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Finalists announced for Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards 2018

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Six outstanding engineers have been announced as finalists for the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards 2018.

The announcement of the finalists coincides with Ada Lovelace Day, which celebrates the contribution of women to STEM fields. The day is named in honour of Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century British mathematician often described as the world’s first computer programmer.

The finalists for the award are: Kate Self (a degree apprentice at BT Tower); Shajida Akthar (a software engineer at Accenture); Sophie Harker (an aerodynamics and performance engineer at BAE Systems); Amy Wright (a site engineer at Farrans Construction); Lorna Bennet (a mechanical engineer at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult), and Dr Claire Donoghue (a computing specialist at 3M’s Corporate Research Lab).

They have worked on projects involving hypersonic aircraft, computer vision, automated financial services and the Northern Spire Bridge, which recently opened over the River Wear in Sunderland.

The award - which has been presented since 1988 - aims to celebrate women working in engineering, while also stamping out outdated stereotypes of engineers as grimy men wearing hard hats and overalls. It also seeks to find and draw attention to visible women role models in engineering, in order to encourage more girls and young women to follow engineering careers.

“Engineers shape the world around us and are at the forefront of tackling some of the biggest challenges we face, from protecting our environment to harnessing the power of AI to fight disease,” commented Minister for the Year of Engineering, Nusrat Ghani. “It’s vital that we encourage more girls to consider careers in the profession and be part of shaping a future that works for everyone.”

“Celebrating creative, innovative and stereotype-smashing engineers from all backgrounds is at the heart of the Year of Engineering and it’s fantastic to see the achievements of some of the many brilliant women in engineering being recognised by the IET today. I’m sure all of these trailblazing finalists will play a crucial role in showing girls what they could achieve as engineers.”

Just 12 per cent of professional engineers are women. Women who pursue careers as engineers face hurdles including unequal pay, harassment and lingering stereotypes about the differences between natural male and female technical abilities, such as those espoused last week by CERN physicist Professor Alessandro Strumia, who claimed that physics was “invented and built by men” and that women in physics were unfairly advantaged.

The day after Strumia’s comments were reported, physicist Dr Donna Strickland became the third woman in history to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, for research which made the development of ‘optical tweezers’ possible. Following her acceptance of the award, it emerged that a Wikipedia page previously created for Strickland had been deleted due to the physicist not meeting the website’s “notability” requirements.

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