Dawn Bonfield on the past, present and future of gender equality in engineering


Black and white image of women working in a factory

The Women in Engineering Network met at a recent event to hear from Dawn Bonfield MBE on her work towards gender equality in engineering.

Imperial's Women in Engineering Network invited Dawn to speak at an event celebrating International Women in Engineering Day.

Dawn Bonfield MBE is the Founder & Director of Towards Vision, a not-for-profit which works towards a vision of diversity and inclusion in engineering. She is also Past President and former Chief Executive of the Women's Engineering Society (WES), Deputy Chair of the Women in Engineering Committee of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations and founder of a social enterprise called ‘Magnificent Women’ which celebrates the history of women in engineering, and was the founder of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED). Dawn received an MBE in 2016 for 'Services to the promotion of diversity in engineering'.

Her talk covered her work on Magnificent Women, a school outreach programme which combines history, engineering, inspiration, storytelling and careers advice framed around the centenary of the First World War, when women entered the engineering profession in large numbers for the first time. This opportunity to tell rarely-told stories was inspired by photographs of women in factories manufacturing aircraft and munitions, and how suited they were for this work.

Dawn recently wrote a chapter in the UNESCO report Engineering for Sustainable Development titled 'Diversity and Inclusion in Engineering'. Her work for UNESCO focuses on how the gender perspective can relate back to sustainable development goals in engineering, and how 'gender-responsive action' can enable us to build equality into the design of engineering solutions to global challenges such as climate change.

Discussing the future of gender equality in engineering, Dawn highlighted the pipeline of women engineers is under pressure, with fewer women studying engineering, spending less time professionally registered, and leaving the profession earlier than men. In order to address this, Dawn argued that diversity and inclusion must be embedded in systems and structures. We must also understand why we need diversity in engineering and how to use it for a sustainable and inclusive economy where everyone feels able to bring their whole self to their profession.

The talk was followed by a Q&A from Imperial colleagues discussing the challenges faced by women engineers.


Helen Wilkes

Helen Wilkes
Faculty of Engineering

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Contact details

Email: h.wilkes@imperial.ac.uk

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