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History of the Women's Engineering Society

The WES was founded in 1919 to promote the study of engineering and for women working in the industry to meet and provide support. Records relating to The WES are held at the IET Archives.

The Women's Engineering Society (WES) was formed in 1919 [firstly] to promote the study and practice of engineering among women and, secondly, to enable technical women to meet and to facilitate the exchange of ideas respecting the interests, training and employment of technical women and the publication and communication of information on such subjects. The impetus behind this was the training and employment of many women in technical and engineering work during the First World War when, for the first time, women had been encouraged to use their engineering skills in the war effort.


Newspaper cutting about engineering training for women from NAEST 92 collection


The Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act forced these women to give up their posts in favour of returning servicemen. Many felt this to be unfair, and while most women went back (more or less contentedly) to domestic duties, a small number decided the take advantage of the training the war had given them and carry on as engineers.


WES Conference members April 1923


The WES provided invaluable support to these women, many of whom were the only female engineers in their factories or firms. They were able to meet with other engineers, exchange experiences, give papers and encourage girls to take up engineering as a profession. The WES also helped its members find jobs and lobbied for the acceptance of women on training courses.

The WES produced a journal, The Woman Engineer, which are held at the Archives.

Other resources of interest