11 February 2016
Stevenage engineer wins Semta Skills Award
Encouraging diversity in engineering and in particular promoting it as a career for girls as well as boys has led to Dawn Bonfield winning a prestigious award.
Dawn, from Stevenage beat off strong competition to be presented with her Semta Skills Diversity in Engineering Award, sponsored by MBDA and WISE, last night at a gala dinner in London's Hilton Hotel on Park Lane hosted by BBC journalist, presenter and engineering advocate Steph McGovern.
Dawn, Immediate Past President of the Women's Engineering Society (WES) based in Stevenage said: "It is a massive shock to win the award. The companies represented at the awards are all really committed to improving diversity. We could do more collaboration with things like career advice – there is very much a will."
Dawn, who is a materials engineer, took a career break to do some volunteering at WES, quickly becoming full time.
"It is the kind of job which absorbs you completely," she said. "The project I am probably proudest of is National Women in Engineering day, where everyone could celebrate what women do in engineering. It is a very positive day with a focus on careers for girls.
"We have had two days so far and because we have had such a big reach for that campaign we have found companies, schools and organisations have really taken it on board themselves to start a process of engaging girls and then to support them through these career choices."
The success of the campaign led to another idea which Dawn has developed and championed – Sparxx. "If you engage girls and boys with outreach activities at any stage of their career, boys often have a better chance of continuing along that path," said Dawn.
"Because it is such a traditional path for boys, they get the support of schools, parents, peers but girls on the other hand, even though have enjoyed the outreach just as much, have less of a chance of pursuing that career just because it is non-traditional. If you have gone to the effort of lighting the spark, then you have to keep that spark alive.
"Sparxx is a mechanism where we support girls in the long term and we nudge them towards that career in STEM so that is another programme I am proud of."
Dawn has also written a report for the Institution of Civil Engineers called Disruptive Diversity which has set out how this large institution can increase its diversity and inclusion to make a step change in attracting and retaining a diverse range of members.
She is a Patron of Alton Convent School, a member of the Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining Women in Materials committee, a steering group member of the 100 Years of Women in Transport Campaign, a member of the Royal Academy of Engineering Diversity Concordat, an Advisory group member for the Science Museum's Engineer Your Future careers exhibition in 2014, a judge for a number of competitions in engineering including the Talent2030 National Engineering Competition for Girls and the WISE / Evoke bursaries for girls in engineering.
Ann Watson, CEO of Semta, the not-for-profit organisation tasked with skilling engineering and manufacturing in the UK said: "Dawn has been at the forefront of innovative initiatives to help change perceptions of engineering as a male domain with stunning results.
"Her energy and tireless work, using her own background in engineering, has made a real difference to the diversity debate and seen many more young women inspired and supported in their careers – whether it is starting out as an apprentice, returning to work after maternity leave or progressing into management positions.
"This work is vital if we are to achieve the required 800,000 extra engineers the UK needs by 2020. It is the first time we have teamed up with WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) to run this award. Dawn is a fantastic role model and a fully deserving winner of the Semta Skills Award for Diversity in Engineering."
Hundreds of nominations from across the UK for the nine categories were shortlisted to leave 27 finalists battling it out in the prestigious Semta Skills Awards.
The awards were judged by an expert industry led judging panel.