First Women of Engineering and Manufacturing: 2012 shortist

The First Women of Engineering and Manufacturing campaign is run in association with Real Business sister title, Professional Engineering. The award is supported by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. There’s little one can say about this year’s candidates, apart from wow!

In 1971, Suzanne Flynn became the first female graduate engineering officer in the RAF and, from then until 1976, remained the only female engineering officer in the RAF. Her pioneering achievements continued when she created the Scottish Engineering and Technology Association, bringing together diverse engineering bodies into a single voice. She is a past president of the Women’s Engineering Society. Recently her daughter Emily became a chartered engineer, making the two women (it is believed) the first mother and daughter to gain the qualification in the UK.

Julie Kenny‘s career had an inauspicious start when, as a typist, she was told she wouldn’t make the grade as a secretary. Today she runs Pyronix, a £15m security business, which has developed several world-first products and was the first security equipment manufacturer in the world to have all its products CE-marked. Julie is the first female director of the British Security Industry Association, chair of Yorkshire Forward and, in April this year, was appointed High Sheriff of South Yorkshire.

From apprenticeship to executive director, Dawn James has reached the top of the male-dominated nuclear industry by her early forties. Appointed engineering director of Sellafield in 2011, she became the first female director of the nuclear site, considered to be one of the world’s most complex. Sellafield Ltd is responsible for safely delivering decommissioning and Julie is responsible for the effective deployment of Sellafield’s 1,500 engineers (the largest concentration of nuclear expertise in Europe). Her vision is of a nuclear industry in which a balanced and stable workforce can thrive.

Kim Mears is director of next generation access at Openreach, leading the plan and build for BT’s fibre investment across the UK, which will pass ten million homes this year and two-thirds of all UK premises by the end of 2014. Under Kim’s leadership, the aspiration is to achieve 90 per cent superfast broadband coverage by 2017. It’s one of the fastest and most ambitious deployments of super-fast broadband fibre in the world, and one of the UK’s biggest civil engineering projects ever.

How about this for balancing work and personal commitments? At the time Jane Bryant discovered she was pregnant with triplets, she was a key figure in a £2bn bid for a UK attack helicopter contract. Today she is engineering and technology director at BAE Systems’ defence information group, and an active figure within the Institute of Engineering and Technology, encouraging more girls into a career in the profession. For many years, she has given talks to young people in schools. Then, says her nominator Michelle Rushbrook (a former First Woman of Manufacturing), “she got too old for the youngsters to relate to, but now that she’s old enough to be a ‘role model’, it’s picking up again!”

Jo Stephenson has worked in a number of traditional manufacturing industries during her career, and has become a very visible leader each time. At Sun Chemical, she was the most senior female employee in Europe (and, despite having moved on, she continues to mentor a former colleague). In 2011, she was headhunted to become vice-president of marketing and innovation at Linpac, the first woman to be appointed to the board of the 3,000-employee packaging business, which operates in 23 countries.

Winners of the First Women Awards 2012 will be announced at an amazing awards ceremony on June 28, 2012 at the Grand Connaught Rooms, hosted by BBC presenter Clare Balding. 

First Women Awards supporters include: BAE Systems, Benenden Healthcare Society, Centrica, COINS, Harvey Nash, ICAEW, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Land Rover and the Financial Mail.

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