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Brunel Museum to receive £62,046 for Sophia’s Story programme to support young women in engineering

  • Brunel Museum among 8 recipients of the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund,


  • The project will help to develop engagement with young women and girls both within and outside of school settings using a collection of engineering drawings.

The project, ‘Sophia’s story’ takes its inspiration from Sophia Brunel Marc’s daughter and sister to Isambard, walking in her father’s tunnel. This is the only representation of Sophia in the Museum in its current form. Yet, she was a promising engineer in her own right, once described as “Brunel in petticoats”, had she not been denied the opportunity to study by the strict behavioural codes of her time: Sophia Macnamara Hawes (nee Brunel) #OTDH – Brunel Museum (

Using Sophia as a starting point, this programme has three key strands that will allow the Museum to develop its engagement with young women and girls under the age of 15, both within and outside of a school setting:

  • Stemazing Inspiration Academy and After School Clubs (Years 1 and 2)
  • What I Am Is, Key Stage 3 school workshops (Years 1 and 2)
  • Women in Engineering film with Bacon’s college (Year 2)


There are two key aims of this project: to improve gender representation and access to female role models in engineering careers; alongside exploring and tackling gender bias among co-educational groups in schools. This second part sets this project apart from other programmes, which the Museum says so often end up problematizing the young women themselves, by encouraging them to build their confidence. Instead, this project will focus on delivering sessions tackling gender stereotypes to co-educational schools. This is intended to help the boys that will turn into male co-workers in the future recognize implicit and explicity bias and work to overcome it. The sessions will be offered free to local schools in the first year.


Alongside tackling stereotypes and bias, this programme of activity also seeks to improve representation of female engineers. Women are still severely underrepresented in engineering careers, with just 12% working in the industry.[1] The Museum seeks to target young women in the early years of secondary school at a point where they are able to choose STEM-related GCSEs.

This project recognises that school is not the only place that young girls and boys access science and form opinions about who goes into certain professions. Alongside the schools sessions, the Museum will run an Afterschool club for local children. There are currently no STEM after school clubs running in Southwark, and the programme will meet the needs of the Southwark Cultural Strategy, which identifies cultural opportunities for young people to engage with during out of school hours as a strategic priority.


[1] Engineering UK:

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