Caroline Noublanche - Apricity

Inspirational Woman: Caroline Noublanche | Founder & CEO, Apricity

Caroline Noublanche - ApricityCaroline Noublanche is the founder and CEO of the world’s first virtual fertility startup, called Apricity. 

Apricity’s digital solution provides access to world-class fertility advisors and assists patients with a fully customised journey, all easily navigated through a mobile app. It also uses AI to develop tools to maximise chances of conception for women.

Caroline Noublanche is an experienced entrepreneur. Before launching Apricity, she co-founded mobile app Prylos which, aged 27, she sold to Swedish giant Doro AB in 2011. Later she joined the AXA-backed incubator Kamet Ventures as an ‘entrepreneur in residence’. Caroline also promotes a truly diverse workforce, with women making up four out of five of Apricity’s C-Suite.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My journey as an entrepreneur started fairly young. I founded my first company, mobile app developer PRYLOS, when I was 27, and sold it to Swedish telecoms giant Doro AB in 2011, where I became vice president.

More recently, I joined AXA-backed incubator Kamet Ventures as an ‘entrepreneur in residence’ to help them build and launch disruptive startups in the health tech space. I recognised that IVF had experienced very little digital transformation in the past 40 years and was an area in need of disruption - this led me to found Apricity, the world’s first virtual fertility clinic, in 2018.

Traditional fertility treatment is one of the most stressful and emotionally draining journeys you can go through. Apricity manages a fully-customised treatment journey that’s easily navigated through a mobile app. It matches patients to world-class fertility experts, where they can enjoy virtual consultations, and to counsellors who are available for virtual sessions seven days a week. Our aim is to make sure our patients can do as much of the IVF treatment from their homes as possible, and are emotionally supported from beginning to end. This has proven particularly important in the context of COVID-19, where remote consultations and tests have been the only option for most patients.

Working alongside some of the leading fertility researchers and AI specialists, we’re also developing cutting-edge products that better understand the factors affecting fertility and maximise the chances of conception. As CEO, my main role is to lead the business’ growth and momentum, while continuing to provide an excellent service for our patients.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wouldn’t say I sat down and strategically planned it, but it’s always been important for me to see a clear trajectory to my career. I’m someone who’s always looking to improve and develop, and the diversity of experiences and roles I’ve had throughout my career have given me the opportunity to build a strong professional skill set.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Something that comes from being very driven is that sometimes you have to understand that not everyone is going to care as much as you do. I always expect the best from the people I work with, but the reality is you can’t expect people to always be on their A game all the time. That said, if a colleague is consistently underperforming, it’s important to be very upfront and transparent with them. Those conversations can be challenging but they’re an inevitable part of running any business.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’m not very good at reflecting on my achievements, as I’m constantly looking towards my next milestone. So as soon as I’ve achieved a goal, I’ll consider it done and put all my focus on the next goal - but I’m trying to take more time to reflect as I think it’s an important thing to do!

At Apricity, one of my biggest achievements is helping to scale and grow the team in such a short space of time. What started out as a team of three in 2018 is now a team of 35 across three offices, only two years on. But overall, I’m most proud of what we’re working towards on a day-to-day basis - we’re a company with a truly meaningful purpose, dedicated to helping people through one of the most pivotal things they’ll ever experience.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

I’m very driven by nature and I like to channel that energy into the rest of my team. I’m always keen to share my visions with them, and to encourage and inspire motivation about what we’re working towards. That ability to look ahead has definitely helped me to date - as a startup, you always need to be aiming towards the next thing.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology? 

Never stop questioning yourself. Even if you’re doing a good job, you have to continue looking at how you can do things better. At Apricity, we have three core values for how we approach our work - excellence, care and empowerment. In technology, particularly in the healthcare domain, you should always be striving for excellence - that’s not the same as striving for perfection, which we all know doesn’t exist.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Barriers definitely persist for women in tech - the proof is in the statistics, as tech companies today are still predominantly male. It's also true that in specific job roles, developers being a prime example, it’s more difficult to find female talent - this comes back to the need for more inclusive STEM learning at the early stages as well as more role models for young girls to look up to.

