It is well known that women in the engineering field have been severely underrepresented in the past but as Bob Dylan said ‘the times they are a changing’.
Although statistically the UK has the lowest percentage of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs in Europe, this number has been on the rise. With a number of plans in place to encourage young girls to pursue their passion for maths and science to higher education, hopefully this number will continue to rise.
Women got their real chance at engineering roles during World War II. With the majority of working age men out in battle, women took up a number of roles previously thought of as ‘unsuitable’ for females.
The most famous interpretation of that was Rosie the Riveter – hair tied back with a scarf, slacks on and getting down to business. So famous is she, it has gone on to become a symbol of feminism and strong, independent women.
Before engineering became recognised as a profession, many female engineers put their skills to use as inventors.
Early engineers of note include Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, she used her mathematical skills and creative mind to collaborate with famous engineer Charles Babbage on his ‘analytical engine’. The analytical engine is considered by many to be an early version of the computer, thus earning Lovelace the title of ‘the first computer programmer’.
Briefly, other historical female engineers include:
Mary Dixon Kies who was the first American woman to get a patent, in 1809, for her method of weaving straw.
Valentina Tereshkova holds the title of being the first woman in space when she was part of the crew of Vostok 6, in 1963.
Thelma Estrin was an American computer scientist and engineer who predominantly worked within the field of biomedical engineering. She was one of the first to apply computer technology to medical research and healthcare facilities.
Below, the infographic, gives a snapshot into women in engineering.
Females in engineering have come a long way, and will continue to do so. The world will continue to need more engineers as technology advances and our modern life requires more and more.
Professor Raffaella Ocone (who’ll you meet in the Engineer’s View blogs) says:
“Engineering opens great opportunities to everybody & can make a difference in everyone’s life.
I do not like generalisations and I do not like to think that there are substantial differences between girls and boys.
Engineering gives the opportunity to travel the world and to know different people. I have encountered amazing people and seen amazing places. This should be enough to inspire the younger generation.”