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

Martha Coston designed a night signal and code system for the U.S. army

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.

Model behaviour

Karlie Kloss partnered with FlatIron School in 2015

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.

Twitter: @karliekloss

Facebook: @karliekloss

Instagram: @karliekloss

Anne Marie Imafidon loved computers from a young age

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.

Instagram: @notyouraverageami

engineering stars

Hedy Lemarr invented a radio signalling device to keep enemies from decoding messages during WWII

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.


women in engineering day

Supporting International Women in Engineering day 2019

On the 23rd June, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) will be celebrating its sixth year of International Women in Engineering Day. The international campaign was created to raise the profiles of women working within the engineering industry, create diversity, and focus on the ever-expanding career opportunities available to women.

Did you
know that according to 2018 statistics just 12.37% of engineers in the UK are
women?

The WES
in Britain are doing more each year to encourage young women to explore and
consider a career in engineering, whether that be through hands-on student
groups, talks or awards.

Here at
Armitage, we believe men and women should be given the same opportunities to
begin a career in engineering; and it’s great to see such an important event
celebrating the outstanding achievements of female engineers throughout the
world.

In order to support the International Women in Engineering Day, we will be taking part in their great campaign at midday on Sunday 23rd June for one hour, by spreading awareness using our social media platforms. The overall aim is to get #INWED19 trending so we can reach and inspire those around the UK and internationally.

You
could also help connect, support and inspire individuals and the industry by
joining the movement.

For
more information visit the INWED website here.

#TransformTheFuture

#INWED19


The STEM of Gender Bias

We all know how to make small talk. Granted, the exact nature of the way we communicate might vary depending on formalities, but whether you’re at a wedding, family celebration or simply out for a night on the tiles, the same question will be asked of all of us at some point. We know it’s coming…

 

Who says that girls need to stick to a plan?
"What do you do for a living?"
"What’s your job?"
"Where do you work?"

Having recently landed my first proper job at an agency, I was eager to finally be able to say, “I work in PR.”  What I didn’t really think about was the inevitable follow up, “What kind?”

As soon as I explained that I work in the technical PR industry - working with clients that design products for all kinds of industries from water distribution to food manufacture - the look on my acquaintance’s face started to shift. In under five seconds, I’d gone from the most glamorous and interesting person in the room, to the girl who works in PR for sewerage systems.

I was warned by my Account Director that this might happen, who after decades in this sector has experienced the ‘job-off’ (my new term for this shaming occurrence) numerous times. Therefore, I was ready to explain how important the technology industries actually are, from the widely familiar telecommunications and mobile companies, right down to the power networks that distribute our electricity. To put it simply, without technology our daily lives would grind to a halt.

And, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m only suitable for a role in beauty or lifestyle PR...


I enjoy my job

At Armitage Communications I learn new facts every day such as how things work, what the future might look like if current trends continue and what needs to change in order for the UK to survive in the global market. Take the latest report from the Institution of Engineering and Technology, for example.  It highlights the big six industries which are likely to have a large impact on the UK’s economy, but only if certain steps are taken to make the most of this significant opportunity.

The big six are New Power Networks, Space, Cyber Security, 3D Printing, Food Security and Robotics. All of these industries have a similar problem of needing more engineers with the right skill set. We have already blogged about how schools should teach lessons to prepare students for the technical roles of the future, so it is interesting that the IET has also highlighted this problem. Thankfully, we are starting to see signs of improvement with competitions such as the FIRST LEGO League (FLL®) taking place across the UK.

There’s still a long way to go, however, and another significant issue that the IET rightly emphasised was the need for diversity within the engineering workforce, especially in terms of gender. The Women’s Engineering Society states that only 7% of the engineering workforce are female, and we believe that one reason behind this is our heavily gender-biased toy industry. Kira Cochrane of The Guardian aptly describes  it as ‘rigid spheres of pink and blue’.

The square root of sex segregation

 

Colour continues to be used to differentiate gender

Toys that are marketed to little girls include baby dolls, Barbie, My Little Pony, tea sets and princess dresses and not much else, preparing them for a life of domesticity, motherhood and a preoccupation with appearance. This is the 21st century though and women have a choice – they can work, be mums, go to university, all at the same time if they so desire. They can also choose to become engineers, scientists or technology specialists.

But toys don’t seem to encourage this, and when you consider that gender identity occurs between the ages of around three and five years old, it would seem that a change in this market is called for - to rectify the long-lasting impression that girls should be girls, and boys should be boys. Whatever that means.

The aforementioned Lego group might be encouraging young children to solve real world problems with the help of technology, but their recent plight to sell more Lego to girls in the form of Lego Friends has been the crutch of many jokes about gender bias in the media. The Heartlake Hair Salon, Puppy Training and Bunny and Babies sets all scream gender stereotyping, and a disregard of Lego instructions resulting in a robot is one way to express how little girls actually want to play with female astronaut, pirate and scientist pieces. Girls don’t need pink to want to build.

It’s refreshing then to hear about movements such as ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ and games being sold such as Goldieblox and Roominate. These both involve construction and the development of STEM skills through hands-on problem solving and are aimed primarily at girls. Both use a wide range of colours in their products and, in the words of Goldieblox CEO Debbie Sterling, ‘aim to disrupt the pink aisle.’

A working example

In fact, at Armitage Communications, a lot of what we do revolves around the technology sector. With such gender-biased attitudes common, you may be surprised to learn that there are three female staff engaged in the daily production of technical and engineering-focused materials for our clients. Whether you’re a man or a woman, tech is a graspable subject. Plenty more would realise this if the education sector and toy companies alike banded together to encourage STEM skills, regardless of whether children are called Barbie or Ken.

Do you have what it takes to work in tech PR?

Calling all tech-minded ladies and gentlemen. We are currently looking for a Junior Account Executive with a talent for creative writing and a natural curiosity for learning and explaining how things work.

If this sounds like you then email claire.shore@armitage-comms.co.uk and attach your C.V along with 200 words about how you’d convince someone who just gave you the 'job-off' that Tech PR is actually a fascinating, mentally-stimulating and up-to-the minute industry.

Image 1 Credit: 'It was supposed to be a juice bar' by fickle
Image 2 Credit: 'Pink & blue lego' by Janet McKnight