Warrington director named most influential woman in UK engineering

Jane Atkinson

A Warrington executive director has been named the most influential woman in UK engineering in an annual list produced by board appointments firm Inclusive Boards, in partnership with the Financial Times.

Jane Atkinson, who is based at Bilfinger’s headquarters in Warrington, came top of an illustrious group of 100 women, with the top 10 featuring senior leaders from Network Rail, the Royal Academy of Engineering, Airbus, Dyson, Aecom and Laing O’Rourke.

As Bilfinger’s executive director of engineering and automation, Jane manages major design, automation and digitalisation projects alongside operation and maintenance contracts for some of the world’s biggest energy companies and is responsible for introducing new technology to help clients cut carbon emissions and boost productivity.

Jane is also chair of the Institute of Chemical Engineering, where she devotes time to introducing mentoring programmes and workshops to help women get back into their careers after becoming mothers.

The list was officially released at the Inclusive Boards: Women in Engineering Leadership Conference today (October 22), with the business set to publish extensive research into UK engineering and the results of its diversity survey of the UK’s top 500 engineering firms by revenue.

The judging panel included experts from the Financial Times, UK Power Networks and Inclusive Boards.

Jane said: “Encouraging more women into engineering has never been more important.

“While we are seeing improvement on the ground, the sector still needs 180,000 new engineers every year to plug the STEM skills shortage, and yet only 12% of our workforce is female – the lowest proportion in Europe.

“To tackle the challenge we need to create more flexible working environments, erase traditional misconceptions and communicate the wonderful opportunities that exist within modern engineering across all age groups, from primary school children to adults looking for a career change.

“Initiatives such as this one are vital in highlighting how women are influencing the present and future roles of their female engineering colleagues.”

Development director Elizabeth Oni-Iyiola said: “Engineers have an impact on almost every area of our day-to-day lives. Jane Atkinson and those featured in the list are role models who inspire those around them and demonstrate leadership and influence in the work that they do.”

Patrick Clarke, director of network operations at UK Power Networks and judge for the list, said: “I am personally inspired, but not at all surprised, by the tremendous talent on the Women in Engineering list.

“Sadly, there are still plenty of people who will be surprised due to a mind-set which say engineering equals males, not females. I took part as a judge because I wanted to be inspired.”

Bilfinger UK provides its partners with unified, multi-disciplinary support across the asset lifecycle to drive new efficiencies and reduce costs, with services including design and build, automated control and electrical systems, installation, commissioning, and operations and maintenance.

The company is one of the UK’s leading providers of integrated engineering and technical services to the process industry and the energy sector and employs more than 2,500 people. It is part of German engineering and service group, Bilfinger SE.