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First female ICE member recognised with room name at headquarters

11 February 2019

Dorothy Buchanan joined the ICE in 1927.

First female ICE member recognised with room name at headquarters

The first female member of the Institution of Civil Engineers has been recognised for her contribution by having a room at One Great George Street namedafter her.

Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan became a member of ICE after passing the exam in 1927. The former Boardroom on the ground floor of the Institution’s HQ has been renamed the Buchanan Room.

The renaming of the room coincides with the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February), which recognises the critical role women and girls play in science and technology communities.

Gender doesn't need to inhibit dreams

ICE Vice President Rachel Skinner said she welcomed the move by the ICE to better recognise and celebrate the diversity of key contributors to the ever-evolving story of exceptional civil engineering and civil engineers.

“As the home of engineering, it is our responsibility to celebrate the breadth of talent of all our members.

"While gender is just one part of this, I am truly delighted that we have chosen to commemorate the crucial milestone created by Dorothy when she applied – and was accepted – as the first female member of the ICE. She is followed, of course, by thousands of women who are now active, qualified or aspiring ICE members all around the world.

“This recognition is just one way of showing that gender does not need to inhibit anyone’s dreams and is a small, yet very real, example of ICE’s efforts to break down barriers towards a stronger, more inclusive and resilient industry that is fit for the future.”

Rachel Skinner, Executive Director and UK Head of Transport at WSP, is due to become ICE’s second female president in 2020.

Inclusive Cities

The decision to rename the OGGS room came out of a series of panel discussions held as part of the ICE Thinks programme, Inclusive Cities.

Engineering is a heavily male-dominated profession, with only 11% of the workforce being female.

The Feminist Cities panel, chaired by engineer and urban design lecturer Ellie Cosgrave, discussed the need for engineering bodies and organisations to do more to promote visible female role models.

This discussion also highlighted that ICE’s own building was dominated by male engineers, and more could be done to highlight the contributions made by female members.

Who was Dorothy Buchanan?

Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan was a Scottish civil engineer. In 1927, she passed her entrance exam and became the ICE’s first female member.

One of her most notable achievements was helping to design the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle, UK, which was known as the George V Bridge when it opened in 1928.

Other bridges she worked on include Sydney Harbour (Australia), Dorman Long (Northern Ireland) and Lambeth Bridges (London). She also worked on bridges in Egypt and Sudan.

You can learn more about Dorothy and her background here.

Other notable female engineers

Sarah Guppy designed her first chain bridge in 1811 and was awarded patent no. 3405 - a new mode of construction and erecting bridges and railroads without arches or sterlings.

It was this patent that Thomas Telford used, for free, to build the Menai Suspension Bridge in Wales.

As a contemporary and friend of Brunel, Sarah Guppy also supported the building of the Great Western Railway and the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol.

Alice Perry was the first woman to graduate with a degree in engineering in the British Isles – modern day Ireland, but the former The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, gaining a first from Royal University, Galway, in 1906.

Mary Fergusson, the first female fellow of ICE in 1957 was also the first women to become a senior partner in a UK civil engineering firm. She was a senior partner with Blyth and Blyth in 1948.

Professor Jean Venables became ICE’s 144th president, and first woman to do so, in 2008.

She's a specialist in flood risk management projects, chairing the Thames Regional Flood Defence Committee for nine years and then as chair of the Thames Estuary Partnership. She was awarded an MBE for services to civil engineering, an OBE for services to flood defence and a CBE for services to civil engineering in recognition of her presidency of ICE.

  • Emma Beer, media relations manager at ICE