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Girls Like Us – Samantha Payne
Samantha Payne holds one of her bionic inventions

The women in technology you should be paying attention to

The UK’s engineering workforce is overwhelmingly male-dominated – get to know five creative women going against the boys’ club status quo

In collaboration with Barbie, Girls Like Us opens a window onto five women who have made their dreams a reality. Through this series of features, we hope to inspire a new generation of girls to conquer challenges and follow their own paths.

“The UK’s engineering workforce is made up of just nine per cent women,” Samantha Payne, roboticist and co-founder of tech start-up Open Bionics explains. But despite these disappointing numbers and low percentages, those who do choose to enter into the world of tech start-ups and engineering companies are often pioneers – women pushing technology to its limits and building a better world for us to live in.

Whether that’s Payne herself, who's developing open source tech and aesthetically pleasing, affordable 3D-printed robotic limbs, or her peers working within wearable tech, fashion, robotics or thriving as CEOs at their own companies. As part of our Girls Like Us series in collaboration with Barbie, we asked Payne to highlight five women within her field. Women who are likely to inspire the next generation of empowered female engineers, prove that technology is as much creative as it is scientific, and serve as real-life examples that we can be whatever we want, irrelevant of gender... 

THE BEAUTY HACKER

“Katia Vega uses makeup to control or affect her environment. This isn't just any kind of make-up, Katie uses electronics to create super make-up. This includes RFID nails that she can use to DJ with water. She has also made fake eyelashes that can control drones. I like how playful Katia is, she's really innovative, she's not afraid to try something new, she's a risk taker, she doesn't wait for someone else to do it first, and she's really good at combining technologies. Katia is experimenting with when technology becomes fused or embedded within our skin and what she is doing is really important. It's just experimenting and trying out new ideas, and seeing what can be done. She's testing the perimeters.”

THE ROBOT QUEEN

“Simone Giertz shows that you can be successful and do what you love, no matter how crazy the idea might seem! Simone makes creative robots that make you laugh. She’s a YouTuber and she calls herself the ‘queen of shitty robots’. She’s an engineer and she spends all of her time building really crap robots – robots that break all the time. The only reason she builds them is because she finds it funny. She’s tapped into this huge audience of people who just like seeing robots used for funny reasons and using engineering in a really creative way. It’s not necessarily that you have to build a company, there are tonnes of different ways you can get involved in technology.”

THE DESIGNER

“A fashion designer, an artist, and a tech hacker. Anouk Wipprecht creates amazing robotic dresses. She wanted interactive high fashion that’s really fun; stuff that can only really exist in your imagination and she brings it to life. She's interested in blending our bodies with technology and making sure our clothing reflects how we feel and how we interact with our environment. Someone basically asked what fashion was missing and she said micro-controllers. Anouk has worked with Fergie, Audi, and Intel to bring fashion to life using this tech.”

THE ROBOTICIST

Sabine Hauert wants to use robots to save the world – she wants to inject cancer patients with a trillion killer nanobots. The swarm engineer is building smart nanoparticles that can work together as targeted cancer killers. The technology she's working on is very cutting edge, and it has a huge potential to do a lot of good, so what inspires me about her work is: one, it’s really fascinating – it’s robotics and biology – two, the potential to cure illness and fight diseases, and three, because it’s so new, it's a new frontier. It's really cool to see that people are working on it.”

THE ELECTRONICS HEROINE

“Limor is amazing. She built AdaFruit; a hardware company that shows how fun and creative electronics engineering can be. She's really open and creates easy to follow tutorials for projects. She basically makes engineering engaging and artistic, and invites you to join in from home. I really like how creative Adafruit gets with bright neopixel displays. One tutorial that I'm really interested in is adding neopixels to shoes so I can have brightly lit LED soles that are interactive and controllable.“