This month I was lucky enough to attend the Arnold Barks Memorial Christmas Lecture organised by IMechE Wessex and the Dorset and South Wiltshire IET. The event, which was hosted by Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton, focused on how the World Wide Web is changing.

Dame Wendy Hall was one of the first computer scientists to undertake serious research in multimedia and hypermedia, and was at the forefront of the creation of the internet 25 years ago, working closely with Sir Tim Berners Lee. Her lecture provided a unique insight into how this came about, and what is coming out of her current research into how the World Wide Web is changing. One of the main things she discussed was the need to understand how the internet has evolved in order to understand what is to come. She made it clear that it’s not just about the technology, it’s about what we do with it, and spoke about the need to take an interdisciplinary approach to shape the web.

She was also interviewed on BBC Radio Wiltshire about the lecture, and commented on the recent statement made by Stephen Hawking about the concern over artificial intelligence. When questioned on regulating the internet, her thoughts were that rather than restrict and regulate, we need to understand how the system works and how it will evolve. The research Dame Wendy Hall is focusing on will hopefully enable us to understand how to ensure that the World Wide Web supports good for humanity, rather than coming back to bite us!

In honour of this inspiring lecture, I wanted to take a look at some of the other influential women making an impact in the world of engineering. This December The IET crowned three Young Woman Engineers of the Year. Naomi Mitchison from Selex-ES was named Young Woman Engineer of the Year, and will play an ambassadorial role for the profession in the forthcoming months. Jessica Bestwick from Rolls Royce was presented with the IET’s Mary George Prize for Apprentices, and Lucy Ackland of Renishaw PLC won the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) Award.

The IET’s Skills and Demand in Industry survey showed that women represent only 6% of the UK’s engineering workforce, making awards like this more important than ever. Are companies missing out on a huge pool of potential talent by not encouraging girls to opt in to STEM subjects in school? This was a subject that was discussed at length during the IMechE event in Portsmouth on the ‘Future of Engineering’, and I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment!

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