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Meet the top 50 women in engineering for 2019

Women are excelling across a wide range of sectors in engineering, as demonstrated by this list of current and former apprentices

In the UK in 2017, some 11% of engineers were women – but given this figure stood at just 6% in 2011, education and training in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) seems to be making headway. The latest figures from the Women into Science and Engineering (Wise) campaign show that the number of women working in core Stem careers (including engineering) rose by more than 60,000 between 2016 and 2017.

After the government launched its new “trailblazer” scheme in 2013 to initiate industry-set standards in apprenticeships, these pathways have played a key role in better representation for women in engineering. Nevertheless, while women currently make up approximately 12% of engineers in the UK, just over 7% of engineering apprentices are female.

This year’s Top 50 Women in Engineering highlights 22 current and 28 former apprentices at the forefront of UK engineering, from HS2 to Typhoon jets and the 5G rollout. It was put together by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), a charity that celebrates its centenary this year. Elizabeth Donnelly, its CEO, says: “We want a world where women are as likely as men to choose an engineering career, and it can be seen from this list that women are excelling across an impressive range of sectors.”

Katrina-Rose Allen Apprentice engineer, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) Ltd Current apprentice

Now in the third year of her apprenticeship, Allen has already become a role model for apprenticeship hopefuls. After she appeared in one of GTR’s videos, her story was featured in Metro and the Evening Standard, and on BBC Surrey radio. Colleagues noted that applications from women for next year’s scheme are up by more than 200%.

Natalie Asimeng-Gyan Engineering apprentice, GSK Current apprentice

After joining GSK’s automation team last year [May 2018], Asimeng-Gyan didn’t take long to impress colleagues. On a critical cross-site project, she learned to configure control systems, follow wiring diagrams and work successfully with external suppliers and contractors. The project went on to win an industry award. Now in her second year, Asimeng-Gyan has gone on to represent GSK on projects in Europe and at careers events to promote its apprenticeship scheme.

Natalie Atherton Zone operations manager, Sodexo Former apprentice

Atherton impressed from the start: after completing an apprenticeship at AstraZeneca, she won sponsorship for a degree, graduating in 2015. Now a chartered building services engineer, she manages a £15m warehouse – one of AstraZeneca’s key assets – for Sodexo. In charge of 12 staff and responsible for managing facilities across the site, including automation, Atherton is passionate about mentoring women who’ve transitioned into the industry from facilities management.

Abbie Beaver Apprentice fabricator/welder, ADI Group Current apprentice

Beaver joined a pre-apprenticeship programme at 14 and then the ADI Group two years later as its first-ever female apprentice. Her tenacity sets her apart, and last year she became one of six female engineers for WES’s campaign to promote engineering to primary school-age girls.

Jacinta Caden Business development (Europe), Critical Project Services Former apprentice

Of all the fields in engineering, refrigeration remains one of the poorest for equal representation. Caden is the fourth woman ever appointed to the board of the 119-year-old Institute of Refrigeration (IOR), and now sits on the IOR’s steering group for women in the sector. Her experience also provided key insight for developing its new trailblazer standards for apprenticeships in the sector.

Sophie Caffrey Technical apprentice, Leonardo Current apprentice

Though only in her fourth year, Caffrey has already designed printed circuit boards that have been used in trials across the world. Last year, she was selected by Naomi Campbell to star in a Nike advert alongside nine other young women, whose work disrupted cultural stereotypes. She is studying for a degree in electronic engineering.

Emily Carr Apprentice electrical/instrumentation technician, GSK Current apprentice

Carr was recently shortlisted for a “young talent in the chemical industry” award for her work as a Stem ambassador in schools and was recently selected to develop her leadership skills on a Fieri course. Now in the third year of an HNC programme, she hopes to become an industry technician on completion.

Rachael Carr Senior systems engineer, BAE Systems Former apprentice

After Carr joined BAE in 2006, she moved swiftly through the company into a senior engineering role, where she leads on key responsibilities including platform airworthiness certification. A former BAE apprentice of the year, Carr is now a mentor and performance coach to the next generation of women at BAE.

Nicole Chamberlain Automation and MES engineer, Nestlé Former apprentice

When Chamberlain started out, she was one of just three women in a 100-person cohort, and the only female engineer in her workplace. But it was her dedication rather than her gender that stood out – most obviously in her final year, when she was nominated for a future manufacturing award. Chamberlain now sits on the board of governors for Nestlé’s apprenticeship scheme and mentors young women at her site. She is studying for a degree in electrical and electronic engineering.

