During a ceremony in London recognising outstanding females in engineering, BBC’s Steph McGovern announced that Naomi Mitchison has been named the Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2014.
The prestigious YWE, awarded by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and now at its 38th edition, honours the best early career female engineers working in Britain for their professional achievements.
After graduating with an MEng in Electronics and Engineering in 2009 from the University of Edinburgh, Mitchison went on to specialise in cyber security at Thales and then honed her skills and knowledge in laser warning systems for military aircraft working at Seles-ES, where she currently works. The 28-year-old will play an ambassadorial role for the profession in the coming months.
Talking to E&T about the award Mitchison said that it was a chance to use it as a platform “to try and work out what we can do to make a difference in our industry".
“I want to be able to bring my voice to the table rather than just sit and shout from the sidelines,” she added.
According to statistics from the IET’s Skills Survey women represent only 6 per cent of the engineering workforce, the lowest in Europe, while further research revealed that only 1 per cent of parents of girls were likely to encourage their daughters into engineering, compared to 11 per cent for parents of boys.
“Role models, as identified by the YWE winners and finalists, are well-placed to influence parents, showing them what a great career engineering could be for their daughters,” said William Webb, president of the IET, in his opening speech at the awards ceremony.
Nigel Fine, chief executive and secretary of the IET, highlighted how important it is to have a more female-friendly approach in the recruitment process. He also mentioned the need to create more initiatives similar to YWE to inspire women and girls to join the industry, and announced a new campaign that the IET Women’s Network will run in 2015 to showcase the work that some companies are doing to recruit and retain more female engineers.
“In Britain there aren’t enough women going into engineering, so other countries do a lot better. It’s this general idea around engineering that it doesn’t have a big enough profile,” Mitchison told E&T.
“Engineering is just an umbrella term for so many things and people are cutting up the option of understanding what it is. The important thing to do is to make people aware of what engineering actually is. Having the role models is one part of it, but a lot of it is changing the perception of society as a whole.”
Twenty-year-old Jessica Bestwick, who works at 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.
The remaining finalists Hannah Pearlman, a cooling systems engineer with Ford, and Laurie-Ann Marshall, apprentice circuit engineer at ABB Ltd, also received certificates for their achievements.