Yassmin Abdel-Magied

The 2015 winner of the Verena Winifred Holmes Award is Yassmin Abdel-Magied AMIMechE from Australia, for encouraging diversity in engineering. Yassmin has a first class honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Queensland, and now works in the oil and gas industry.

She has a long standing interest in cars and Formula 1; she led her university Formula Student team. She is very conscious that growing up as a Muslim woman in a post 9/11 world she is fortunate to be living in Australia and receiving a good education. She has always wanted to give back to the society that she belongs to and change lives for the better; and engineering is a good way to do this.

Whilst studying in Australia, Yassmin was a founder of Youth Without Borders, modelled on Médecins Sans Frontières, which encourages collaboration between young people to create positive change in their communities. One of their many projects are the Spark Engineering Camps.

Spark Engineering Camps give young people from who face barriers to further education a taste of engineering. Whether their barriers are socioeconomic, cultural or otherwise, Spark shows them what engineering and education could do for them. “It is very inspiring and humbling to see the difference that attending Spark makes. All participants are nominated and fully funded, and by the end 90% of the attendees are applying for tertiary education. By showing that ‘we believe in you and this world is within your realm’, then they too believe it”.

Yassmin believes that everyone should use their position to enact change to address diversity. “Even if you are just one person, it is incumbent on you to encourage others, as we all play a part in creating the ideal future. Whilst most people are keen to support diversity – ethnic, religious, gender or otherwise, in practice there are many unconscious biases that make people recruit in their own image. I believe in inclusivity, and by mentoring others engineers can help young people access the informal network that is so important for careers.”

“Engineering is for everyone and everyone has a right to work in this profession. It is the duty of all engineers to support diversity.” 

“I am thrilled to have won the Verena Winifred Holmes Award, as it acknowledges the work of Youth Without Borders and highlights the importance of diversity and inclusiveness in our modern world. Hopefully this will also allow us to reach more people with the message that we should all get involved in making our society and our industry as diverse, inclusive and awesome as possible!”

Find out more about the Verena Winifred Holmes Award.

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