There is also the very real factor of ‘imposter syndrome’, a recently coined term which disproportionately affects women. As a CEO, I’m acutely aware that women are less likely to proactively ask for a promotion or pay rise, as society doesn’t teach women to be confident and assertive in the same way it does men. Hopefully this is starting to change though.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Tech companies need to be more rigorous when it comes to onboarding women at all levels. At Apricity, more than 50 per cent of our workforce is women, which is something I’ve made a conscious effort to maintain.

I also see it as one of my responsibilities to mentor the women in my team, by helping them grow in confidence and develop their skills. When I hear someone doubting themselves, I notice it and try to help them question those thinking patterns. Female leaders are naturally in a much better position to help enact this change, and this is why it’s so important companies are hiring women at the top. Likewise, it’s important for women to see more female representation at a senior leadership level so it becomes normalised.

Last but definitely not least, companies need to make sure their working practices accommodate working mothers. Too often, women still feel they have to choose between having a great career and a family because their workplaces don’t sufficiently adapt to fit their needs - this should absolutely not be the case in 2020.

Currently only 17 per cent of tech positions are made up of women, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry? 

If I could wave a magic wand, I would magic up more female role models in the world, including perhaps a female president of the United States or in France (where I live). Germany and New Zealand are great examples of countries led successfully by women. I think having major global role models like this goes a long way in showing younger generations what women can achieve.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I recently read a great book called ‘Lead With Respect’ by Michael Balle, which I’d recommend. The story follows the dialogue between a female CEO and an IT customer and is centred around different use cases within the practice of lean management, a leadership style we follow at Apricity.

I’d add that networking opportunities are also an essential resource and something women don’t always consider high priority, but end up sacrificing for lack of time. I’d recommend always helping others and trying to do favours where you can, as you never know when you might want a favour from them in the future.


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5 ways to get ahead in the world of technology

For some, the tech industry may sound like a daunting or male-dominated profession. But Jellyfish Training’s Digital Marketing Trainer Niki Grant believes it’s a great place to be — regardless of your gender.

So whether you’re trying to get your first job in tech or you’re returning to the industry after a career break, read on for Niki’s expert advice on how to get ahead and maximise your potential.

Embrace what makes you different

Having different perspectives is vital in tech. “Don’t see anything about yourself as a weakness, as it’ll be a strength to someone who's looking to pitch to a particular audience, or to offset some of the personality types they already have on their team”, Niki explains.

“For example, if you're nervous returning to work following maternity leave, and a brand is designing an app for breastfeeding women, you’ve got the first-hand experience to get that product right. So whoever you are, you have a valuable voice because that’s what the consumer market is made up of.”

In fact, Niki believes the need for diversity in tech goes beyond whether you’re male or female. “The wider variety of people you can have in a team, the more skillsets you’re adding together. So it’s important to make sure you have a good mix of people from different genders, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds.”

Build your brand

“I know people always say this, but tech has quite a celebrity culture, so building your brand is important.”

Luckily, Niki says this is easy to do on social media. “You want to create a persona for when you’re meeting and networking with people. Aim for consistent content curation and tone of voice — as if you were a publisher with your own brand identity.”

When researching interview candidates, Niki explains that she’s always impressed when she sees an applicant using their social platforms for thought leadership. “It’s great when someone goes out of their way to say ‘that’s interesting, I’m going to talk about that’. Plus consistency when it comes to posting, replying and getting involved in conversations are all good signs.”

Harness the power of social platforms

Speaking of social media, Niki notes there are plenty of other tactics you can use to help you get ahead in the world of technology. “Twitter is a great place for finding people in the tech community. Create lists of accounts that are relevant to the area you’re interested in, so you can get involved in the conversation. There’s nothing better than listening to real people who work in the industry talk about what’s important right now.”

