Women's Engineering Society
The Women's Engineering Society is a United Kingdom professional learned society and networking body for women engineers, scientists and technologists.
The society was formed in 1919, after the First World War, during which many women had taken up roles in engineering to replace men who were involved in the military effort. There had been an attitude among employers and trades unions that denied women jobs and training in engineering. While it had been seen as necessary to bring women into engineering to fill the gap left by men joining the armed forces, government, employers and trades unions were against the continuing employment of women after the war.
This led a group of women, including Lady Katherine Parsons and her daughter Rachel Parsons, also Verena Holmes who would become the first female member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to form the Women's Engineering Society, with the aim of enabling women to gain training, jobs and acceptance. There is a parallel with the difficulties faced by women in medicine in the 19th century. The Society's first Secretary was Caroline Haslett.
The society has an archive documenting women's status in engineering and provides an insight into women's changing role in society. The archive is hosted by the IET.
The society celebrated its 95th year in 2014 with the launch of National Women in Engineering Day on 23 June 2014.
Work and campaigns
Society members have advised the UK government on evolving employment practices for women. Constituted as a professional society with membership grades based on qualification and experience, the society promotes the study and practice of engineering and allied sciences among women.
WES is represented by groups. The work of the groups focuses on:
- support to members and women engineers in general,
- encouragement of women to study engineering and take up engineering careers,
- promotion of corporate gender diversity,
- speaking as the collective voice of women engineers.
The society's journal The Woman Engineer contained technical articles in its early years. It now contains articles which give engineers a view of work in engineering disciplines and celebrates the achievements of women.
The Women's Engineering Society holds an annual conference, a student conference and regional workshops and networking events.
Outreach to schools
In 2014 WES set up an outreach programme called Magnificent Women (and their flying machines) which replicates the work that women did during the First World War in making aircraft wings, and this is aimed at secondary school girls.
WES members often volunteer in schools to inspire girls to take up engineering and allied science careers. In 1969, President Verena Holmes left a legacy to fund an annual lecture to inspire school girls. Run by the Verena Holmes Trust, the first lecture tour was in 1969 during the first UK Women in Engineering Year.
Members provided the 'technical women power' for the WISE Buses that were launched following the WISE Year in 1984. They continue to undertake activities in schools, often through the UK STEM Ambassador scheme.
MentorSET is a mentoring scheme for engineers, inspired by the WES President Petra Gratton (née Godwin) in 2000. The scheme was a collaborative project between WES and the national network of women scientists (AWISE). The philosophy was to enable women to joining a bespoke mentoring scheme to help them progress in their career and to support them back into engineering after a career break. MentorSET has previously been funded by DTI, the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET, and BAE Systems. In 2015 the MentorSET programme was relaunched with funding from DECC, now BEIS and Women in Nuclear and is now relevant to women working in science and technology as well as engineering.
Members are drawn from women who have entered the profession through routes varying from traditional apprenticeship to higher education leading to graduate and further degrees. The participation of male engineers in the society is encouraged.
Current membership exceeds 1000 individuals and over 35 corporate and education partners.
- 1919–1921 Rachel Parsons
- 1922-1925 The Hon Katharine, Lady Parsons
- 1926–1928 Laura Annie Willson MBE
- 1929–1930 Margaret, Lady Moir OBE
- 1931-1932 Verena Holmes
- 1933-1934 Elizabeth Kennedy
- 1935-1937 Amy Johnson CBE
- 1938-1939 Edith Mary Douglas
- 1940-1941 Dame Caroline Haslett DBE JP
- 1942-1943 Gertrude Lilian Entwisle
- 1944-1945 Margaret Partridge
- 1946-1947 Winifred Hackett
- 1948-1949 Frances Heywood
- 1950-1951 Sheila Leather
- 1952-1953 Ella Collin
- 1954-1955 Dorothy Pile
- 1955-1956 Kathleen Cook
- 1957-1958 Marjorie Bell
- 1959-1960 Madeleine Nobbs
- 1961-1962 Isabel Hardwich
- 1963 Cicely Thompson MBE
- 1964 Dorothy Cridland
- 1965 Cicely Thompson MBE
- 1966-1967 Rose Winslade OBE
- 1968-1969 Elizabeth Laverick OBE
- 1970-1971 May Maple
- 1972-1973 Peggy Hodges OBE
- 1974-1975 Gwendolen Howard
- 1976-1977 Henrietta Bussell
- 1978-1979 Veronica Milligan
- 1980-1981 Maria Watkins
- 1982-1983 Rosemary West
- 1983-1985 Daphne Jackson OBE
- 1985-1987 Linda Maynard
- 1987-1989 Hilda Blount
- 1989-1991 Dorothy Hatfield OBE
- 1991-1993 Sue Bird
- 1993-1995 Lynette Willoughby
- 1995-1997 Mary Harris / Sue Bird
- 1997-1998 Philippa Ayton
- 1998 Petra Godwin
- 1999 Suzanne Flynn
- 2000 Nicole Rockliff
- 2001 Jackie Longworth MBE
- 2002 Jackie Carpenter
- 2003-2004 Pam Wain
- 2005-2006 Dawn Fitt
- 2007 Grazyna Whapshott
- 2008-2010 Jan Peters MBE
- 2011-2013 Milada Williams
- 2013-2014 Carol Marsh
- 2014-2015 Dawn Bonfield MBE
- 2015–2018 Benita Mehra
- 2018-present Dawn Childs
- Canel, Annie; Oldenziel, Ruth (2005). "Am I a Lady or an Engineer? The Origins of the Women's Engineering Society in Britain, 1918-1940". Crossing Boundaries, Building Bridges. Routledge. ISBN 9781135286811. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- "International Women in Engineering Day 2017". International Women in Engineering Day 2017. Women's Engineering Society. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- "Woman Engineer journal online exhibition". www.theiet.org. The IET. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- "Magnificent Women". www.wes.org.uk. Women's Engineering Society. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- "Mentor SET". Mentor SET. Retrieved 27 November 2017.