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Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

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Inspiration in isolation isn’t enough: Bringing together passionate, supercharged women to share the tools and mechanisms needed to thrive in engineering

Professor Yewande Akinola MBE, Founder of The Ripple Effect Conference

Professor Yewande Akinola MBE

Professor Yewande Akinola MBE is an ambassador for clean growth and infrastructure at Innovate UK, an award-winning design engineer who has worked for Laing O’Rourke, Arup, and Thames Water, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster. She serves on the steering committee for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa CATALYST, is a board trustee at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and is a non-executive director of Midlands Mindforge. With degrees from Warwick and Cranfield, she has extensive experience in sustainable engineering, has been awarded an MBE for services to Engineering Innovation and Diversity in STEM, and is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering & Technology, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and a board member of Co-Creation Hub (C-Chub).

Professor Yewande Akinola MBE
Professor Yewande Akinola MBE

“At this point, I realised it was not enough just to inspire people. It was essential for me, as best as I could, to share the tools and the mechanisms for women to grab opportunities to thrive in engineering.”

My formative years in engineering

I’ve taken part in Womanthology twice before, once in an article and once on a podcast. To briefly summarise, I have an undergraduate degree in engineering design and appropriate technology from the University of Warwick and a master’s degree in innovation and design for sustainability from Cranfield University.

Between the second and third years of my undergraduate degree I spent a year in industry at Thames Water, under the mentorship of a wonderful engineer called Peter Lees. That time was instrumental helping me to understand exactly what engineering is and how it has the ability to bring a positive impact to our world. I then went back to university to complete my degree.

Post-graduation, I joined a design consultancy called Arup. I spent a number of years working in the Bristol office designing schools, commercial buildings, airports, you name it. Those were my formative years as an engineer. I worked with an amazing engineer called David George. He helped me become the engineer I am today.

I worked for Arup for several years in different countries and different offices. I spent some time in the Shanghai office learning from incredible engineers and being inspired by lots of wonderful people who I still consider mentors. Dervilla Mitchell CBE, deputy chair of Arup and Michael Kwok, the current chairman of Arup East-Asia, continue to be a huge source of inspiration to me as well.

Earning my place in the engineering A-Team

I then moved back to the UK, worked in construction with Laing O’Rourke for a number of years working within the engineering excellence team. I like to think of the team as the A-Team for Laing O’Rourke at the time, as we were tasked with finding new innovative ways of constructing buildings, of designing buildings as well.

I had the most amazing time seeing how traditional design and traditional construction could evolve into a more sustainable design for manufacturing. I worked with Laing O’Rourke for a number of years as an innovator before I decided to branch out into consulting.

Branching out

Over the last three years, I’ve experienced both incredible and challenging times, but I believe that without challenges, there is no growth — so growing pains can actually be beneficial.

I worked on numerous projects and was honoured to be invited to sit on boards, influencing the future of education and the industry. I consulted for multiple organisations and supported the innovation ecosystem in the UK, contributing to everything from investments to practical advice and product development.

Womanthology Inclusion Thought Leaders’ Event

Womanthology Inclusion Thought Leaders' Event delegates
Yewande networking with other delegates at the Womanthology Inclusion Thought Leaders’ Event at Lloyd’s of London in February 2024

I loved attending the Womanthology Inclusion Thought Leaders’ Event earlier this year. It was energetic and vibrant, and it was wonderful to meet Fee [Tatton] in person and connect with her passion for creating a platform for women.

I was reminded of the importance of collaboration and coming together as one bigger force, working towards a more inclusive and equitable future. I was inspired to carry on, despite the challenges we might face along the way. We must keep believing in the changes we want to see, and we must stay true to ourselves and the progress we’re seeking. The event inspired me to continue pushing for progress and collaboration in engineering. (More on this in a moment…)

Current work and activities

I’ve been doing more work across Africa, excited by the opportunities technology and AI bring. I’m involved in consulting, immersing myself in innovative communities developing solutions for the construction industry, health, and social wellbeing.

My daily work is varied, including board meetings, strategy development, and problem-solving in energy, clean water, and sustainability sectors. I also spend a lot of time with students, advising them on their next steps.

Inspiration in isolation isn’t enough

About a year ago, I started speaking to many women who were on the verge of leaving engineering or had already left. They struggled with navigating the industry despite their aspirations and intentions. Realising the need to share tools and mechanisms to thrive, I began working on The Ripple Effect Conference.

The Ripple Effect Conference BannerI have had many conversations with women in engineering and one consistent theme, which became a source of great concern for me was that many women were struggling with how to navigate the industry. There was so much aspiration and so much beautiful intention, but then it seemed like it was so difficult to thrive against a backdrop of huge challenges in the industry.

At this point, I realised it was not enough just to inspire people. It was essential for me, as best as I could, to share the tools and the mechanisms for women to grab opportunities to thrive in engineering.

So, I started to work on The Ripple Effect Conference to bring together the people who have supported my journey and whom I aspire to be like. People who have smashed it and are at the top in terms of their leadership, in terms of their voices and in terms of their influence as well.

Passionate, supercharged and well-equipped

I want to see an empowered cohort of passionate, supercharged and well-equipped women- who are then able to create a ripple effect of true progress and impact throughout engineering and technology space, by passing on what they have learned, creating their own ripples throughout the world of engineering, technology and innovation.

The conference, taking place from 18th to 21st July at the University of Warwick, will feature inspirational businesswomen, engineers, and innovators, with sessions on leadership, communication, innovation, and more. The conference ends with a summer gala dinner, open to everyone interested in making the world a better place.

Engaging with The Ripple Effect Conference

I invite the Womanthology community to join me at The Ripple Effect Conference. This event offers a fantastic opportunity to advance your career, improve your communication skills, and influence policy and design.

I’m excited about it and believe it will be a unique chance to strengthen our community and make impactful changes. It is a wonderful opportunity to take that massive leap, to be able to tell your own stories in the way that you want to, and in a way that influences policy, influences design and influences our industry.

We’re able to offer special rates for members of the Womanthology community so please email for more details, quoting ‘Womanthology’ in the email subject header.

Marking International Women in Engineering Day

Professor Yewande Akinola MBEIt’s crucial to mark International Women in Engineering Day to ensure visibility and inspire young people. Last year, I filmed an episode of the Inspire series with amazing women, showcasing their engineering stories to students and industry professionals. This year, while focusing on The Ripple Effect Conference, I’ll share posts and clips from the Inspire series to maintain visibility for those considering a career in engineering.

Watering the seeds

I’m looking forward to The Ripple Effect Conference and growing my consulting practice. My story has become one of consistency, and I’m grateful for the seeds sown. Now, I aim to water those seeds, eliminate any obstacles, and continue working hard to build and grow.

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