Daddy's girl shows her mettle in man's world

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The Independent Online
Claire Drew was very much a daddy's girl. When her father - a deck officer in the merchant navy - returned from sea she would spend her time with him "fiddling with cars". One of her most prized possessions was a Scalextric set.

Yesterday at 30 years old, she was named as Young Woman Engineer of the Year.

Ms Drew, an engineering manager at GEC Marconi Avionics in Rochester, is working on a project to upgrade the helmets for pilots of RAF Jaguar aircraft. The headgear is part of a highly sophisticated weapons guidance system.

The presentation of the 1997 award, sponsored by the Institution of Electronics and Electrical Incorporated Engineers, comes just days after news that girls are beating boys at science and maths in school. In the past, however, girls have experienced considerable difficulty when switching from school and university to the workplace. Only 300 of the institution's 27,000 members are women. Ms Drew, the mother of a three-year-old girl, has experienced no such problems. "I've received nothing but support throughout my career. I know a lot of women encounter difficulties, but I've been very lucky."

After a higher national diploma at Liverpool Polytechnic, she got a job with British Aerospace. Six years later she moved to GEC Marconi in Kent. "Although girls have always been encouraged in maths and science, they don't see the range of options within engineering and don't really look at the discipline as a serious career move," she said yesterday.

The award, which included a pounds 1,000 cheque and a silver rose bowl, was presented by Labour MP and fellow engineer Claire Curtis-Thomas. Runner- up was Vicki Houston, 28, from Glasgow, who works for Yarrow Shipbuilders. Most promising young engineer was Abigail Small, 23, from Preston, Lancashire.