Posted on 22/06/2017
Edith Clarke, pioneering female electrical engineer
Friday 23 June marks International Women in Engineering Day, an annual event which focuses attention on the amazing careers in engineering and technical roles for girls, and allows us to celebrate the achievements of our outstanding women engineers.
While society is striving towards a future where men and women have access to equal opportunities and equal rights, the plain fact is that even today only 9% of the engineering workforce is female. Our new Department of Electronic Engineering at Royal Holloway is working to address this through an equality ethos that promotes an inclusive learning environment and diversity for the benefit of all our staff and students.
At the recent ‘New Approaches to Engineering' Higher Education Conference organised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), staff from the department presented their contribution to this topic: “Learning to avoid the traditional gender bias”.
Dr Stefanie Kuenzel, whose research area in Power Systems, covers topics such as wind turbines and high voltage direct current transmission, was inspired in her own research in this area by a book on 'Circuit Analysis of A-C Power Systems' by Edith Clarke.
Dr Kuenzel comments,
“I was surprised to see a female Power Systems author, a professor of Electrical Engineering at the University in Texas, on a book published in second print in 1957. Looking online I found that Edith Clarke (1883 –1959) allegedly was the first female electrical engineer, the first female professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, the first female engineer to achieve professional standing in Tau Beta Pi and the first female Fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, amongst other notable achievements.
Discovering the author of this great book was a female professor in Power Systems living between 1883 and 1959, made it clear to me that women working in Engineering or Power Systems is really not new, but even allowing for elapsed time, it’s noteworthy that the percentage of women working in the field remains low.
Power Systems are currently undergoing major changes, with renewable generation, new transmission technologies and changes in the demand side. This is an exciting time for motivated and brilliant engineers to work on power system topics and some of these brilliant minds working on tomorrow’s challenges will certainly be women, not unlike Edith Clarke. At Royal Holloway, our department is looking forward to educating some of the brilliant women engineers of tomorrow.”
As Royal Holloway’s newest department opening in September 2017, students in Electronic Engineering are joining a long and proud history, stretching back to 1849 when Bedford College (which merged with Royal Holloway in 1985) was founded in London, and 1886 when Queen Victoria opened Royal Holloway College in Egham, Surrey. Bedford College was the first English university to appoint a female Professor and, with Royal Holloway College, was at the forefront of providing opportunities for women to study at university. This pioneering history underpins our continuing efforts to promote both equality and women in science today, and is recognised by a Bronze Athena SWAN award as an institution and numerous other Bronze and Silver awards across our science departments.
Be part of an exciting future and find out more about studying as an undergraduate or postgraduate in the Department of Electronic Engineering at Royal Holloway, visit our website