[detail of bas-relief by William Bloye]
One of Phoebe's friends has applied to do Engineering at university and is already swamped with offers, unlike the many who are applying for Arts and Humanities. Of course the departments want her: she's a girl, and we need more female engineers. Not that this thought ever occurred to the Engineering departments at universities in the 40s when my father was studying at Manchester or in the 50s when this bas-relief (1954) was made for the Mechanical Engineering building at Birmingham University.
It's by the brilliant William Bloye and depicts 17 or so engineering students - all male - and two or three teachers/lecturers who are male. In total there are 20 men on the outside of the building. Not only that, they are presented as a certain type: hearty, rugby-playing, duffel-coat-wearing, earnest, inquiring, able to wield a set square. Now I have to admit I think the figures are wonderful - all those polo neck sweaters and Brylcreemed hair (except when it is blowing about on the rugby pitch) - and that the whole panel captures an era quite beautifully. But surely it is time to have a few female engineers (as well as lot more general diversity) on the exteriors of Engineering departments (and on bank notes, too) in order to make it very clear that women are welcome inside?