Key Note Speaker: Dame Professor Sue Ion DBE, FREng

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Keynote Speaker: Dame Professor Sue Ion – Engineering OUR Future

Sue Ion gave a fascinating account of the achievements of women engineers throughout history, illustrated the critical importance of engineering applications in all areas of life and industry, and presented ideas of how we can encourage young women into exciting careers in engineering.

Her own story provides a positive role model and in 2014 she was awarded the prestigious President’s Medal by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE).

‘Engineering’ encompasses a broad range of activities. Applications range from designing cooking utensils to designing prosthetics, boring tunnels to developing software for modelling crowds in shopping centres. Sue stressed that the term ‘engineering’ is underused: ‘science’ and ‘technology’ are often used by preference in the media.

Engineering is at the heart of the economy and offers well paid work. There is a big shortage of engineers! yet the UK has the lowest percentage of women engineers in Europe – just ten percent.

Why are so few girls attracted into the engineering disciplines? The rot starts early! Toys for young children are very gendered, and children develop strong gender stereotypes in relation to occupations.

What can be done to address the issue of attracting girls into engineering?

  • Develop active campaigns with schools and employers aimed at encouraging girls into engineering careers, including apprenticeships.
  • Engage with parents (who may not have engineering backgrounds).
  • Offer role models – bring women engineers into schools.
  • Enthuse and encourage girls to take A level physics.

Sue showed a great video which captures how early on in their education, children already define career opportunities as male and female – watch the video below.

In conclusion, Sue challenged us to help change the conversation and take action, to encourage girls today to consider the opportunity of an exciting and worthwhile career in engineering.

Hazel Braithwaite
SI Canterbury


About Dame Professor Sue Ion DBE, FREng

Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng who Is a British engineer and an expect advisor on the nuclear power industry.  Sue has been Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering since 2002 and was appointed as a Visiting Professor at Imperial College, London in 2006.  Last year she was the first woman to receive on of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s most prestigious accolades – the President’s Medal – for her outstanding service to the nuclear industry, the Academy itself and to the wider world of engineering.  Sue was a very well received speaker at last year’s UK PAC Study Day.