Presentation address by Professor Simon Shepherd:
Rachel Skinner admits that she fell into engineering entirely by chance.
After completing her geography degree in Durham in 1998, Rachel took a job as a graduate transport planner, initially only intending to be in the role for a few months. But she soon decided to stay, and within two years had enrolled for a Masters degree in Transport Planning and Engineering in Leeds, graduating with a Distinction in 2001.
Rachel has subsequently forged an outstanding career, both as a senior figure in private practice and as a valued member of numerous national bodies. She is an inspirational figure and a role model for women in engineering.
In two decades since completing her Masters, Rachel has held key roles at a number of engineering firms notably with Canadian consultancy and design firm WSP Global. She is currently an executive director and head of transport for WSP's UK Planning and Advisory business, leading around 600 staff delivering projects for public and private sector clients.
An excellent communicator, Rachel stands out for her passion, enthusiasm and ability to connect with people. A long-time advocate for girls studying STEM subjects, she was instrumental in establishing the Women in Transport Network, a body dedicated to empowering women to fulfil their potential in an industry where they remain significantly under-represented.
She is equally passionate about the role which transport and infrastructure engineers must take in tackling climate change.
In 2016, she was named among the Daily Telegraph’s Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering and the following year named as Best Woman Civil Engineer at the European Women in Construction and Engineering Awards.
She has authored and scripted publications and films on topics including net zero carbon infrastructure, driverless vehicles, and on future mobility. She is regularly invited to give keynote conference presentations and to chair national and international industry events.
Rachel has served as an Infrastructure Commissioner for Scotland, in 2020 she became the youngest ever president of the Institution of Civil Engineers and earlier this year was awarded a CBE for services to Infrastructure.
I am now pleased to recommend her for a further honour. Vice-Chancellor, for services to transport engineering, and for inspiring and promoting transportation as a career for women, I present to you for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Rachel Susan Skinner.”