Friday, 17 June 2011

Sugar and spice and all things nice?

There I was at the 5th anniversary celebration of Women2Win, hearing how many women in banking, law and finance are being encouraged and supported to become Conservative MPs. The debate was brought to a close before I could leap to my feet to highlight the omission of women in engineering and construction from the pool of professional potential. However, I was able to have a chat with the guest speaker, Home Secretary the Rt Honourable Theresa May MP, who was quick to agree and enthusiastically recalled engineer Michelle McDowell's success in winning Veuve Cliquot Businesswoman of the Year just a few weeks earlier.

Little did I know that whilst we were discussing the skills of women engineers in politics and enterprise, Lord Sugar was firing aspiring apprentice Glen Ward, telling him (and 7m television viewers), “I have never yet come across an engineer who can turn his hands to business.”

The outcry over this astonishingly crass statement was immediate, with example after example of successful engineers flooding the internet. But unrepentant Lord Sugar simply dismisses them out of hand, for example describing James Dyson as an inventor and declaring that he doubted whether Bill Gates would describe himself as an engineer. All this from a man who progressed from running a market stall to making computers before focusing on property development to build his wealth. But remind me, what did happen to Amstrad – or is that his point?

On an upbeat note, Halcrow principal engineer Julie Hunt was one of several women engineers quoted by New Civil Engineer magazine this week. She said: “Lord Sugar’s comment on prime time TV could do considerable damage to the profile of engineering professions.

“However, as they say, there is no such thing a bad publicity − so let’s make the most of it, as did Wales after Anne Robinson’s outburst.”

Well said Julie. Move over sweetness and let's spread a little light.

Photograph of Lord Sugar from The Sun newspaper.

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