Posted 21/07/2022

The engineering industry has always been considered a traditionally male-dominated sector however more and more women are joining the ranks. The most up-to-date statistics show that currently 12% of engineers are women and 22% of the engineering sector is made up of women. 

Over the years, some of the most significant innovations in history are a result of the genius of female engineers and this should be celebrated. 

Although gender diversity within the industry is improving year on year there is still much work to be done - only 46% of girls 11-14 would consider a career in engineering compared with 70% of boys. To inspire the next generation of women to pursue an engineering career, the whole sector must come together to show all women there is a place for them. 

As a result, we wanted to highlight just three incredibly inspirational female engineers who consistently pushed the boundaries of what a female engineer can achieve. 

Edith Clarke 

The very first female engineer was Edith Clarke. Born in 1883, Edith is known for creating the Clarke calculator for graphing electrical properties. 

After her parents sadly passed away, she used her inheritance money to pay for herself to study Mathematics at Vassar College. 

Once Edith graduated, she started work on the Clarke calculator. Before this calculator, all problems were solved manually, therefore it saved significant time and effort. 

Although she proved herself as an incredibly talented engineer, it took her several attempts to convince General Electric to hire her as their first female engineer. 

Edith received the Best Regional Paper Prize and the Best National Paper Prize from the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. After receiving this accolade she was hired by UT Austin becoming the first female to teach Electrical Engineering. 

Hedy Lamarr 

Hedy Lamarr was a woman of many talents - a brilliant actress and inventor! 

When she wasn’t busy playing a femme fatale alongside Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, she invented a way to encrypt signals stopping enemy spies from being able to listen to sensitive information. Without Hedy’s work, wireless communication would not be possible. 

She fought for a long time for the engineering community to take her seriously and recognise her intellect. Although she devised a way to intercept the command signals by jumping between radio frequencies to prevent being followed, the Navy decided not to use her invention at the time. In fact, it was dismissed for some time until humanity discovered the benefits of wireless communication devices including WiFi and Bluetooth. 

Ada Lovelace

It was Ada Lovelace who first recognised the potential of the Analytical Engine as a computer-like instrument. More than 100 years before the invention of the modern computer, Ada could be classed as the very first computer programmer. 

Although she was Lord Byron’s only legitimate child, her father rejected her at 5 weeks old. It was her mother who then swayed her away from poetry and artistic interests, instead of encouraging her to pursue Mathematics and logic. 

As an adult, Ada met Charles Babbage, a mathematician and mechanical engineer working on the Analytical Engine, the first mechanical computer. She became fascinated by the machine, seeing the machine’s future potential and finding other purposes than purely mathematics. 

If you are looking to pursue a career in the engineering and manufacturing industry or take the next step in your career, Theo James Recruitment can help. Contact one of our specialists and let us help you along the way.