Three outstanding female engineers have been recognised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for their professional achievements and the work they do encouraging other young people into engineering.
28-year-old senior hardware engineer Naomi Mitchison, from Selex-ES, has been named the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year, and will play an ambassadorial role for the profession in the forthcoming months.
20-year-old Jessica Bestwick, who works for Rolls Royce, was presented with the IET’s Mary George Prize for Apprentices, and 27-year-old Lucy Ackland, who works for Renishaw PLC in Stone, Staffordshire, won the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) Award.
Recognising outstanding female engineers has never been so important after recent statistics from the IET’s Skills and Demand in Industry survey showed women represent only 6% of the engineering workforce. Further IET research showed that only 1% of parents of girls were likely to encourage their daughters into engineering, compared to 11% for parents of boys.
Mitchison said: “I’m really grateful to receive this award and it’s a real honour to be the IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year. I’m really looking forward to taking an ambassadorial role for the industry and to do what I can to encourage more women into engineering.”
Michelle Richmond, IET director of membership, said: “The lack of women in engineering is a very significant problem, contributing to skills shortages which damage the economy. The shocking reality is that the UK is missing out on half of its potential engineering and technology workforce by failing to attract women into the industry. It also means that women are losing out on interesting and rewarding career opportunities.
“A lack of inspirational engineering role models for girls is one of the main reasons for this so we must make sure we show the next generation that engineering is a dynamic, diverse, interesting and challenging career choice. Naomi will be a fantastic role model to all young people thinking of a career in engineering and technology.
“The difficulty in attracting women into engineering is down to a combination of things: from the careers advice girls are given in schools, to schools not instilling girls with the confidence to opt for science and maths at A-level, through to employers needing to do more to make their approach to recruitment and retention more female friendly. But it’s also a result of the lack of inspirational engineering role models for girls – which is where our Young Woman Engineer of the Year winners can play a vital role.”
The IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards aim to find female role models to help address the UK science and engineering skills crisis. Women currently represent only 6% of the engineering workforce in the UK (source: 2014 IET Skills Survey), the lowest percentage in Europe. If this trend continues, the UK will be in a significantly weakened position to find the 87,000 new engineers it is estimated the country will need each year over the next decade (according to Engineering UK 2014, the state of engineering).