Niki believes joining groups can also help you advance your career. “If you search LinkedIn for a topic you’re interested in, there will be groups for it. Try to find an active one with a few thousand members.”

But this is also an opportunity to stray from your go-to social platforms, as Niki explains. “Tech is all about finding your own way and using the tools at your disposal to solve a problem. So don’t rely on Facebook. Look at Reddit, Tumblr and lesser-known social media platforms. That’s where a lot of the interesting conversations are happening.”

Absorb as much knowledge as you can

Niki is a firm believer in reading as many relevant articles and posts as possible — not only to help you get into the industry but also because this is a useful skill for any tech career. As she explains, “because technology changes so often, it’s important to keep up to date with it. When you work within an organisation or agency, you’ll learn a lot through osmosis — subconsciously taking in ideas and knowledge. So give yourself a head start and read as much as you can. You don’t have to understand everything, but seeing what words and topics are coming up often is going to help, even if you don’t realise it. It’s all about reading little bits and knitting them together.”

Not sure you’ve got enough time? Niki’s advice is to make it part of your daily routine. ”Sign up to interesting newsletters and read them over your morning coffee”, she suggests.

This is also helpful if you’ve been out of the tech or work world for a bit and are trying to find your feet again. “Reading is a fantastic way of keeping up with what’s going on without any pressure — keeping your finger on the pulse until you’re back up and running.”

Don’t let not having a degree put you off

“Full disclosure; I’m slightly biased here because I’m not a graduate. But that also means I’m proof that you don’t need a degree to get into tech,” explains Niki. “Yes, if you want to be a data scientist or something similar, your employer might want you to have a maths degree. But broadly speaking, tech is a creative industry and you can’t really grade that.”

Based on her experience, Niki argues that being a non-graduate can actually stand you in good stead. “The school leavers I’ve hired or worked with have been enthusiastic, great at troubleshooting and work really well with others. I think this is because they’ve had to find their own way and their learning has been more self-directed, which shows motivation.”

Whatever your education, background or experience, Niki believes you should follow your ambitions. “If you’re interested in tech, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If you want to go for it, then go for it.”

Niki GrantAbout the author

Niki is a Digital Marketing trainer with over a decade's worth of experience in media agencies - both independent and network. A winner of Media Week's "30 Under 30" competition, Niki was the youngest Business Director to be hired in Mindshare's 20+ years of history at the age of 26, and went on to lead their UK Search team before pivoting towards training.

About Jellyfish Training

Founded in 2014, Jellyfish Training offers over 120 digital classroom and online training courses ranging from Digital Marketing, SEO, Social Media and Analytics to Cloud Technology, Cyber Security and Web Development.

As a Google certified training provider, Jellyfish has helped over 50,000 people from global corporates to small businesses, as well as non-profits, charities and government organisations to upskill their workforces.

 www.jellyfish.com/training


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coding

Why now is the perfect time to learn to code…

codingThe COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on businesses and people across the globe. People are working from home, have been furloughed or have lost their jobs, which, for some, has led to more free time than ever before.

Although this is an incredibly challenging time, it provides the opportunity to learn new skills, which can help provide a sense of empowerment, build confidence, and can set you up for future success.

Coding is an especially great skill to work on at home – whether you are starting from scratch or want to advance in your current role.  Coding is the way in which you give instructions to a computer to get it to perform one or more tasks. Just in the same way that you can use French or Spanish to communicate directions to people from either country, there are different coding languages suited to different applications, such as JavaScript (website generation), C# (computer games development) and Python (data mining/machine learning).

My career in coding

I first got into coding in my early 20’s, as a master’s student in Bioinformatics. During those times, it was a rarity to see women in coding, the overwhelming majority of people on my course were men. Although there are more female coders today than twenty years ago, the field of coding desperately needs more girls and women – they are half of all tech users and make 85 per cent of shopping decisions.

