International Women’s Day – Some Scottish women that have shaped our industry

The 8th March is International Women’s Day and it is a chance for us all to reflect on what more we can do to create a gender equal world, free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. The purpose of the day is not only to reflect and consider what more we can do, but also to celebrate. Celebrate the achievements, resilience and genius of so many incredible women, that have played a fundamental role in our industry and our world becoming what it is today. We would like to take this time to introduce you to three Scottish Ladies that have shaped engineering into what it is today.



Born in Edinburgh in 1864,  Margaret  became heavily involved in the engineering world initially through her husband Ernest’s work,  but  made her own distinct mark on the profession.

Training and working as a lathe operator, Margaret also organised  the Women Relief Munition Workers, where educated women provided weekend relief for weekday  staff,  and aided the munitions effort of the First World War. However, following the war, Margaret  found herself frustrated by the return of women to their domestic lives, so her and her peers created the  Women’s Engineering Society in 1919. By 1930 an engineering course  specifically for women was in operation  across  several polytechnics  thanks to the society.

She  recognised  that  beginning a career in engineering alongside the  demands  of running a household  was  challenging, leading to her presidency of  the Electrical Association for Women, which promoted  the potential of electric appliances in easing the  labour  required for chores.

The Women’s Engineering Society still operates today, acting as a networking space for female scientists and engineers.



Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan was born in  Langholm, Dumfriesshire  in 1899  and was awarded a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Edinburgh in 1923.  She went on to become the first female chartered engineer, after qualifying for membership to the Institution of Civil Engineers  in 1927.

Her journey began following her graduation when she  travelled to  London to work with Sir Ralph Freeman, working in the design and drawing offices  for  the  Sydney Harbour Bridge  project.

Buchanan went on to work  for contractors  S. Pearson & Sons  at the Belfast Waterworks Scheme on the  Silent Valley Reservoir  project in  Northern Ireland, providing her with the necessary  on-site  experience  needed to  satisfy  the  qualification requirements  to become a chartered engineer. She then returned to London where she worked  for  Dorman Long in, the design office on  the  George V Bridge  project  in Newcastle,  Lambeth Bridge  project  in London, and  the Dessouk  and Khartoum bridges in Sudan. It was during this time that she  successfully  sat her exams  and  became the first woman in Britain to become a qualified  civil  engineer.



Victoria Drummond was the first British female Marine Engineer in the UK, born in Megginch Castle, Perthshire in 1894, and was a goddaughter to Queen Victoria.

During World War 1, Victoria had the opportunity to begin an apprenticeship in Northern Garage, aged 21. She then moved on to Caledon Shipworks in Dundee – where she was the only woman in a company of 3000 men.

Victoria studied at Dundee Institute of Technology as an apprentice. Once qualified, Victoria set sail on a merchant ship for the Blue Funnel Line Vessel, the SS Anchises as tenth engineer. Victoria met much prejudice and found it hard to find work during the depression, which may be the reason why she failed the chief engineers exam 37 times.

Undeterred, Victoria achieved her chief engineer’s certificate from Panama. Victoria served on board ship, on the SS Bonita in 1940 and was attacked by a German bomber. Victoria sent all other engineers away and stayed below deck keeping the engines running during the attack, arriving in the USA a heroine.

She was awarded an MBE and the Lloyd’s Medal for Bravery at Sea. Victoria continued her career in Dundee and Burntisland as a superintendent of shipbuilding and became a chief engineer. She returned to sea before retiring in 1962, aged 68.

Victoria Drummond was not only the first woman to to serve as a chief engineer in the Merchant Navy, but the first woman to become a member of the Institute of Marine Engineers. She was a courageous and determined woman who was a trailblazer for women in Marine Engineering – and if you’re in the area, there’s a plaque in her memory outside Abertay University in Dundee.