Melissa Chigubu Apprentice, Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) Current apprentice

Chigubu learned her first engineering skills thanks to her uncles in Zimbabwe, and on moving to the UK in 2012 she joined the MTC’s apprenticeship scheme. She has since been named apprentice of the month three times, and was the first woman to complete the foundation course.

Heather Clarke Trustee, Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Former apprentice

Clarke’s career was shaped by not one, but two apprenticeships – one technical, and one voluntary. At British Railways, building the Medway rail bridge and Heathrow Express line gave her hands-on experience, and in 2006 she become a chartered engineer. In 2007, she joined the IMechE as a president’s apprentice, and 10 years later was elected as a trustee.

Lisa-Jayne Cook Senior sales and applications engineer, Aqua Temperature Control Solutions Former apprentice

As an apprentice, Cook was one of the star pupils on her BTec, and was named a finalist in RAC’s student of the year awards in 2004. Her passion for learning persisted: in her nomination, colleagues at Aqua praised Cook’s commitment to training junior engineers.

Dr Katherine Critchley Configuration management BPM, Safran Seats Former apprentice

As an apprentice in the 1980s, Critchley gained valuable experience in computer-aided design. But after graduating from a master’s in the subject, she found it so hard to break back into engineering that she ended up working in a chocolate shop. Critchley then completed a PhD and developed a career in the aerospace sector, but her experience made her a vocal advocate for other “returners” in Stem.


Alexandra Ellis-Jones Junior engineer, GSK Former apprentice

Ellis-Jones has made significant cost savings through digital innovation at work. She’s also made great efforts to promote apprenticeships among senior business leaders at a Science Museum Late event – after-hours theme night – and in a film for the IET.

Jasmine Ewers Undergraduate engineer, WSP Current apprentice

As a young female apprentice on HS2, Ewers has now represented her peers in interviews on the BBC and ITV, as well as featuring in a short film for BBC Bitesize Careers about engineering apprenticeships. She’s also written articles, attended careers fairs, and won the ICE Quest Technician Plus scholarship for her writing.

Danielle Flynn Degree apprentice, Jaguar Land Rover Current apprentice

The only female apprentice in her year at Halewood, Flynn excelled in her work on equipment standards for car-making machinery and was named Liverpool apprentice of the year in 2018. She is her apprenticeship’s first female Stem ambassador and gave a speech to the Made in Dagenham machinists.

Angela George Mechanical design engineer, Diamond Light Source Ltd Former apprentice

As an engineer at Diamond Light’s synchrotron facility, George specialises in “insertion devices” – 20-tonne precision-engineered machines that generate x-ray beams accurate to less than one-millionth of a metre. As an apprentice at Harwell in the 1980s, she was the only woman on her team; her dedication and experience has made her a role model.

Natalie Goodman Permit to work coordinator, Spirit Energy Former apprentice

Goodman finished her four-year mechanical apprenticeship early, was made operations manager of an oil refinery at 23 and is Spirit’s first female employee to become an authorised issuing authority for permits to work. She volunteers as a community project supervisor with schools in Cumbria.

Bethany Holroyd Project coordinator, WSP Former apprentice

Holroyd has worked as a project manager in both the public and private sectors – perhaps her biggest project to date being the development of an asset management system for harbours on the Moray coast. In 2012, she was the first apprentice in the country to complete the ICE framework.

Kelly Jeffery Civil engineer, Jacobs Former apprentice

Ten years of experience in the UK and overseas gave Jeffery a passion for showcasing rewarding work in engineering. During her apprenticeship at WSP she completed a degree in civil engineering at Exeter; now at Jacobs, she sits on the steering committee for its global women’s network.

Grace Johnstone Principal engineer, BAE Systems Former apprentice

Aged 16, working on Tornado and Hawk jets, Johnstone was the first woman on the 100-person team. She was named IET young woman engineer of the year in 2003 and, after a 26-year-long career, has now taken a senior role on the Typhoon team. Her recent appointment to chair of the Inspiring Women Network came as no surprise.

Charlotte Jones Technician, AECOM Current apprentice

Now in her fifth year at AECOM, Jones is one of the scheme’s top-performing apprentices, was its apprentice of the year in 2018, and also featured in AECOM’s Where Women Work campaign. She achieved distinctions in her BTec, NVQ and HNC and is now studying part-time for a degree in civil engineering.

Sharon Lane Managing director, Tees Components Former apprentice

Lane began an apprenticeship after dropping out of university, and went on to gain a BEng with first-class honours. After a distance-learning MBA, she became GM, then MD, of Tees Components in 2005. Passionate about training, she has become a key role model in the north-east for women in engineering.

