WES- World War Two and Beyond

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 WES (Women's Engineering Society) sent out the following letter to the Press in 1939:  


A large number of women throughout the land are preparing in a number of different ways to serve the country if war should come.

One form of work, however, seems to have received little attention, though its importance cannot be over-estimated: we refer to munition work, and the production in general of war material and equipment.

There is a section of future workers in this field which, we believe, would well repay training; it consists of those who would be supervisors and forewomen in control of woman labour.

It is in order to meet what we believe to be a very real need that the Women's Engineering Society is organising a special course of instruction which would enable suitable women (after a brief period of factory experience) to fill the positions of supervisors and forewomen.

Newspaper cutting Open Factories to Girl Engineers Dec 1945


The WES was determined to ensure that, in this war, the abilities and experience of women should not be limited to driving ambulances and cooking food. Women should be recruited into the right jobs, properly trained and considered in plans for post-war employment. The WES was keen to ensure that women engineers would not be left without any jobs, as had happened after 1918.

Newspaper cutting Women take their places as War Engineers from the NAEST 92 collection

Another vital post-war issue was that of apprenticeships. By this time, women were accepted on all university engineering courses but were not considered for apprenticeships. There were notable exceptions Metropolitan Vickers and Rolls Royce had both accepted girls on their schemes,  but many women found it impossible to gain the practical experience needed to follow an engineering career.


Since 1919 the Women's Engineering Society has been inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders. It is still very active today.

Other resources of interest

The Women's Engineering Society 
The IET Women's Network

A woman engineer from the 1920s A woman engineer from the 1940s Photograph of Elizabeth Mount, engineer, 1969