton, a computer scientist and engineer born in 1936 is known for her work at NASA. After majoring in mathematics, earning a B.A in mathematics and a minor in philosophy, she moved to Boston with the intention of doing further graduate study in abstract mathematics. After working on the SAGE project at Lincoln Labs where she wrote software for the first AN/FSQ-7 computer, Hamilton went on to work for NASA and became director and supervisor of software programming in 1965 whilst working on the Apollo space mission. At NASA her work was responsible for helping pioneer the Apollo on-board guidance software needed to navigate and land on the mood.

Beatrice A. Hicks

This inspiring woman, daughter of William Lux Hicks, a chemical engineer, decided from a young age that she wanted to pursue a career in engineering. While her parents neither supported nor dissuaded Hicks’ desired career path, some of her teachers and classmates tried to discourage her ambitions, as it was viewed as a socially unaccepted role for a woman.  After graduating from Orange High School in 1935 and after receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Newark College of engineering in 1939, Hicks became the first female engineer to be hired by Western Electric and became both the co-founder and first president of the Society of Women Engineers. Hicks was selected to serve on the Defense Advisory Committee for Women in Services between 1960 and 1963 and was the director of the first international conference of women engineers and scientists and represented the USA at four international management congresses.

Cynthia Maxwell

Former Apple employee working on IOS, Pinterest app guru, NASA employee and Yahoo’s senior director of engineering, Maxwell has an impressive career history.  She was among the first 15 people hired at Pinterest and her work is responsible for the sleek iPad and iPhone app that people know, use and love today. After spending 6 years working for Apple, Maxwell has worked on projects like iPhones audio system and Mac OS. Her work at NASA led to her creating a virtual environment, which was used for astronaut training, telemedicine and surgical planning.  

Emily Warren Roebling

In the late 1800’s there was no greater challenge than spanning the East River from Brooklyn to New York. The dream and plan of Emily’s father-in-law in, John A. Roebling, was to do just that, and in 1869 he began designing the bridge.

Emily became involved through the passing of her father-in-law when her husband, Washington took over as master bridge builder. In order to assist her husband as much as she could, Roebling began studying civil engineering, math, material strength, stress analysis and cable construction. By 1872, Washington was left bed ridden and partially paralyzed after contracting a serious illness. Believed by many to be the Chief Engineer in charge of the day-to-day construction of building the Brooklyn Bridge, Emily became a major participant in the project. She answered questions from officials and contractors about the bridge, kept records, and represented her husband at social functions. One of the most important social functions Emily attended was a meeting with the American Society of Civil Engineers where when questions arose regarding the ability of her husband to lead the project, Emily delivered a moving speech and cemented her husband’s position as Chief Engineer. Although she had never planned on becoming an engineer, she accomplished what can only be described as a huge engineering feat for the time.

Elsie Eavis

In 1920, aged 22, Eavis graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Civil Engineering. By 1927, she was the first woman to be a full time member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and began making the most of her engineering education. Eavis joined the Engineering and News Reports as an assistant manager for market surveys and eventually became the manager of the Construction Economics department. Her work here consisted of directing ENR’s measurement of ‘post war planning’ in the construction industry. Eavis converted the data into the first continuous database of construction. Following her retirement in 1963, Eavis was advisor to the National Commission on Urban Affairs and also advised the International Executive Service Corps about construction costs in Iran. In 1979 the American Association of Cost Engineers  (ASCE) awarded her Honorary Membership in recognition of her achievements. She was the first woman to be awarded.

Happy Women in Engineering day folks.

Written by

Katherine Thomson