Top 5 UK Women in Chemical Engineering #NWED2016

The Top 50 Women in UK Engineering was published today by the Daily Telegraph, in partnership with the Women’s Engineering Society (WES). It celebrates female engineers across a broad range of sectors and disciplines to mark National Women in Engineering Day – 23 June. Over 800 nominations were received, so to make the Top 50 is a huge achievement.

But which chemical engineers made the list?

1. Dame Judith Hackitt

IChemE AGM 20 05 13

The first chemical engineer to make the list (coming in at number 18), Dame Judith Hackitt, spent 23 years in industry before moving on to represent various professional institutions and boards. She was the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive for 8 years, and has recently become Chair of the EEF.

Judith was IChemE President 2013-2014, is an IChemE Fellow and an active member of the Institution. She is passionate about valuing diversity, and is strongly opposed to positive discrimination and tokenism. An interview we did with Judith for International Women’s Day is available here.

TOP QUOTE: “Teachers are ill-informed about engineering. They don’t know what it is and they have pre-conceived notions that it’s dirty, its greasy, it’s all these things which it’s not. And they say ‘No, that’s not for girls.’ You still find that even now, forty years later.”

2. Dame Sue Ion

Sue Ion

Another Dame, Sue Ion, is an Honorary Fellow of IChemE and a well-regarded nuclear fuel expert. She is the Chair of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board, and was the first woman to receive the Royal Academy of Engineering President’s Medal.

Sue isn’t afraid to ‘Stand Up and Speak Out’ for engineering. She has written several articles for the Financial Times and regularly appears on UK radio to discuss women in engineering and the nuclear industry.

Sue was also the keynote speaker at IChemE’s Sustainable Nuclear Energy Conference (SNEC) in 2014.

TOP QUOTE: “Grab every chance you’ve got to watch and learn from others. Take control of your career and ask for the development moves and the experiences that you feel will get you ahead.”

3. Allie MacAdam


Allie MacAdam studied chemical engineering at the University of Bradford, and joined Bechtel in 1985 as a cost engineer. She is still with Bechtel, now as the Managing Director of Infrastructure, Europe and Africa. Allie has worked on some of the UK’s largest engineering projects, including; High Speed 1, and London Crossrail projects.

Allie received the WES Inspirational Leader Award is 2008, and was named in Diversity Magazine’s ‘Women Worth Watching’ list in 2012. She has also contributed to diversity journals.

Allie is a Chartered Engineer, Member of IChemE and Fellow of ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers), a great example of how an engineering degree can open up a world of possibilities.

TOP QUOTE: “As a country we are short of engineers, so if we ignore 50 per cent of the potential workforce we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We have a responsibility to do more to address the issues, find out why women don’t pursue this line of work and provide the opportunities for them to be successful. It is also vitally important to reach out to young girls before they choose their path through education, to dispel myths, show girls that engineering is a viable option and how rewarding it can be.”

4. Professor Lynn Gladden


IChemE Council Member Lynn Gladden, currently Shell Professor of Chemical Engineering and Vice-Chancellor of Research at the University of Cambridge, is one of the most respected academics in her field. Lynn’s research focuses on the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, which are typically used in hospitals, using them to solve application problems in areas such as oil recovery and pharmaceuticals.

Lynn is an IChemE Fellow and Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society.

She has received a string of accolades including the Beilby Medal, the Tilden Medal, the silver medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Bakerian Lecture of the Royal Society (2014). Most notably, Lynn was awarded a CBE for services to chemical engineering in the 2009 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

TOP QUOTE: “There is a huge opportunity to re-energise the current generation of young people in our schools, so that they see and relate to the excitement and opportunities which a career in engineering can bring.”

5. Steph McGovern


We might have cheated slightly with this last one, but we couldn’t create this cherry-picked list without mentioning Steph McGovern – the only journalist to make the list. Steph hosted the IChemE Global Awards in 2015, and did an excellent job at entertaining the guests and making the winners feel at ease.

