A prominent British mechanical engineer, Dame Ann Patricia Dowling OM DBE FRS FREng is renowned for her research in combustion, acoustics and vibration, particularly with regard to her focus on efficient, low-emission combustion and reduced road vehicle and aircraft noise.
Dowling chaired the 2013 Global Grand Challenges Summit, and in an Engineering and Technology Magazine interview around that time expressed her concerns about the critical shortage of British engineers in general and female engineers in particular:
Despite the enormity and importance of these [energy efficiency and noise mitigation] projects, the shortfall in British engineers is huge. Dowling often gives talks in schools, but the message is still not getting across. In particular, it’s not getting across to her own sex.
The feedstock of girls reading engineering at university is around 17 per cent, Dowling thinks. Why? The perceived lack of social relevance and flexible working hours perhaps? “Nothing could be further from the truth,” protests Dowling. “Every engineering project is about making something that someone wants. It is very creative.”
However, Dowling says her department has a higher percentage of female engineers than elsewhere. Could this have something to do with herself as figurehead? “I don’t think I can claim that.” Instead, she puts it down to offering a broad strand of engineering. However, later on she concedes that it’s always useful to see someone active in your field and doing well.