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This year’s International Women in Engineering Day (INWED21) recognises and celebrates women engineers from across the world with the focus being on #EngineeringHeroes.
According to the Women’s Engineering Society’s latest stats, female engineers represent just under 13% of the engineering workforce. Although the percentage of women engineers remains considerably low, these women are making a huge difference, designing, and building our future whilst at the same time, making history! In theme with this year’s INWED21, we take a look at five female engineers who are remembered for their legacy during a time when female engineers were far and few!
Edith Clarke: The first female electrical engineer employed in the USA
Edith Clarke (1883 – 1959) was the first female engineer to be professionally employed as an Electrical Engineer at GE in the USA. Known for being a pioneer in electrical engineering, Clarke created a graphical calculator (also known as the ‘Clarke Calculator’) used to understand and solve electric power transmission line problems. Clarke achieved many ‘firsts’, including becoming the first woman to receive a master’s degree in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as the first full-time female professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin.
Caroline Haslett: The first secretary of the Women’s Engineering Society
Known for championing women’s rights, Electrical Engineer Dame Caroline Haslett (1895 – 1957) was the first secretary of the Women's Engineering Society and the editor of The Woman Engineer. Haslett was passionate about freeing women from household chores and used her platform to ask women what they wanted in their homes, looking at the use of electrical power and how it could be applied to home appliances. She later gave public lectures and wrote articles teaching women about electricity.
Verena Holmes: The first female mechanical engineer in the UK
Alongside Haslett, Verena Holmes (1889 – 1964) was also an advocate for representing equal rights in the early 20th century and became a founding member of the Women’s Engineering Society. Passionate about mechanical engineering, Holmes was the first female mechanical engineer in the UK to have a full-time career as well as set up her own engineering firm which only employed women. Her legacy continues as the Canterbury Christ Church University created The Verena Holmes Building, which is home to their science, technology, health, engineering, and medicine courses.
Beatrice Shilling: A war winning aeronautical engineer
Beatrice Shilling (1909 – 1990) was an aeronautical engineer well known for her work on aircraft carburettors at the Royal Aircraft Establishment during the Second World War. Shilling’s legacy is her design of a flow restricting device which fixed the Rolls Royce Merlin engines from misfiring or cutting out during diving. It is believed this fix contributed to the outcome of the Battle of Britain. Shilling was also a very passionate motorcycle racer and the second woman to gain a Brooklands Gold Star for lapping the track at over 100mph!
Henrietta Vansittart: Britain’s first significant female inventor
Henrietta Vansittart (1833-1883) is considered as Britain’s first significant female inventor and engineer. Her father patented a marine screw propeller which Vansittart further developed after his death, which became known as the ‘Lowe-Vansittart propeller’. Vansittart replaced her father’s flat blades design with ones in the shape of a compound curve which improved its efficiency and resulted in being fitted on many war ships.
Victoria Drummond: The first woman marine engineer in the UK
Victoria Alexandrina Drummond MBE (1894 – 1978) became the first woman to go to sea as a marine engineer as well as the first female member of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology. During the Second World war, Drummond was an engineering officer in the British Merchant Navy and was recognised for her ‘devotion to duty’ and bravery whilst her vessel was attacked by an aircraft. Drummond’s legacy continues via The Victoria Drummond Award which awarded to women whose achievements boost the profile of women at sea.
Do you want to be the next engineering hero?
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