A Kenilworth woman has won a Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) lifetime achievement award after 40 years of work with engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce.
Liz Watson started work with the company aged 22 in 1975 after graduating from Oxford University with a degree in Engineering Science. She was friends with lots of boys who were taking up engineering at the time, and felt that she could emulate anything they could do.
I was absolutely delighted to win the award and felt honoured to have that recognition from WISE.Liz Watson
During her time with Rolls-Royce, she won an award for the most promising young engineer in the company, and later became the first woman to work as a chief engineer on a Rolls-Royce engine, which she cites as the greatest achievement in her career.
After this success, she led the Combustion Design and Technology team and became Head of Product Safety before retiring in April this year.
When asked how she felt after she heard of her success, she said: “I was absolutely delighted to win the award and felt honoured to have that recognition from WISE.
“There are many people who have helped me during my career and I want to use the award to encourage more women into science and engineering and help them achieve whatever it is they set their mind to.
“My career has been enormous fun, I’ve travelled the world and it’s been full of variety and opportunities.”
Liz has also been a champion of women in the industry, through chairing Rolls-Royce’s UK diversity committee and through being a prominent member of the Women’s Engineering Society.
She added: “Many girls are good at sciences at school but they just think a career in it is not for them. We need more engineers and scientists in the UK and there are lots of girls who would be very good at it.
“If you are good at sciences, you should be open minded about it because there’s a wealth of opportunities out there.
“One thing that I do think is important for a woman is to make her own choices about work and family and to feel comfortable with it whatever it is.”
Liz also explained how she would like to talk to children in schools to get her message across.
She said: “I would like to talk to children of all ages about what I did as an engineer just to help them understand what one is.
“If the schools want to do more then there are a wealth of resources tailored to schoolchildren of different ages. I would be glad to discuss these and how they can be used with their classes.”
The judges at WISE who gave Liz her award said: “She has a wealth of extraordinary achievements, understands the challenges involved in balancing work and family and is demonstrably very strong both technically and managerially.”
WISE, whose royal patron is Princess Anne, aims to add one million women to the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) workforce.
At the awards ceremony, the princess said: “WISE is not asking anyone to make a special case for women.
“Our aim is to break through the stereotyped image of the kind of people who work in science, technology and engineering so that it becomes a career of choice for more people.”