Although the number of women in UCD's engineering degree programmes remained small through the 1970s, the growth in numbers towards the end of the decade represented the start of a trend that would see a more substantial female student presence in Merrion Street by the mid 1980s. Each year from 1970 to 1978 saw no more than two female engineering graduates (out of an annual total of 140 – 185), a number that jumped to six in 1979.

Orna Ní Chionna was the only female engineering graduate in the class of 1977. After an MBA from Harvard she joined the London office of McKinsey & Co, and was the first woman elected partner of the company in the UK. She has served as senior independent director of a number of major companies, including HMV, Royal Mail Holdings, Northern Foods and Bupa. She is also chair of the Soil Association, the main UK charity campaigning for organic food and farming.

Dervilla Mitchell was one of four women in the UCD engineering class of 1980. She is now a trustee and board member of the global engineering company Arup, and its most senior female engineer. She led the Arup team at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5, the largest construction project in Europe at the time. By the end of the six-year contract she was head of design management for the overall project, which had a budget of £4.3 billion, and leading a team of 1,500 people. She is a fellow of Engineers Ireland and the Royal Academy of Engineers.

Above left: Orna Ní Chionna
Above right: Dervilla Mitchell
Photo: Robert Taylor for the UKRC