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Supporting female engineers on International Women's Day.

How we are supporting diversity and inclusion in our community

In a male dominated industry, we shine a light on 3 women who broke the mould in engineering and changed things for future generations.

Could you name one famous female engineer?

Women have long played leading roles in engineering, but the recognition due to them has been slow. Research in 2022 by Engineering UK showed that the number of women working in engineering in the UK had risen from 562,000 in 2010 to 936,000 in 2021. But that’s still only 16.5% of the total UK workforce. This isn’t something new, women have faced social barriers to their progression in the industry since the 18th Century. But it’s the 21st Century and we believe that engineering shouldn’t be viewed as a man’s world. At LDNY People, we want to change that perception.

Our values and culture focus on promoting diversity and inclusivity. We want to inspire the next generation of female innovators, engineers, inspectors, designers. Supporting them in their journeys to becoming the inspiration for generations to come. This International Women’s Day we are celebrating three female engineers that we think are inspirations for the next generation. These are women who have led the way – a trailblazer, a ground breaker, and a pioneer.

Engineer Sarah Guppy

Sarah Guppy (1770-1852)

Considered the first woman to have patented the design for a bridge, Sarah Guppy was a trailblazer in a time when most women were destined to domestic duty. In 1811, Sarah took out a patent for ‘a new mode of constructing and erecting bridges and railroads without arches or sterling’s whereby the danger of being washed away by floods is avoidable’. Sarah’s patent has no drawing or additional details showing how the bridge would have been constructed, but her outlined description describes a pair of chains over which timber planks would be laid to form a deck. The chains were then to be anchored to some kind of timber framing protected by piles.

Sarah’s own self-promotion, almost unheard of at the time, led to the often-misquoted narrative that she was the inventor of the modern-day suspension bridge. A fact that she did nothing to dismiss, and why would she?! Her self-promotion at a time when women engineers were scarcely seen shows the determination she had to succeed, and her achievements should not be underestimated. She paved the way for the visibility of female engineers in a male dominated world. 

Engineer Alice Perry

Alice Perry (1885-1969)

Born in 1885, Alice was one of five sisters raised in a family of engineers. Her father James was the County Surveyor for West Galway, inspecting public buildings and infrastructure. Her uncle, John, was both a Fellow of the Royal Society and a noted mechanical engineer and together they co-founded the Galway Electric Light Company. Against the perceived view of the time, education was incredibly important in the Perry household, but until the early 1900s, studying the hard sciences and engineering was strictly off limits for female students. Despite this, Alice Perry was the first woman in Ireland and Europe to graduate with a first-class honours degree in Civil Engineering, which she received from Queen’s College Galway (now NUI, Galway) in 1906.  

Alice’s ground breaking academic accomplishments were halted when, following the death of her father, she was appointed temporary county surveyor by Galway County Council. Although, she failed to secure the permanent post, Alice secured another first; as the first and only woman to have occupied the post of County Surveyor in Ireland. In 1908, Alice moved to London with her sisters to pursue a career with the Home Office, and later a quiet life in America, working with the Christian Science church. Alice’s ground breaking career was made possible by the challenging of perceptions by those around her. 

Engineer Edith Clarke

Edith Clarke (1883 – 1959)

Another one for firsts, American Edith Clarke, was the first woman to graduate in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1918.  Edith had financed her education with the inheritance given to her after the death of both her parents by the time she was 12. Having graduated from college, Edith worked as a ‘computer’ at AT&T – a human calculator performing complex calculations – assisting engineers as they built the first transcontinental phone line. Following her graduation from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Clarke worked as an engineer at General Electric, where she developed the Clarke calculator, used to solve equations for electrical energy transmission lines. 

Throughout her career, Clarke was pioneering in her endeavours. She was the first woman to be professionally employed as an electrical engineer in the United States, the first woman to be a full voting member of what would become IEEE, and the first woman in the country to be a full-time professor of electrical engineering. Like Sarah Guppy before her, Edith paved the way for other female engineers to be seen as equals in an overly male dominated field. 

All these women have shown that social barriers are there to be broken. Whether that’s in an uncompromising self-promotion, education, career and so much more. These women, like so many others, have been responsible for opening the way for others to succeed. And here at LDNY People we want to continue that progress. We are delivering the message that there is a place within the construction industry for everybody, and we want you to be part of it.  

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