Throughout my career, I have used coding to solve problems that would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve without it. In the biomedical sector, I have used it to predict which molecules would make the best candidates for a drug development program, to automatically identify and characterise tumours from nuclear medicine imaging. I get a real buzz from translating my ideas into code which helps solve a real-world problem.

Being a female coder

As a woman in working in science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing (STEM) for over 20 years, I have rarely experienced negative attitudes towards female coders. From my perspective, it has become an inclusive industry that understands the need for a diverse range of people to help prevent issues like implicit bias in coding and foster innovation and empathy in artificial intelligence and machine-learning. Although I do remember one person telling me at a business conference that he “didn’t know that blonde girls could code.” But times are changing…

I joined leading med-tech company, Perspectum, in 2014, to help develop a prototype for a new liver imaging technology. Women make up 56 per cent of the workforce at Perspectum which, for a med-tech firm, is ahead of the curve. However, that percentage drops within the software engineering team to 24 per cent which, despite being in line with the number of applicants who come to interview, highlights that there’s still a lot to be done to encourage women into the field.

Speaking to my coding friends in other sectors, I have heard of women feeling side-lined in software teams comprised predominantly of testosterone-fuelled ‘brogrammers,’ but I think that attitudes are changing for the better, and more and more women are pursuing careers in coding.

There is no time like the present

I would advise women who are deciding whether or not to start a career in coding to just do it – don’t wait, start today even! The good news is that there are plenty of varied – and even free – options for learning the basics online, using sites such as Code Academy or Treehouse. There are also many friendly forums (some women-only) where you can share ideas and ask for help from the coding community. If you have been thinking about taking the plunge, take advantage of the free time you may have at the moment as a result of the pandemic, and start developing the foundational coding skills you need to build websites, programmes, or even medical diagnostic devices like me!

About the author

Dr Cat Kelly is the Director of Clinical Informatics and Services, and co-leads Perspectum’s Clinical Services Business Unit.

Cat has 20 years of industrial and academic experience in the biomedical space. Joining Perspectum in 2014, Cat developed Perspectum’s flagship product LiverMultiScan, before founding the Quantitative Analysis Service. Prior to Perspectum, she developed imaging methods to quantify drug-induced changes in tumours at the University of Oxford and served as Associate Director of the Life Sciences Interface Doctoral Training Centre. Cat holds degrees in Biology and Bioinformatics from the University of York and obtained her DPhil in Medical Imaging from the Department of Engineering at the University of Oxford.


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From charity to coding: Why it’s never too late to change your career  

It was on my return from travelling South America with my fiancé that I decided I didn’t want to go back to my old career. I had spent 10 years in the charity sector and it just didn’t bring me the enthusiasm that I had experienced when I first set out.

Beyond that I didn’t have a clue, I just tried to be as open minded as possible.

What I could never have imagined was that, age 30, I’d be an apprentice software developer – and, on top of that, loving it!

Not only did I think apprenticeships were for much younger people, but I had never shown any interest in IT. I had all these preconceptions about it, I hadn’t any interest in computers and didn’t think it was very sociable. Even though my boyfriend was a software engineer, I just never thought it was for me.

After spending weeks trawling networking events and workshops, I stumbled across a one day coding course put on by a global charity called Django Girls, where I learned how to build a blog site. I thought knowing how to build a website would look good on my CV, but when I had a go myself I really got into it – I wanted to know more, how and why.

Suddenly I became excited about it, I thought about all the other things I could do with these new skills and how I could achieve it. I hadn’t gone looking for coding, but it was like something clicked – I was suddenly interested in it all.

The next step was having the confidence to apply for an apprenticeship.

The workshop I had taken part in held at Code Nation, a Manchester-based software development and apprenticeship provider and coding school. Through them I learned about a role at EMIS Health.

The company is the UK’s leading provider of software to the NHS – supporting more than 10,000 organisations including GP practices, community pharmacists and hospital trusts in their daily work on the frontline.  It has played a key role supporting service delivery during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company runs an apprenticeship scheme in partnership with Code Nation, giving applicants the opportunity to train and then become junior software developers.

