Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day

Published 19th June 2024

International Women in Engineering Day which takes place annually on the 23rd of June, is more than just a date on the calendar; it's a celebration of the achievements, contributions, and the potential of women in the engineering field. As we celebrate this significant day, let's take a moment to explore its rich history, acknowledge the progress made, and envision a future where women in engineering are not just recognised but are integral to the fabric of the industry.

The Historical Roots of Women in Engineering

The inception of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) in 1919 marked a pivotal moment for women in the engineering sector. After the First World War, many women who had stepped into engineering roles during the conflict were determined to continue their careers. This determination led to the founding of WES by a group of pioneering women including Lady Katharine Parsons, Rachel Parsons, Janetta Mary Ormsby, Margaret Rowbotham, Margaret Moir, and Laura Ann Wilson. These trailblazers were committed to empowering women in engineering, breaking barriers, and promoting gender equality in a predominantly male industry.

In 2014, to celebrate its 95th anniversary, the Women’s Engineering Society launched National Women in Engineering Day. This initiative provided a platform to highlight the successes and achievements of female engineers, inspiring many and fostering a sense of community and support. The impact and significance of this day grew rapidly, and by 2017, it had received UNESCO patronage and became recognised as International Women in Engineering Day.

The Significance of INWED

International Women in Engineering Day has since become a global event, showcasing the incredible work of women engineers from all corners of the world. Each year, events and activities are organised to raise the profile of women in engineering, acting as a beacon of encouragement and support. This day not only celebrates the achievements of women in engineering but also serves as a powerful source of inspiration for young professionals and aspiring engineers.

We have had the honour of speaking with and learning from some truly inspiring women in engineering. Jenny Body CBE, a distinguished aerospace engineer and the first female President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, has shared her experiences and insights, highlighting the importance of perseverance and passion in engineering. Alex Knight, CEO of STEMazing, has been a beacon of innovation and leadership, dedicating her efforts to inspire the next generation of engineers through her initiatives that promote STEM education and engagement. Yewande Akinola MBE FIET HonFREng, an accomplished engineer, designer, and innovator, has continually pushed the boundaries of engineering and design, demonstrating the profound impact that creativity and diversity bring to the field.

These women, among many others, exemplify the spirit of INWED. Their achievements and dedication serve as powerful reminders of what can be accomplished when women are given the opportunity to thrive in engineering.

Current Landscape and Challenges

Despite the strides made, engineering remains a male-dominated industry. INWED plays a crucial role in addressing this disparity by encouraging young women to pursue engineering careers. By providing a platform for female engineers, INWED helps to foster an environment where women can thrive and contribute their unique talents to an ever-evolving field.

The theme for this year's INWED is #EnhancedByEngineering, focusing on the best, brightest, and bravest women in engineering who have significantly enhanced everyday lives and are paving the way towards a brighter future. This theme not only highlights the technical achievements of women engineers but also underscores the impact of their work on society.

The Importance of Design and Technology in Schools

A crucial aspect of inspiring and empowering female students to pursue careers in engineering is the teaching of Design and Technology (D&T) in schools. Introducing students to D&T at a young age can spark an interest in engineering by allowing them to engage with hands-on projects that develop problem-solving skills, creativity, and technical knowledge. Early exposure to these subjects can demystify engineering and show young girls that they too can excel in this field.

D&T education helps to break down gender stereotypes by presenting engineering as a viable and exciting career path for both boys and girls. By fostering an inclusive and encouraging learning environment, schools can play a pivotal role in shaping the next generation of female engineers. The presence of role models further reinforces the message that women can achieve great things in engineering.

International Women in Engineering Day is a testament to the progress made and a reminder of the work still to be done. It is a day to celebrate, inspire, and commit to a future where women in engineering are recognised and their contributions valued. By celebrating INWED, we honour the past, celebrate the present, and look forward to a future where engineering is enriched by the diversity and talents of all its members.

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