We need you! Volunteering for the Electrifying Women project

The Electrifying Women 5 Key Themes series

Emily Rees

The first phase of the Electrifying Women project, which began in the Summer of 2019, to coincide with the Women’s Engineering Society (WES)’s centenary, is now drawing to a close. Over the past seven months, we have run events, workshops and talks across the country introducing audiences to the history of women in engineering, but we don’t want our work to end here.

One of the main aims of the project – to introduce more people to the history of women in engineering and thereby encourage more girls and women to find their place in the industry – still requires work. There are still many more audiences to reach and more stories to tell.

This is why we need you! We want to provide the resources that you might need to deliver your own events, or to write a blog, or do your own research into the history of women in engineering.

To bring in the New Year, we ran a training session at the Dana Centre in the Science Museum in London to do exactly this. We offered three introductory sessions on research, blogging and presenting.

We were fortunate that volunteer engineering historian, Nina Baker (author of the Magnificent Women blog amongst many other things), gave her time to present on researching the history of women in engineering. Nina has spent many years finding out about women engineers, tracing their stories, and digging up sources. Many of these stories were previously unknown and can now help us contribute to Wikipedia pages for these women. Based on her own experiences, Nina has provided us with a comprehensive list of sources that you can use to delve into this fascinating and rich history, which is available on our resources page.

Many of those who research the history of women in engineering have been amazed by the number of women who keep emerging and there’s more research to be done, especially for women working in the field before the founding of WES in 1919. Beyond individual women, you might want to research particular companies, regions, cities or educational institutions.  

We have recently identified five key themes that could be explored more through research: collaboration; resourcefulness; innovation; activism; networking. Watch our videos on each theme to learn more. A highly useful starting point for this kind of research is always The Woman Engineer, the Women’s Engineering Society quarterly journal publication, now digitised and available to search on the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) archives website. A simple search for a name, company or place can lead to all kinds of fascinating results.

Digitised volumes of The Women Engineer

If you were interested in researching for the project, you might also want to consider writing a blog for the Electrifying Women blog page. Blogs are a great place to write up research findings, pose new questions, or simply reflect. As the editor of the blog, I led the blogging session, offering some ideas for producing a blog post for the project. This might be an exploration of a particular woman in engineering, or a group of women, or you might want to answer a certain question. You could look at a source you find interesting, maybe from the IET archives, or review a play, or book that relates to women in STEM. You’ll find more ideas on our resources page which includes a blogging style guide.

At the training event, we put out a call for more guest bloggers to contribute. We were thrilled to see a huge amount of interest in this, with several new ideas put forward for guest posts. The Electrifying Women project is open to blog posts about anything that links back to the history of women in engineering, and in any country at any time. We want a greater diversity of voices writing on the subject so please get in touch (electrifyingwomen@gmail.com) if you have any ideas.

Finally, project lead Graeme Gooday offered some of his insights into presenting and working with different audiences. On the project’s resources page you will find Graeme’s suggestions for running a presentation and how to approach working with audiences of different ages and backgrounds. We intend to provide further resources on our website so that anyone could run their own workshop, talk or event on the history of women in engineering. In due course, there will be resources packs for giving a talk and running your own creative writing workshop. Indeed, if you had any suggestions for what we could provide on our resources page, please let us know.

Current figures suggest that only 12% of engineers in Britain are women. Clearly more work needs to be done to change this, though there are several inspiring initiatives making great strides forward, such as the WISE campaign. We believe that sharing the remarkable history of women in engineering can play a role in making this change, providing a legacy which shows the integral role women have always played in the field. For this, we need your help, whether it is through researching, blogging or presenting (or other ways that you can), to keep sharing the history.

Further events

On Saturday 18th January 2020, we will be running a Wikithon in Leeds, if you want to learn how to edit Wikipedia, sign up here.

We will be running a second training session in Leeds on the 26th February 2020, sign up here.

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