Sitting two along in the Great Hall, at the inauguration of Jean Venables OBE as president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, was another rare female of the species FICE (Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineers). She told my husband the following tale, after being impressed by his feminist credentials (he was a fellow student of Jean Venables in the sixties and fought alongside her to stop the habit of the City and Guilds Association of allowing only one woman - the President’s wife - to attend their official events).
When she became a Chartered Civil Engineer, said our new friend, she was taken aback that the letter confirming her achievement was addressed to ‘Mr’. Her request that this be changed to ‘Miss’ was refused by the female ICE staff member, who pointed out that as only two of the 1500 newly chartered individuals were female it was not worth changing the usual salutation.
It was only when the newly fledged CEng pointed out that her local authority employer was refusing to grant the increased salary that Chartership brings, on the grounds that the letter clearly couldn’t be referring to her, that the august body produced a correctly addressed letter.