I didn’t expect to get it. I’m not someone who’s had a passion for coding my whole life or knew an awful lot about it, but because I enjoyed it so much I decided it was worth applying for – and I’m glad I did! Something I’ve learned since is that EMIS Health is very keen on getting women into the tech industry, and they weren’t looking for someone with all the answers, they just wanted someone with problem solving skills and a passion for it.

I started the course with Code Nation in September 2019 and started my full time role as a junior software developer with EMIS Health in January.

There’s something about the industry that’s very exciting. The world is taking such strides in terms of technology advances it’s really interesting to learn about. And, contrary to my early misconceptions, it’s very sociable! You work as a team with people who share the same passions and are interested to hear about what you have discovered.

There’s also a real push to get more women into the tech industry, so if anyone is interested in either starting a new career or learning more about it, there are lots of opportunities.

As well learning new technical skills, it’s great that I’ve been able to continue making a difference to society. I worked in the charity sector because making a difference is important to me. One of my concerns with moving jobs was whether I would find something that fulfilled that side of things.

EMIS Health’s technology directly supports the frontline work of clinicians across the UK, including GPs, pharmacists and hospital trusts. I’m a small cog in a big machine, but it’s still a machine that’s making a difference and I’m proud to be part of it.

So, to anyone thinking they are too old to change their career, you can still go on to be successful in a completely new industry, there are lots of opportunities out there – you just have to take that first step!

To find out more about careers at EMIS Health, visit https://emisgroup.careers

Vicky HotchkissAbout the author

Vicky Hotchkiss, from Chorlton, in South Manchester, is one of EMIS Health’s newest apprentices - developing software that supports frontline NHS clinicians.

Originally from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, she earned a degree in environmental studies at the University of York and worked in the charity sector for around 10 years before retraining to become a junior software developer.


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Why it’s time to reinvent the workplace, through smarter use of technology

desk-with-laptopOut of times of crisis and darkness can be born new ideas and ways of working. The past few months have been difficult for all of us.

But with the right attitude we can re-engineer the workplace to something altogether more flexible, fulfilling and diverse. Doing so will first force us to rethink how we use digital technologies.

No digital twin

The COVID-19 lockdown has presented many challenges, both to employers and their staff. From a pure IT perspective, organisations have done tremendously well to rapidly support mass home working as governments around the world locked down society. Reports suggest that this kind of distributed workforce may be here to stay long after the pandemic recedes.

But there are concerns. Corporate VPNs have been overwhelmed, and home workers are arguably more exposed to social engineering and attacks targeting video conferencing platforms and remote access infrastructure. Cyber-attackers have duly refocused their efforts to target these weaknesses.

There are also wider challenges in how we work. Too many employers and managers are falling into the trap of trying to replicate the face-to-face experience of being in the office at home. That means excessive back-to-back video meetings which generate limited value and leave little time for creative thinking and problem solving. Let’s be clear, the home should never be the digital twin of the office.

Getting there

The change we all need must come from the top down, and it must involve a more intelligent use of technology. To mitigate cyber-risk and boost productivity, security and IT teams should be empowering users with a whitelist of tools they can use at home, rather than resorting to type as the “department of no”, for example.

To get the most out of remote working employees, managers must trust them more — to use workshop tools independently, or even go offline if necessary from time-to-time — rather than expecting digital facetime most of the day. When lockdown finally recedes, individuals should be empowered to choose for themselves which blend of remote and face-to-face working they think will drive the best outcomes.

Yet technology can only get us so far. If events in the US of late have shown us anything it’s that there is still a long way to go for society to overcome deep-seated prejudices. We mustn’t let these often unconscious biases find their way into the AI algorithms which are already starting to run our lives. That means doubling down on greater diversity and equality in the workplace. Hopefully by peering into the homes of our colleagues day after day we’ve all become kinder, more empathetic human beings. But there’s always more to be done. After all, technology doesn’t change societies, people do.