Catherine Leahy Apprentice corrosion technician, TWI Current apprentice

One of TWI’s Arkwright scholars, Leahy already contributes to collaboratively funded projects into new renewable solutions, and last year was interviewed by ITV about her work. The only woman on her course and team, she has a passion for research.

Chloe le Grand Senior design engineer, MBDA UK Former apprentice

Having passed her HNC and HND in mechanical engineering with distinction in all areas, le Grand now shares her enthusiasm for engineering widely: as well as arranging apprentice placements in her team, she has for the past few years led a Robot Wars-style Rumble event for local secondary schools.

Catherine Llewellyn-Jones Undergraduate aerospace engineering apprentice, Airbus Current apprentice

Llewellyn-Jones was working as a graduate teacher when she made the switch into engineering; she now specialises in aircraft ribs, and her work has been implemented in Spain and the US. A case study for TUC and Unite, and a champion for women making career changes, she has successfully campaigned to change university hours for students with caring responsibilities.

Sylvia Lu 5G tech lead, u-blox UK Former apprentice

After completing an apprenticeship at Toshiba, Lu quickly rose to prominence as an expert in the internet of things. She currently serves on the advisory board for the UK5G network. The first female board director at Cambridge Wireless, Lu was named a finalist in the science and technology category of the Asian women of achievement awards last year.

Judith Mair Manufacturing laboratory technologist, Rolls-Royce PLC Former apprentice

Having moved to Derby from rural Aberdeenshire to undertake her apprenticeship, Mair excelled on placements and graduated first-class, as well as being named best of British engineering and apprentice of the year at the Semta awards last year.

Jenny Manning Additive manufacturing engineering lead, BAE Systems Former apprentice

Additive manufacturing (3D printing) is a relatively new technology for BAE’s Typhoon and Hawk jets, something Manning – named national apprentice champion of the year and the Royal Academy of Engineering’s rising star in 2012 – noticed early on. Colleagues say she has been “instrumental” in the company’s development for aircraft parts. Her innovative approach singles her out to senior staff as an emerging leader in her field.

Raisa Matadar Technical support apprentice, Jaguar Land Rover Current apprentice

The primary contact for JLR’s new Women in the Know events for budding female engineers, Matadar has excelled in her performance at the company. Colleagues noted her acumen and exemplary behaviour reviews as well as her diligence; she received distinctions in almost all her technical certificates for her level 2 assessments.

Kirsty McDermott Design assurance engineer, National Grid Former apprentice

The first-ever female apprentice recruited to the bus builders in her hometown of Blackburn, McDermott learned early on in her career how she would have to prove herself. She undertook a two-year apprenticeship at the National Grid, then was appointed technical lead on a £6m world-first project for robotics for inspecting pipelines. Now an engineer on the longest tunnel pipeline in Europe, she is also working towards IEng accreditation, as well as setting up a network for women in engineering on the National Grid.

Eden McGlen Apprentice engineering maintenance technician, Unipres Current apprentice

McGlen’s strong academic background made her an obvious candidate for university, but instead she applied for an apprenticeship with Unipres. One of just two women on her course, McGlen was invited to discuss the role of women in engineering at the House of Lords this year.

Paula McMahon Chartered civil engineer, Sir Robert McAlpine Former apprentice

An RSA and ICE fellow, McMahon uses her experience on high-profile projects such as the Thames Barrier in her work as a civil engineer. She previously managed the highways structures department and had significant input into Highways England’s system for structural asset management. She currently mentors more than two dozen candidates, and has been named a Wise role model.

Lauren McNaughton Apprentice building services engineer, Arup Current apprentice

Now in her final year, McNaughton has impressed colleagues and peers by taking the lead in automating many of Arup’s design processes and chairing workshops for engineers on digital design. Her performance has also caught the eye of the Construction Industry Training Board, which has recently put her forward for a regional award.

Lois Medley Electrical apprentice, WSP Current apprentice

A member of WSP’s electrical team since the age of 16, Medley has key responsibilities on its HS2 project for software that calculates cable sizes, detects calculation errors and manages models of the electrics. Last year, she was interviewed about her work on BBC Breakfast, and has also taken part in a roundtable with Damian Hinds, the education minister, on policy around apprenticeships.

Sarah Mulvanny BIM Technician, Arup Current apprentice

Since joining Arup’s building information modelling team, Mulvanny has gained experience on international projects including stadiums, airports, homes and hotels. She recently completed a secondment to develop her skills in digital visualisations, and having completed an EngTech is now studying for a degree in building services engineering.

