Lynette Willoughby

Helen Lynette Estelle Willoughby (b.1950) is a feminist electronic engineer and champion of teaching women about technology, whose career has spanned 50 years.[1] She was a lecturer on microprocessor engineering at Leeds Polytechnic and Leeds Beckett University for 24 years.[2][3] She was the president of the Women's Engineering Society from 1993 to 1995.[4]

On Kinder Scout in 2009

Early LifeEdit

Lynette's family comes from Sheffield but she was born near Hull, and she had three older brothers.[1] She grew up in London and went to a girls' grammar school where her talents for science were encouraged, and special arrangements were made to allow her to study physics at A-level.[1] In 1968, she started her BSc degree at the University of Surrey in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, being the only woman on the course.[1] At Surrey, in response to how many lecturers inadequately conveyed information, she developed her interest in teaching.[1] She also became aware of how sexism could affect her aspirations as she was discouraged from applying for a job on the British Antarctic Survey because there were no toilet facilities for women.[1] She had two technician jobs while studying.[5] Following her degree, she researched the teaching of engineering for 2 years.[1]

Career in ElectronicsEdit

Following her studies, Lynette became a science teacher at Foxwood School, Leeds.[1] From 1977 to 1981, she worked as a medical physics technician at Leeds General Infirmary.[1][5] In 1979, Lynette wrote to the New Scientist to complain about a sexist cartoon, pointing out how attitudes towards women affected their ability to partake in engineering careers.[6][1]

In 1981, Lynette played a key role in setting up one of the first centers for training women in technology and other skills, the East Leeds Women's Workshop.[7] The project was set up following the closure of Burton's Tailoring Firm in Harehills, Leeds, which left many women unemployed.[8] It aimed to provide free training in areas where women did not traditionally work such as electronics, micro-computing, carpentry and joinery to allow women to gain skills for successful employment.[8] Minority women, including disabilities and BAME, were given priority and childcare was provided.[8] Lynette taught electronics and computing.[1]

In 1984, Lynette contributed to a study on training for women in technology for the Manpower Services Commission.[9]

In 1985-1986, Lynette studied for an MSc in Microprocessor Engineering at University of Bradford.[1] She began her involvement with the Women's Engineering Society.[1] After unsuccessfully applying for jobs in industry, Lynette became a lecturer at Leeds Polytechnic, later called Leeds Beckett University after a friend encouraged her to apply.[1] She taught a range of subjects including computer hardware, professional skills for computing, and the political and social implications of technology.[1] She also taught for the Open University between 1972 and 1993.[5] From 1993 to 1995, she was president of the Women's Engineering Society.[1] In 2000, Lynette was chosen to research and write a short paper on the global state of technology education for women.[10] In 2001, she contributed to a research project exploring how to increase access for women to the internet.[11] Lynette retired in 2005.[1] She kept her links with Leeds Beckett University until 2012.[5] In 2019, Lynette contributed to a project celebrating 100 years of the Women's Engineering Society at the University of Leeds.[1][12]

Career as an ArtistEdit

From 1998 to 2004, Lynette took a Fine Art degree at the Leeds College of Art and Design.[1] In 2006, she finally got to Antarctica where she took photographs of the wildlife.[1][13] From 2009, Lynette has worked on many site-responsive projects in Leeds and Bradford including the Ghosts Group at the Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills and ghost installations at Saltaire.[3][14][13] She also makes artist's books.[13] She is an active member of Leeds Creative Time Bank.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Burn, Chris (15 July 2019). "Why fight for equality goes on for women in engineering after 100 years". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  2. ^ Alison Adam, Eileen Green, ed. (2005), "Women and the Internet", Virtual Gender: Technology, Consumption and Identity Matters, Routledge, p. xi, ISBN 9781134570041
  3. ^ a b Robert McCall, ed. (2019), WES: Celebrating 100 years, West Argyll Technical PUblications, p. 61
  4. ^ WES Presidents, Women's Engineering Society, 2018
  5. ^ a b c d "Lynette Willoughby". LinkedIn. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  6. ^ Willoughby, Lynette. "Sexism Survives". New Scientist. 8 February 1979: 403–404.
  7. ^ Mitter, Swasti (1995). Women Encounter Technology: Changing Patterns of Employment in the Third World. Routledge. p. 325. ISBN 9786610031641.
  8. ^ a b c "East Leeds Women's Workshop". University of Leeds Library. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  9. ^ Swarbrick, Ailsa (1984). Women in technology: a report to the Training Division of the Manpower Services Commission on the retraining programme for qualified experienced women technologists.
  10. ^ Kramarae, Cheris (2000). Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women's Issues and Knowledge. Routledge. pp. 536–38. ISBN 0415920884.
  11. ^ Green, Eileen (2001). Virtual gender: technology, consumption, and identity. Routledge. pp. 3-27. ISBN 9786610144938.
  12. ^ "Electrifying Women". Electrifying Women. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  13. ^ a b c "Lynette Willoughby - Artist ..." Lynette Willoughby - Artist .... Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Leeds Art Ghosts", Leeds Inspired, 2013
  15. ^ "Lynette Willoughby". Leeds Creative Time Bank. Retrieved 17 May 2020.