About the author

Mivy JamesMivy James has been an IT professional for 25 years. Having started her career as an analyst / programmer in defence and safety critical systems she is now Digital Transformation Director and Head of Consulting at BAE Systems. Her areas of interest include supporting government departments on their digital transformation journeys and adoption of agile ways of working. She is also a passionate advocate for STEM careers and is the founder of her organisation’s gender balance network.

 

 

 

 


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Women in Engineering: How Can We Make The Sector More Inclusive?

Women In EngineeringIn 2016, Engineering UK released its ‘State of the Nation’ report, which highlighted a severe recruitment crisis in the engineering sector.

More people are leaving than entering. And while the estimates vary by quite a large margin — from between 69,000 and 186,000 — what is certain is that the current flow of 46,000 apprentices and undergraduate students is nowhere near enough to fit the demand.

For some time, the UK has leaned heavily on human capital from Eastern Europe. But rising wages back home, and uncertainty over Brexit, has weakened this EU labour force.

In order to solve this crisis, it seems more important than ever for the UK to tap into its abundant pool of natural resources. I am of course talking about women, who actually outnumber men in the British Isles.

UK engineering is woefully failing the female workforce

Britain, historically and now, is a hugely successful country. In many instances, it has been the British who have introduced to the world radical and key new ideas in the name of ‘progress’. Which makes it all the more remarkable (and strange) that the UK lags behind so many other countries when it comes to equality in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

The UK has the lowest proportion of women in engineering out of any European country at 11 per cent. Indeed, even many North African countries, such as Algeria and Tunisia, have greater gender parity, and far to the East, India and Malaysia also welcome more women into their ranks than the UK does.

What are the reasons for this disparity? Many theories have been proffered. Some blame the UK government’s previous arms-length relationships with business (which is now changing thanks to the requirement of gender-pay gap reporting); to the cultural differences abroad (for example, some scholars will argue that women are less likely to choose engineering when they have more personal freedoms).

The most popular cause of the problem, however, is thought to be a cultural one; and a particularly Anglo one. That includes the United States, too.

Is culture really the problem?

As mentioned above, as little as 11 per cent of the engineering workforce is female. That means 89 per cent of engineers are male — despite women making up 51 per cent of the population. This is a slight increase for women of 2 per cent over the past two years, which is almost statically slow. Currently, it is estimated that 14 per cent of women are taking STEM subjects at A-level or higher. So things are improving, but what’s been holding women back?

Sarah Peers of the Women’s Engineering Society thinks stereotyping, and an outdated, pro-masculine work structure may be to blame. According to Peers, this problem could be rectified men were given more time off for child-centric duties, such as child-rearing, and not just women. Traditionally, major roles, such as that of CEOs, have not been kind to expecting mothers, or newly mothers, who cannot be available twenty-four hours a day, unlike a male colleague — a disadvantage that, in recent times, has come to be identified as sort of mothering ‘penalty’.

Peers also thinks there is a disconnect between the well-intentioned campaigns from the HR and PR world, meaning their messages are not permeating into the company hierarchies above.

A manifest part of the culture could also lie in the way we broach the topic of engineering to our girls, of which we could look abroad for some positive solutions. For example, the president of Ashesi University in Ghana has achieved an almost 50-50 split in men and women on its computer science programme. One way the University did this was, it claimed, by reframing engineering to mean talking about problem-solving, and how engineering can help to improve the lives of others and the environment.

It has long been suspected that women have subtle innate differences that favour people, whereas men traditionally have favoured ‘things’. Talking about engineering as a way to help people, even by proxy, seems to resonate more with the minority sex.

Are we creating a welcome environment for women?

There is another issue that we may not be entirely comfortable talking about — that is, if men have essentially “shut the door” to female colleagues, either with subconscious biases, or plain old sexism.

It is not unusual for a female engineer to find herself almost alone in her world of work. There may never be a queue for the women’s toilet, and understandably, there is a lack of like-minded individuals to talk to.