Born in Middleborough, Steph won the Arkwright Engineering Scholarship in 1998  when she was just 16 and went on to win the ‘Young Engineer for Britain’ Award in 2001. She started her TV career working on Tomorrow’s World, followed by a production stint on the Today programme, as well as the Six O’Clock and Ten O’Clock News.

Steph is the business presenter on BBC Breakfast and was recently announced as the new host of BBC Watchdog.

TOP QUOTE: “Because I am a woman talking about very serious stuff, some people think people with a Northern accent shouldn’t do that. I always felt I had to prove my intelligence but there was no way I was changing my accent – it is the key to my identity. I wanted to make sure my mam and her mates could understand what was going on, and I wanted to make people interested in economics.”

Remember, you can do your part for National Women in Engineering Day by promoting diversity in your workplace, raising the profiles of female engineers you know, and ensuring your company’s initiatives aren’t gender discriminating.

Find out more on the WES website:

You can also join the conversation on Twitter using #NWED2016

The Top 50 Women in Engineering was published in The Daily Telegraph, UK on 23 June 2016. View the full list of engineers here.

One thought on “Top 5 UK Women in Chemical Engineering #NWED2016”

  1. It is great to see this but gender inbalance in universtiy is getting wider every year.

    According to The Gaurdian UCAS said the following:

    “While women have outnumbered men in admissions for years, the 2014 figures show the gap has widened to nearly 58,000, with women making up more than half of students in two-thirds of subject areas. Men remain over-represented in most stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, most notably in engineering where there are 20,000 more men than women, and computing science, where there are 17,000 more.”

    The Department for Education Skills report “Gender and education – the evidence on
    pupils in England” published in 2007 included the following key findings

    ” Girls and boys tend to use different styles of learning and respond differently to
    the materials and tasks given to them. The PISA study found that girls are more
    likely than boys to control their learning (i.e. review what they have learned; review
    what they still need to learn) in all but four OECD countries.
    Boys’ level of reading comprehension is significantly affected by the content of
    what is being read and their interest in it, while girls’ performance shows relatively
    little influence by the content.
    Motivation also shows contrasting gender differences. According to PISA findings,
    in most countries, girls claim more effort and persistence and express significantly
    greater interest in reading. Boys show significantly more interest in Maths in most
    countries – by small degrees in some countries, but by much more in others.
    Girls and boys seem to relate differently to schooling and learning and girls find it
    easier to succeed in school settings.
    Type of school does not appear to influence the gender gap: across schools in
    England, there are hardly any where boys make greater progress than girls.
    However, there is some evidence to suggest that there are a large proportion of
    schools where boys and girls make similar progress but these tend to be schools
    where school performance is weak (i.e. for both boys and girls). The corollary of
    this is that the gender gap is wider in better performing schools.
    Boys are more likely to be influenced by their male peer group which might
    devalue schoolwork and so put them at odds with academic achievement.
    The introduction of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies had an impact
    on the gender gap by raising the attainment of boys (more than girls) in English,
    and girls (more than boys) in Maths. However, the gap persists.
    The use of coursework in examinations may advantage girls but analysis does not
    find that this alone accounts for the gender gap.
    Other aspects of the curriculum and assessment structure are implicated but there
    is little research examining how this works in detail. One piece of evidence,
    however, found that reading assessments which focus on narrative may accentuate
    the gender gap compared to more factual-based assessment. A study has shown
    that boys performed significantly better on a reading comprehension task involving
    factual content compared to one based on narrative content. Girls’ reading
    comprehension scores were less influenced by the content of the task.”

    Humankind needs everyone to make the best of their talents thats why we need more women in engineering but we should not be wasting the talents of men anymore than we should be wasting the talents of women.

    IChemE could and should help ensure that boys fair much better in the education system than they do at present.


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