Young women engineers reach national final & get set to inspire more girls to join the sector

13 October 2020

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To celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, six young female engineers have been announced as finalists for the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) Young Woman Engineer (YWE) of the Year Awards 2020.

These prestigious annual engineering industry awards celebrate women working in modern engineering – and aim to help change the perception that engineering is predominantly a career for men by banishing outdated engineering stereotypes of hard hats and dirty overalls.

Bethany Probert (23), Ella Podmore (25), Neera Kukadia (28), Dr Melanie Jimenez (33), Shrouk El-Attar (28) and Denize Ivy Pilarta (21) have all been shortlisted for awards. The finalists are:

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Bethany Probert is a Junior Software Engineer at Altran UK, working in the High Integrity Software Centre. Bethany is on a graduate apprenticeship scheme and her work involves developing and testing safety critical software to help keep people safe in their everyday lives. She is also a member of the Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) Young Professionals Board, where she advocates for gender diversity in STEM and aims to inspire the next generation of women in STEM.

Ella Podmore is a Materials Engineer for luxury British supercar maker, McLaren Automotive. She is responsible for all the material investigations in the business, across all development phases of the company’s supercars: from concept drawings, all the way to customers in the field. Balancing her time between experiments and leading technical meetings, Ella created this department from the ground-up and plans to demonstrate the importance of materials in the automotive industry even further. As the leading STEM ambassador for McLaren, Ella helped launch the recent competition McLaren Automotive ran with BBC Blue Peter, asking children to design their ‘supercar of the future’, and was one of Autocar’s Top 10 ‘Rising Stars’ in 2019.

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Neera Kukadia is a Project Engineer at Transport for London. Neera works in the Major Projects Directorate, where she is currently managing works on the Elephant & Castle Station Capacity Upgrade Project. She has been a STEM ambassador for five years, working with girls’ schools in underrepresented boroughs in East London, encouraging and inspiring young girls into the engineering industry. Since completing her MEng at Brighton University, Neera now volunteers in the university’s BAME mentor programme.

Dr Melanie Jimenez is a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow at the James Watt School of Engineering, University of Glasgow. She leads a research group focusing on rapid and cost-effective systems to improve environmental and medical diagnostics. Melanie’s work crosses the engineering, science, clinical and social science disciplines to help achieve a healthier world. Her passion for art and science communication led her to develop a wide range of award-winning engagement activities to promote engineering. The excellence of her research and engagement work has been recognised by several institutions and funding agencies.

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Shrouk El-Attar is an Electronic Engineer at Elvie. She engineers smart tech that improves the lives of cis women and trans men, whilst breaking down barriers and smashing taboos. Shrouk previously worked with surgeons operating on the eye, on IoT Tech at Intel and at Fujitsu in Kawasaki, and did her master’s research in Electron Spin Resonance (ESR). Shrouk has been a STEM Ambassador since 2011, teaching children about engineering solutions and most recently headed up a project, teaching maths to children of refugees.

Denize Ivy Pilarta is an Apprentice Non-Destructive Examination Engineering Technician at BAE Systems Submarines. She is responsible for ensuring the structural integrity of submarines, working alongside technicians, confirming critical components are free from unwanted defects. As a passionate STEM ambassador, Denize supports many educational events including: World Skills Live UK and ‘The Road to Engineering’, hosted by BAE. She has been awarded ‘MAKE UK Engineering Apprentice of the Year: Rising Star National Winner’ for her dedication to continuously improve, and actively promotes the endless possibilities within STEM to young girls.

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As well as highlighting female engineering talent, the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards seek to find role models who can help address the UK science and engineering skills crisis by promoting engineering careers to more girls and women. Just 12% of those working in engineering occupations are women (source: Engineering UK).

2019 Young Woman Engineer of the Year, Ying Wan Loh said: “The IET’s YWE award is the most prestigious award for early-career women in engineering in the UK. Since winning, I’ve had the chance to collaborate with a BAFTA-winning celebrity, a famous sportsperson and many senior members in the engineering community.

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With this platform, I’ve been able to raise awareness for STEM in wildly interesting and creative ways. The YWE award is recognised internationally and I’ve received invitations to give talks abroad and was also recognised in Forbes 2020 30 under 30 list.

The IET gives female engineers a voice to be heard and I am using this platform to raise the profile of women in STEM. Representation matters and I am so grateful to the IET for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to inspire young people everywhere to become engineers.

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Jo Foster, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at the IET said: “Engineering is a fantastic career – it’s diverse and exciting with the opportunity to do something life- or even world-changing. But the lack of women in the sector is a huge problem.

The difficulty in attracting women into engineering is down to a combination of things, including a lack of understanding around what engineering is, perceived gender norms, the image of engineers within the UK, careers advice girls are given in schools and the way that companies with engineering roles advertise their opportunities.

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It’s also a result of the lack of engineering role models for girls, which is why our Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards are all about finding role models to get girls and the next generation excited and inspired about a career in engineering.

I’d like to congratulate Bethany, Ella, Neera, Melanie, Shrouk and Denize for making the final six, and in helping to demonstrate the tremendous female engineering talent in our industry today.

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The winner will be announced at the IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards ceremony on Thursday 4 March 2021. For more information, visit: https://youngwomenengineer.theiet.org/

The IET will also be hosting a webinar on 3 December, giving people the chance to meet this year’s YWE finalists, and find out more about them and the outstanding work they are doing, as well as ask the finalists questions in a live Q&A session. Details of the webinar will be shared across the IET’s social media channels in due course.

This year’s YWE Awards are being sponsored by BAE Systems, Boeing, BP, Collins Aerospace, Frazer-Nash, GCHQ, Leonardo, MBDA, Ofcom, RAF, Royal Mail, Teledyne e2v, Thales and Wiley.


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