Imperial College London

Imperial celebrates International Women in Engineering Day

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Ophelia Johnson, former MRes student in the Department of Bioengineering

Ophelia Johnson, former MRes student in the Department of Bioengineering

Imperial’s President Alice Gast led College-wide efforts to inspire women in engineering.

Professor Gast spoke at an event for young professionals in engineering at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, organised by the Women’s Engineering Society.

“Women engineers must no longer remain in the background”

At the event, President Alice Gast, who forged a career in chemical engineering with an interest in surface and interfacial phenomena, said: “Women engineers must no longer remain in the background, waiting for history to catch up. We must not be shy about sharing our contributions.

“As we celebrate what’s been accomplished, we must also acknowledge that much remains to be done.”

Speaking about being personally influenced by a talk given by the California chapter of Women in Science and Engineering whilst she was in high school, she added: “This event helped me see professional women engineers speaking about their careers. They attracted me to engineering, and thus I became a chemical engineer from my first day at university.”

The event for young professionals featured talks given by keynote speakers, with a particular focus on diversity. Each speaker gave a presentation on the topic of how diversity will transform future leadership.

Esther Rodriguez-Villegas, Professor of Low Power Electronics in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Esther Rodriguez-Villegas, Professor of Low Power Electronics in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Breaking down stereotypes

President Gast also highlighted the ways that Imperial is contributing to progress, such WE Innovate, the College’s flagship entrepreneurial programme for women entrepreneurs, and Agents of Change, which supports leadership, professional development and networking for women in Hammersmith and Fulham.

She concluded: “Each of us has a responsibility to be visible and accessible role models. It is a very powerful way to break down stereotypes, and to help remove the psychological and emotional barriers that currently inhibit women from pursuing a degree and career in engineering. 

“We are making progress, but we can accelerate that progress through our individual and collective efforts to be visible and active role models.”

Diverse opportunities

The College joined schools and universities, governments, industry and professional engineering institutions for the annual celebration. With women making up only around 12% of the engineering and technology workforce in the UK, the day aims to highlight the diverse opportunities that exist for women as engineering and technology professionals.

Edwina Rossi is a Molecular Bioengineering Student in her First Year
Edwina Rossi is a Molecular Bioengineering Student in her First Year at the College

2019 also marks 100 years of The Women’s Engineering Society (WES). WES was founded in 1919 by a small committee drawn from the National Council of Women, which was created during the World War 1 to get women into work, in order to release men to join the armed forces.

This group of influential women had government backing to support women engineers who, although welcomed into the profession during World War 1, were under pressure at the end of the war to leave the workforce to release jobs for men returning from the forces. These women founded WES, not only to resist this pressure, but also to promote engineering as a rewarding job for women as well as men.

Today WES is a charity and a professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists offering inspiration, support and professional development.

Imperial staff and students celebrate 100 years of the Women’s Engineering Society
Imperial staff and students celebrate 100 years of the Women’s Engineering Society

Reporter

Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications and Public Affairs

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 3970
Email: joanna.wilson@imperial.ac.uk

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