This lack of a female presence can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, men might wonder, if there are almost no other women present — then what are these few women even doing here? This can conjure up prejudices or harmful stereotypes that can undervalue, undermine, and overlook female colleagues.

In fact, in one study, 40 per cent of female engineers thought they weren’t treated equally in the workplace. And 60 per cent said they thought male engineers got an easier ride and progressed further.

Perhaps more shockingly, 63 per cent said they had overheard or experienced sexism directed towards them. One engineer, who wished to remain anonymous, posted on Reddit that her male colleagues would inappropriately touch her, and even talk about her sexually when she was in the room.

Old habits die hard and are passed along from one generation to another, but they can be altered. Echoing Sarah Peers, another challenge would be to educate all engineers of the dangers of stereotyping, for a better and more understanding workplace.

Encouraging girls in the school

If one key discovery has been uncovered in the march for engineering gender-parity in recent years, it is that you have to inspire children young.

This goes for girls and boys, of course, but even from very early on, societal structures can send mixed messages about what girls can and cannot do, and what they are expected to do.

It all starts with reframing the study of engineering to that it encourages girls, too. Previously, local campaigns have targeted teenage girls at 16, or when they are doing their A-levels, but it needs to start much earlier. Some campaign groups are employing women engineer role models to give talks to children eight years of age. One organisation, Early Years Engineer, even talks to girls as young as three.

At the moment though, something needs to be done about the presentation of the sciences altogether, for all disciplines; for boys and girls. Just under 1 hour and 30 minutes of science is dedicated to scientific studies in primary school, which is, of course, woeful and needs to change immediately.

The benefits of gender parity in engineering, and the economy at large

To reiterate again how large the gender divide is, consider this shocking fact: there are more CEOs in corporate America named ‘James’ than there are women CEOs altogether.

If there is anyone still hesitant about opening up the engineering world to more women — even despite the current crisis in recruitment —  then perhaps they might want to consider the economic benefits.

It has been found that companies with women on the board perform 54 per cent better than without, which suggests that gender-parity does benefit from some diverse thinking in the upper echelons.

And a World Bank study in May 2018 reckoned that gender pay equality would enrich the global economy by £120 trillion. Currently, it is believed that the inequalities in gender pay, enrolment, and visibility, might even be sucking the UK of as much as 14 per cent of its wealth. A McKinsey report also found that, once women make up a third of a business’s board room members, a trickle-down effect warms the rest of the working culture to women — and there is a financial boost in this instance, too.

One final word…

We should not shy away from doing all that we can to make engineering a welcoming place for women. But we must also not ‘overcorrect’ and alienate men. That could be a ticking time-bomb for the future. We must ‘socially’ engineer a comfortable balance between the gender lines, and open up the sector for everyone, no matter their identity and background.

This article was written by Jayne Fielding of Weldwide, an architectural steel and structural engineering company based in London. 


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Seeing women in technical roles should never be unusual

woman in a meeting with her laptop, woman in a technical role

Article provided by Ellie Barrett, Global Alliances Manager, Natterbox

Like many other women, I fell into a career in technology rather than being encouraged into it.

I started in a recruitment role, and it was only then that I had a first glimpse into all of the opportunities available in the technology and engineering industries – ones that I had never heard of before.

Although excited at the prospect of finding out about this new technology world, I also became frustrated at the lack of education I had received about it from a younger age, at an important time in my life when it was expected that I decide what subjects I’d like to take and which career I might venture into.

What I wish I’d known then

Now I know that, despite stereotypes, you don’t have to be an overly technical person to work in technology and engineering – there’s a potential role for everybody. My role is in fact more revolved around relationship building with partners and customers and running exciting events to make that possible. Recently, I ran our first virtual music event which was great fun!

For me it’s important that other people get the opportunity to learn about technology at an earlier stage in their life alongside other industries and career opportunities. This needs to start with educational organisations and the careers advice offered to students. But it’s not just about women. This is about exposing all children to all of the opportunities that are available to them. We need to educate the younger generations on how exciting technology truly is. It powers the world around us and the things that we interreact with most every day, from our mobile phones, to contactless credit cards – all the things that we take for granted.

