Today is International Women’s Day, and to celebrate we decided to put a chemical engineering leading lady in the spotlight – Dame Judith Hackitt.
Judith Hackitt, who was IChemE’s second female president (2013-2014), has had an eventful 2016 so far. The Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), was made Dame in the New Year Honours, and has recently announced her new appointment as Chair at the EEF, the manufacturers organisation.
We sat down with her to look back on her career so far, and get her perspective on the gender debate, and the future of chemical engineering.
Thanks for joining me today Judith. You have had quite an impressive career. I’m sure you’re a bit sick of this question but what was it like to be made a Dame in the New Year’s Honours List?
Well on a day-to-day basis it doesn’t make any difference, I’m not using the title anywhere and everywhere and insisting people call me Dame Judith! I was at home on the day the letter arrived, it was first of all a big surprise but also a massive honour. It’s hard to describe but you feel like it’s something special. I really am genuinely honoured to be offered this, and it was a delight to write back and say yes, of course I’d accept.
I have spoken before about the importance of making sure that we get our chemical engineering voice heard, but I am often shocked when I read stories in the media (particularly those on social media) that have no basis in reality.
It seems to have become the norm for many stories to be perpetuated without even having their basic facts checked.
Once the dust has settled after the merriment and celebration of welcoming in the New Year, it’s only natural to reflect on the year that has passed. 2014 was a great year for me, full of new experiences and meeting new people, which obviously includes a lot of chemical engineers, through my role as IChemE president.
So, on reflection, I’d like to share with you my personal and professional chemical engineering highlights of 2014.
1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Synthesis Report
The issue of climate change has been top of my agenda for some time, and communicating across the seriousness and urgency needed by our global society to mitigate the effects has been a personal mission of mine.