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Northumberland mum one of 'top 50 women in engineering'

Kate Cairns
Kate Cairns

A north Northumberland mother has been identified as one of the most influential women in the engineering sector.

Kate Cairns, a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), has been listed as being in the Top 50 Women in Engineering (WE50), by The Daily Telegraph. The recognition comes as part of International Women in Engineering Day.

Kate, from Newton by the Sea, was selected for challenging convention, overcoming adversity and affecting change in her roles as a consultant, advocate and professional speaker.

She has more than 20 years of experience in the civil engineering sector, including driving the inception and evolution of two international construction industry standards in sustainability and safety.

She is a strong advocate for equality, diversity and inclusion, chairing the national ICE Fairness, Inclusion and Respect Panel.

She also founded the See Me Save Me campaign to eliminate lorry danger after her sister, Eilidh, was killed when struck from behind by a fully laden tipper lorry while cycling to work. Kate’s advocacy work resulted in the London Mayor’s Safer Lorry Scheme and the world’s first Direct Vision Standard for HGVs, which will come into force in 2020.

Kate said: “Having recently had the privilege of judging the European Women in Science and Engineering awards and witnessed the palpable power, intellect and charisma in the room, and seen the surge in willingness of women to stand up, be counted, be seen and be heard, I feel proud to be a woman in this profession."

The WE50 campaign aims to raise awareness of the skills shortage facing the industry and the huge discrepancy between the number of men versus women currently in engineering professions, to change perceptions and encourage young women to consider Engineering as a viable and rewarding career. For 2018, the theme was Returners or Transferrers.

Kate, who has been turned into superhero Enviro as part of the Great North Engineering Experience, added: “Awards are necessary to celebrate achievement, and to shine a light for those who struggle to see the existence of women with talent, ambition and potential.

“We must open our eyes, and our minds, to people who are not like us, to minority groups, to BAME, to LGBTQ+. Comfort and familiarity might be easy but when we are brave, curious and open we find life’s riches.

“I am grateful to the Women's Engineering Society and The Telegraph for recognising and celebrating those of us challenging the norm, taking a different route, and forging a new way.”

ICE president, Professor Lord Robert Mair, said: “I first met Kate in the House of Lords where she had come to give evidence to a select committee on reducing road danger and improving justice for vulnerable road users.

“As an engineer, a campaigner and a politician, Kate uses every avenue possible to affect change and improve lives for those around her and the wider community. It is rewarding to see her huge efforts recognised on this national scale.

"Kate is a trailblazer and illustrates that anything is possible. I'm sure many more aspiring women and people from all backgrounds will follow her.”