Lady Parsons - an Early Pioneer for Women in Engineering, 16 October 2013

Date: 1919
Scene: The end of World War 1, very real issues concerning the continuing employment of the women engineers who made a huge technical contribution to the war effort in the face of opposition from Government, industry and the unions.

•    Katharine, Lady Parsons (wife of Sir Charles Parsons and a keen engineer)  
•    Rachel Parsons (their daughter) - an engineer
•    Margaret Lady Moir - an engineering relief worker
•    Verena Holmes - propeller gluer and lathe turner
•    Margaret Partridge - electrical engineer who owned and ran a power station

Catalyst: National Union of Women Workers

Outcome: the Women's Engineering Society (WES)

Today, 16 October 2013, marks the 80th anniversary of the death of Lady Katharine Parsons, wife of Sir Charles Algernon Parsons, of Kirkwhelpington, Northumberland, and founder of the Women's Engineering Society.

Lady Parsons was an engineer of ability and had the distinction of being an Honorary Fellow of the North East Coast Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders. At the time of her appointment she was the first lady to be elected an honorary fellow or honorary member of any British engineering society. She was a founder of the Women's Engineering Society, which is still an active charity representing and inspiring women in engineering today.

Lady Parsons was a frequent visitor to her husband's Heaton Works in Northumberland, where the company produced steam turbines, employing more than 7,000 people in the '60s. The company survives today as part of the power generation division of the industrial conglomerate, Siemens, who acquired the business from Rolls-Royce in 1997. Parsons turbines are now on display in several museums in the UK, and across the world.

In 1919 women were in the minority in engineering, and almost 95 years since the inception of the Women's Engineering Society, figures for women in engineering are still unacceptably low, at less than 10% on average across the sector.
The Women's Engineering Society has a history of encouraging women in engineering, and rewarding and celebrating the achievements of our pioneering engineers, and we continue to do this today. We encourage girls to take inspiration from these great women of the past and to become the pioneers of the future.

"We know that the we need more engineers in the UK, we know that it makes business sense to improve diversity in engineering, and we know that women make great engineers, so let's start getting the message out there to schoolgirls that engineering is a real career option for them. " says Dawn Bonfield, Vice President of WES.

Notes for Editors:
Founded in 1919, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) is a professional, not-for-profit network of women engineers, scientists and technologists offering inspiration, support and professional development.
Although the world has changed since a group of women decided to band together to create an organisation to support women in engineering, the need is very much still there. WES works in a number of ways to support women in STEM, to encourage the study and application of engineering, to promote gender equality and diversity in the workplace, and to award excellence and encourage achievement through our awards and grants schemes.

The obituary of Lady Katharine Parsons, from the Heaton Works Journal in December 1933 can be found here