Lesley Nutter Senior engineer, engineering apprenticeships, BAE Systems Former apprentice

After graduating from the women-only TESS scheme in 1992 and working as an engineer for 17 years, Nutter joined BAE’s early careers team just before it introduced the new aerospace engineering degree apprenticeship scheme in 2015. Under her guidance, now a fifth of its apprentices are women.

Emma Roberts Applications engineer, Fairfield Control Systems Former apprentice

At just 25, Roberts has already achieved a first-class degree and assisted Fairfield on some of its biggest projects. Most notably, she helped refurbish the control system for the world’s first rotating boat lift, designing and assisting in the building of new control panels. She has also represented former apprentices at the House of Commons.

Billie Sequeira Technical apprentice, BAE Systems Current apprentice

When Sequeira joined BAE she’d already been placed in the top 10% nationwide for maths, and since joining, colleagues say she’s outperformed in her role as an apprentice on BAE teams. She was named apprentice of the year by her training provider and is a keen Stem ambassador.

Jennifer Smith Principal engineer, MBDA Former apprentice

The first female apprentice in the engineering department of MBDA’s Stevenage site, Smith was IMechE young mechanical engineer of the year in 2017; she was praised for setting up an in-house training opportunity for engineers in the same year.

Sophie Smith Building surveyor, Atkins Former apprentice

With 10 years’ experience under her belt, Smith’s mid-career sector switch gave her expertise in both social housing and building control. As well as studying for a degree part-time (and graduating with first-class honours), she has also fought back against barriers such as ill-fitting “unisex” personal protective equipment by developing her own range.

Sarah Speir Project engineer, SP Energy Networks Former apprentice

When Speir first started at SP on a year in industry programme after school, she expected to go to university afterwards. Instead, she stayed to earn an HNC on a three-year apprenticeship. Now in a full-time role as an engineer, she commissions power system protection and large-scale control systems apparatus, while studying for a degree.

Courteney Stone Engineering technician apprentice, BMW Group Manufacturing Current apprentice

Self-confessed petrolhead Stone is the only woman on her work’s Mini Challenge racing team. She mentors other apprentices and volunteers as a charity champion, and after she graduates she hopes to stay on to improve production processes for the Mini body shell.

Laurie-ann Sutherland Smith Reliability engineer, Musk Process Services Former apprentice

Sutherland Smith has a flair for making significant improvement to processes in short timescales at work, and she’s wasted no time applying her skills to improving equality at Musk. After Wise’s ten steps campaign, she produced a strategic proposal and action plan for the company.

Charlotte Tingley Quality engineer, BAE Systems Former apprentice

As a former WES young woman engineer of the year winner, Tingley has gone from strength to strength. After completing an advanced technical apprenticeship, at 20 she led the production team for the Eurofighter Typhoon helmet. She’s now known as an industry expert in FRACAS, making her a key asset to her new role on the team for the inceptor systems of the F-35 jet.

Tammy Whelan Assistant technician, Arup Current apprentice

Whelan joined Arup’s infrastructure team in Belfast after a career in the armed forces and graduated from a BTec last year. She was named learner of the year by her college and Northern Ireland’s apprentice of the year. As well as representing women in apprenticeships, she is also a green champion, and has founded a steering group to improve sustainability in her workplace.

Jade White Welding engineer, Sellafield Former apprentice

A specialist consultant in fabrication, welding and materials technology, White’s expertise was highlighted last year after she was nominated for WES’s Karen Burt award for newly chartered engineers. During her 10-year career at Sellafield, she has spoken widely on equality in engineering.

Perdi Williams Assistant research scientist, National Physical Laboratory Former apprentice

Williams is one of the key engineers behind the creation of the new Kibble (Watt) balance, the instrument that redefined the kilogram last year. Now 20, Williams started her apprenticeship just four years ago and has already spoken at New Scientist Live.

Ambar Yasin Apprentice, Jaguar Land Rover Current apprentice

A rising star, Yasin has already been invited to present to the board of directors: not long after starting her placement, she managed to reduce time on one process by more than 80%. The youngest member and only woman on her team in the metrology department, she has a keen eye for improving efficiency.

Daniela Zanni Structural technician apprentice, Arup Current apprentice

At Arup, Zanni already has responsibility for the building information model of Manchester Metropolitan University’s new arts and humanities building, and she is involved in training and running workshops for graduate engineers. Now studying for a BTec, she completed her NVQ in less than 18 months, and was shortlisted for this year’s TARGETjobs apprentice of the year.

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