Award-winning mechanical, aerodynamics and software engineers to inspire other women

Three young female engineers were celebrated and held up as examples for the next generation at an awards ceremony last night.

Sophie Harker, an aerodynamics and performance engineer from BAE Systems, Lorna Bennet, a mechanical engineer at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and Shajida Akthar, a software engineer from Accenture, were recognised at the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year awards.

The event celebrated women in engineering and aimed to change the male-dominated image of the sector, in which only about 10% of engineers are female. The winners will now play an ambassadorial role promoting engineering careers to girls and young people.

“It’s vital we inspire the next generation of engineers, especially women, and one way of doing this is highlighting current talent in the industry,” said Harker, who performs aerodynamic and performance analyses on future combat jets, as well as exploring hypersonic flight concepts and the application of emerging technologies in aviation.

“These awards are literally putting role models out there to change the perception of engineering and encourage young people to consider STEM careers. I’m looking forward to the year ahead and hope to inspire as many people as possible.”

Prime minister Theresa May sent her congratulations to the winners. “Engineering touches every part of our lives, yet not enough young people, especially women, are choosing this rewarding and exciting career path,” she said. “The government is committed to boosting engineering but it is events like these, and people like you, that are at the heart of helping to transform this agenda.”

Finalists Kate Self, Amy Wright and Dr Claire Donoghue were all highly commended, and will also act as ambassadors.

The awards were sponsored by Analog Devices, BAE Systems, Boeing, BP, Civil Aviation Authority, Coca Cola, GCHQ, GSK, Leonardo, MBDA, Ofcom, RAF, Royal Mail, Royal Navy, RS Components, Spirit Energy, Teledyne e2v, Wiley and WMG at the University of Warwick.