WES: Improving Diversity in Engineering Since 1919.

The Women’s in Engineering Society – WES – is a professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists offering inspiration, support and professional development. Working in partnership, we support and inspire women to achieve as engineers, scientists and as leaders; we encourage the education of engineering; and we support companies with gender diversity and inclusion.

WES was forged by the fires of the women’s suffrage movement and the opportunities for work which emerged for some women in World War One. WES was formed in 1919 when the pioneering women who worked in engineering and technical roles during the War campaigned to retain these roles when the war ended. Many of WES’s founding members were involved in war work in WWI and in the campaign for female suffrage. In same year as WES was founded, the British government passed the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of December 1919 which removed some legal bars to the employment of women.

WES turns 100 on the 23rd June 2019 and we will be celebrating our first 100 years in style: WES will be running a project to celebrate this history called the WES Centenary Trail, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. 2019 is the centenary of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), founded just after the achievement of partial female suffrage in 1918, with the intention of supporting women into employment and education in the varied fields of engineering. WES has had many notable members, yet the only member who features widely in the popular historical narrative is pilot Amy Johnson. The WES Centenary Trail aims to redress this by creating an interactive online map recording and sharing the history of WES with a wider public, building an audience for local and women’s history connected with WES from new and improved Wikipedia entries, based on research into the WES and other archives. The Wikipedia entries will be generated by volunteers, trained and engaged through Wikithons around the country and entries will be pulled through to populate the map with 200 pins to explore. The project will share these new and improved histories through local events, displays, social media and a small PR programme. Family audiences will be engaged through a Lottie Doll tour of the WES Centenary Trail, aimed at encouraging families to think of engineering and its heritage as subjects just as interesting for girls as for boys.

In the Photo:  Cryptocurrencies.  Photo Credit:  WES

 The International Women in Engineering Day (INWED)

International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is our key international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry. It celebrates the outstanding achievements of women engineers throughout the world and for the last three years has been under the patronage of UNESCO. Taking place annually on 23 June, in 2018 we have celebrated our fifth year of INWED with the theme of ‘Raising the bar’ ahead of WES’s Centenary in 2019. ​

An important strand of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is WE50 the Top 50 Women in Engineering campaign run in partnership with The Telegraph newspaper since 2016. The annual list features the UK’s top rising female stars of engineering. The list of inspirational women shows the breadth and depth of talent and innovation across all engineering sectors. Publicising the amazing things which women routinely achieve within engineering is a great way of encouraging the next generation to enter the engineering and allied sectors and for women to succeed there. This year’s theme highlights the achievements of women who have been Returners and Transferrers into the field.

In the Photo:  Many good reasons to choose a career in Engineering  Photo Credit:  WES

The women on 2018’s WE50 list are the UK’s top returners and transferrers into engineering and allied sectors and were chosen from nearly 200 high quality nominations.

As a returner and a transferrer, I thought my experiences were unique. I am sure there are many of us who operate in this sphere, just get on with it and have been successful in our own right. It is so good to see successful women returners and transferrers recognised. This is a fantastic tribute to worthy women who have often had to overcome hurdles along the way.”

Benita Mehra, President of Women’s Engineering Society (WES)

The candidates on the WE50 list represent the very broad range of routes it is possible to follow into a career in engineering. Sectors in which the winning women are employed include structural and electronic engineering, health, environment and academia. Our winners are all at very different stages in their lives, varying from early career engineers to senior leadership.

WE50 is one of the key events taking place for International Women in Engineering Day 2018. Hundreds of other exciting INWED18 events have taken place to celebrate female engineers and raise the profile of engineering to women and girls, with more events still planned in the weeks to come. Events have been registered in the UK and across the world, from Canada and the USA to Spain, Panama, Pakistan, Tanzania, Nepal and Cameroon. They range from talks, tours, open days and debates to innovative hands on art works, competitions, networking events, site visits, videos, webinars and campaigns.

But why is it so important to keep raising the issue of women in engineering? In the UK only 11% of the engineering workforce are women, the lowest figure in Europe. Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead the field with women making up nearly 30% of their engineering workforce. Studies have shown that 30% is the break point where an individual does not feel like a minority with a group of people, so until the percentage of women in the engineering workforce increases, women are going to be perceived as a minority. This is why WES is pushing for 30 by 30, with the ambition of women making up 30% of the engineering workforce by 2030. International Women in Engineering Day is essential in raising the profile of engineering as a fantastic career and life opportunity for women and girls, by showcasing just what the possibilities are in the field. This is why it is so important to keep Raising The Bar for Women in Engineering through programmes like International Women in Engineering Day.

I hope everyone out there who has celebrated International Women in Engineering Day this year had a fantastic day, and those who are holding events have great success, and if just a few more women and girls are inspired to follow this as their career path we have made another small step towards changing the world!

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of


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