Dame Judith Hackitt

Chair: Make UK

Dame Judith Hackitt

Dame Judith Hackitt was awarded an Honorary Degree in Winter 2019. Here you can read her degree oration.


This year marks 100 years since the first female students were enrolled to study engineering at Loughborough - then Loughborough Technical College. The University has since developed a proud history of female engineering graduates with a ‘can do’ attitude. However, across the sector there is still more to do. Today I am honoured to present to you an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to engineering and acted as a role model for all young women, particularly those in STEM subjects.

Dame Judith Hackitt graduated from Imperial College London in 1975 with a degree in Chemical Engineering. From, here she went on to spend 15 years at Exxon Chemicals' Fawley Refinery before joining a smaller chemicals company, Elementis, as operations director. This is where her career started to focus on safety and risk, and over the next eight years she made major changes to improve business competitiveness, drive up quality and dramatically improved the safety culture at Elementis plants around the world.

In 1998, Judith joined the Chemical Industries Association, where she was appointed Director General four years later.

In 2006, work took her to Brussels, where she joined the European Chemical Industry Council, the body that represents large, medium and small chemical companies across Europe, as Implementation Director. That same year, Judith was awarded a CBE for services to health and safety.

Judith has always been determined to change attitudes and public perception of health and safety in the UK, so in 2007, when the Commission and the Health and Safety Executive advertised for a new chair, she put herself forwards for the role. She got the job and when the two organisations merged in 2009, she became Chair of the Health and Safety Executive. Through this role Judith has been very vocal in getting the press to take health and safety seriously and to improve public understanding of the need for the organisation as a public regulator.

Between 2013 and 2014 she served as President of the Institute for Chemical Engineers, only the second female to do so in the institutions 90 plus years of existence.

She remained at the helm of the UK government agency until 2016, before moving to her current role as Chair of Make UK, the manufacturing trade body formerly known as the Engineering Employers' Federation, that works with manufacturing, engineering and technology-based businesses in the UK.

Prior to this, at the beginning of 2016, Judith’s position as one of the UK’s foremost female engineers was recognised when she was appointed a Dame in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours. The award was also given in recognition of her leadership at the Health and Safety Executive to drive “proportionate and effective” health and safety and her encouragement for young women to take up STEM careers. That year, Judith was also listed in the Top 50 Women in UK Engineering by the Telegraph.

In fact, Judith has always been an advocate for the areas she works in; promoting engineering as a career and profession, and through her membership and directorship of several organisations, she has raised the importance of manufacturing within the UK economy.

In addition to her role at Make UK, Judith is currently a non-executive director and trustee of the Energy Saving Trust, a non-Executive director of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and a trustee of the City & Guilds Group. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2010 and currently chairs the External Affairs Committee.

I’d like to finish this oration, by talking about a notable part of Judith’s career in more recent years. Following the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, Judith was appointed as Chair of Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. The group published their findings in May 2018, setting out more than 50 recommendations for the Government to completely overhaul how buildings are constructed and regulated. The Government has since committed to take forward all her recommendations and go further, by forming a new national Building Safety Regulator which will oversee the design and management of buildings, with a strong focus on ensuring a new regime for higher-risk buildings is enforced effectively and robustly. Judith has since been named as a government advisor for establishing the new Building Safety Regulator.

Chancellor, as a female engineer myself it is my absolute honour to present to you today, and to the whole University, Dame Judith Hackitt for the degree of Doctor of Technology, honoris causa.