21 Jun Six engineering superwomen to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day 2019
With less than 15% of the engineering workforce in the UK comprised of women, International Women in Engineering Day 2019 has sparked a conversation in our offices this week. We’ve been debating ways to mark the day and encourage young girls to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects to align with the Women In Engineering Society (WES) campaign ‘Transform the Future’.
On Sunday 23rd June 2019 WES will launch its Centenary Interactive Trail Map. The map will mark women who have achieved ground-breaking work in engineering, where they are from and their inventions that have completely reshaped the world we live in today.
Here at Armitage we have a team of six women working across engineering and industrial technology accounts including robotics, oil and gas, automation and instrumentation. Over the years our day to day work has inspired us to think about the women, both today and from the past, who have made great leaps in engineering. We believe similar women could be the next celebrity role models for girls to look up to. Instead of the usual selection of pop stars, reality TV personalities and models, we’d much prefer to see coverage in daily magazines and newspapers on the lives of engineers, inventors and scientists. For those who are around today, we’ve included a link to their social media pages so that girls who love to Tweet, Insta or Facebook can follow their activities throughout their careers.
So without any further ado, here’s our six favourite women in engineering who have transformed the future:
there’s a spark in you
Helen, Database Manager: Martha Coston (December 1826 – 1904), who went on to design a signal system for ships in the civil war, using notes her husband left before he died and tweaking them to make it work.
I think it’s admirable that she honoured her husband’s legacy by studying his work. In the nineteenth century, ships used lanterns and flags for signals which presented obvious challenges such as communicating with boats over a long distance. For ten years Martha worked on the flare signalling system, hiring chemists and fireworks experts to help with little luck.
Her breakthrough discovery came as a result of her attending a fireworks display in New York City. She realised that the system needed a bright blue flare, along with the red and white she had already developed. As a result of establishing the Coston Manufacturing Company to make the flares, she received a patent for her pyrotechnic night signal and code system. This was then tested by the U.S. Navy and went on to be used in the discovery and capture of Confederate blockade runners during the Union blockade of southern ports. They were also used by the United States Life-Saving service to warn ships of dangerous coastal conditions.
Nicola, Administrator: My favourite engineering lady is Karlie Kloss (1992-present). Karlie’s modelling career spans over a decade with work including advertisements for Oscar de la Renta, Jean Paul Gautier, Calvin Klein and Ellie Saab to name just a few. Karlie is not just a pretty face – she’s an avid coder and in 2015 partnered with FlatIron School and Code.org to offer a scholarship called ‘Kode with Klossy’. The two week summer programme for 13-18 year olds teaches girls how to code real life apps. Any girls passionate about learning this sought after skill can apply here.
Sophie, Senior Account Executive: I’m a great admirer of Anne Marie Imafidon (1990-present). When she was four she got super interested in computers when her Dad let her play on his computer which had Windows version 3.0! She went on to study science and IT at school as one of the very few girls in the school studying these subjects at A Level. It was only when she attended a tech conference in the U.S specifically for women that she realised she was a ‘woman in tech’ and got started on developing the Stemettes, an organisation which encourages girls of all ages to get into STEM. The organisation runs panel events, hackathons, exhibitions and mentoring schemes and has a variety of events slated for the summer across the UK. Click here for the full list.
Rose, Junior Account Manager: I’ve always loved Hollywood movies especially the old classics such as Gone with the Wind and Some Like It Hot. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that 1940s Hollywood actress Hedy Lemarr (1914-2000) invented a remote-controlled communications system for the U.S. army. She was a beautiful actress who starred in classic Hollywood films such as Comrade X alongside Clark Gable and Ziegfred Girl with Judy Garland. Not only extremely attractive Hedy Lemarr completely undermines the preconceived idea that glamourous women don’t have brains.
Hedy worked with her friend, the composer George Antheil, on an idea for a radio signalling device which was a means of changing radio frequencies to keep enemies from decoding messages during WWII. The implications of this invention were not fully realised until relatively recently. The invention was a significant step towards maintaining the security of both military communications and mobile phones in use today. Due to her brainy discoveries Lamaarr became the first woman to receive the Oscars of Inventing, the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award in 1997.
in wind or rain
Susan, Account Director: Mine is Mary Anderson (1869-1953) who invented the windshield wiper in 1903. Car manufacturers from the 1920s onwards (when her patent expired) adapted her basic design and integrated it into their automobiles. The windshield wiper might not be a huge feat of engineering but her invention impacts people’s lives every time they drive their car in the rain, sleet or snow. Growing up in Vancouver, Canada −a city which is famous for the amount of rain it receives per year − windshield wipers were particularly handy! The wipers also get a good workout in my new hometown of London, England.
Emma, Senior Account Manager: The female engineer I am most inspired by is Edith Clarke (1883-1959). Clarke was the first woman to earn an M.S. in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT). Despite this achievement, and later creating the Clarke calculator, a graphical device that could solve line equations involving hyperbolic functions ten times faster than previous methods (for which a patent was granted in 1925), it took her several years to achieve her dream of becoming an engineer. Clarke continued to achieve firsts throughout her career, and in 1943 she published what was to become an influential textbook in the field of power engineering, Circuit Analysis of A-C Power Systems.