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Famous females in engineering stump over two thirds of the population, finds ICE survey

Only 35 percent of people can name a famous, outstanding or senior female engineer, a survey by gender equality organisation UKRC has revealed.

Worryingly, 70% of the 1,750 survey participants were engineers themselves or worked with engineers. Of the non-engineers polled, the number dropped to less than 20 per cent.

The female engineer named most often in the survey, which marked International Women’s Day, was British civil and public health engineer Jean Venables who also served as the first female president of the ICE.

Other named included structural engineer Jane Wernick, Hollywood actress and scientist Hedy Lamarr and chemist Marie Curie.

Delighted and surprised

“I am delighted and surprised to be the most famous woman engineer in the survey,” said Venables. “When I started, there were very, very few women in this profession.

“Yet engineering saves more lives than medicine, and it is essential to the way we live our lives. It is also forward-looking, coming up with new ways of communicating and solutions to challenges such as climate change. For the best ideas and initiatives engineering needs diversity: it is essential that women are part of this.”

The UKRC’s Ingenious Women: Communicating a Passion For Engineering project has been taking place over the past six months.

It has been helping 20 early-to-mid career women engineers to get free training and support to enable them to raise their professional and social profile and share their passion for engineering.

UKRC director Annette Williams said: “Currently, only seven per cent of engineers in the UK are women, so perhaps it is no surprise that so few people could name a famous woman engineer.

21st century contribution

“It is time to celebrate the 21st century contribution of engineers, and to make sure that women get a much higher profile so we can inspire talented young women as well as men to become engineers.”

The survey participants were also asked to name any famous engineer they could think of. Nearly half named the Victorian pioneer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

The three other engineers named most often were also from the Industrial Revolution period: Thomas Telford (named 101 times), James Watt (30 times) and George Stephenson (26 times).

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