- Video report by ITV News' Chloe Keedy
When the First World War broke out in 1914 women were still fighting for the vote.
The Suffragettes stopped campaigning and concentrated their efforts on recruiting women into war work.
Many other suffrage organisations did the same.
With men away fighting at the front, women were mobilised to work in munitions factories and as aircraft engineers.
Over the next four years an estimated two million women replaced men in employment and proved that they could do the work just as well, strengthening their argument for the right to vote.
100 years on - there are more women in the workplace than ever, but some industries remain stubbornly male dominated.
Britain has the lowest proportion of female engineers in Europe, at less than 10%. Bosses at Crossrail are bucking that trend - a third of their engineers are women, thanks to a concerted drive to increase the diversity of the company's workforce.
Lih-Ling Highe was one of four women in a class of 54.
She now runs one of Crossrail’s biggest construction sites, and says having a balanced workforce is vital to the project’s success.
She said: 'If you think about who travels on the train - everybody travels on the train! So 50% of those passengers are women - why would that be designed and built for by men?
"Having a diverse team is fantastic because you bring all sorts of different ideas to how the product is going to be, but also how we deliver."
Jemima Olchawski, Head of Policy and Insight at the Fawcett Society, says the figures show that Britain is still a long way from having a gender balanced workforce.
"Science, tech, engineering and maths is an area that massively under-represents women ... we need to think about what the structure and the culture of that workforce is overall so that when women go into those environments they want to stay and are able to strive and succeed."
Arvind Garcha has worked for United Airlines for 26 years, and is now Director of Operations of British Airports.
She says that having strong female role models in top jobs is vital.
"It’s people like them that inspire people like myself and perhaps the others who might be looking at me thinking, 'OK - female ... Asian ... in a male dominated workplace ... if she can do it, I can do it! So we can be the inspiring leaders of generations to come.'"