Paving the way for change

Businesses also have a key role to play in offering diversity initiatives and specifically ‘Women in Technology’ meet ups, initiatives and groups. I have been lucky enough to see a change in these kinds of events from only women attending, to also seeing male allies attending and supporting diversity in the industry. I am also proud to work for a company that has a larger than average proportion of women working in technical roles.

But examples like this are still way too few and far between. Seeing women in technical roles shouldn’t be unusual, and it’s on us to make sure it becomes the norm. That’s why days like International Women in Engineering Day are so important for providing an opportunity for us to reflect on the issue of diversity in STEM.

Ellie BarrettAbout the author

Ellie Barrett is the Global Alliances Manager at Natterbox where she’s been working in the alliances team for just under four years. Previous to her role at Natterbox, she held positions at Autotask Corp. and worked as a consultant at JDX Consulting.

Ellie holds a degree in Social Psychology from Loughborough University.


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Engineering: a world that works for everyone

It seems obvious, but if we want to design a world that is meant to work for everyone, we need women in the room. But this is rarely the case.

Most offices are five degrees too cold for women, because the formula to determine their temperature was developed in the 1960s based on the metabolic resting rate of a 40-year-old, 70kg man; women’s metabolisms are slower.

Despite research showing that women are more likely to own an iPhone than men, the average smartphone is now 5.5 inches, allowing the average man to comfortably use his device one handed – but the average woman’s hand is not much bigger than the handset itself.

These are all examples from the excellent work of feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez – most famous for campaigning for better representation of women on British banknotes – who argues that the people taking the decisions that affect us all are mostly white, able-bodied men.

This also plays out in the workplace, and notably in engineering. We naturally think of people “like us” when we design anything, but if women were better represented, this absence – and the disparities it creates in our products - would not be so evident.

So, it’s is a real concern that a recent survey revealed that more than two thirds of men in Britain believe that women now enjoy equal opportunities. By and large, women aren’t in the room, but many men seem to believe they are.

But this isn’t just a problem for British manufacturers, it’s also an opportunity.

Because the reality is that female engineers can achieve more than more equally designed products. Diverse teams don’t just design better – they’re also more productive. Quite literally, good business is good for business.

Nonetheless, we also need to acknowledge that this is not just a question of recruitment, and that there remains a problem on the supply-side.

Not only does the UK constantly need more engineers – Raytheon has vacancies for roughly 100 engineers at any given time, and it is estimated that the UK will need 1.8 million new engineers by 2025 - the UK has the lowest percentage (11 per cent of total workforce) of female engineers on the continent and only 24 per cent of UK STEM roles are currently held by women.

That’s not just because employers are stubbornly refusing to recruit thousands of excellent female candidates. It also reflects the fact that, despite many fine words, we have yet to succeed in persuading more women to enter engineering roles, or even consider careers like mine to be viable for them.

While there have been many well-intentioned initiatives to get more women in STEM, for me it’s about encouraging people who don’t necessarily have traditional engineering backgrounds to consider a career in tech.

I for one, am not your “typical engineer”. In fact, I have a language degree, but I was intrigued by the idea of coding to solve problems. For me it was just another language. I couldn’t get onto a programming course without some work experience, so I took a secretarial course and did enough work to be accepted. As soon as I started programming, I loved it.

But that’s not an opportunity available to everyone, so we need more employers to be receptive to looking beyond the “perfect candidate”.

At Raytheon, for example, our HR director will tell you that you don’t need to be a perfect fit on day one – if you bring 70 per cent to the table, we will invest in you and provide the training to bring the remaining 30 per cent – and I have made the switch between everything from manufacturing and finance, to service industries, and now cyber and intelligence.

A lot of people might think that’s unusual, but I see this broad CV as an asset. Techniques and technologies are always changing, and it can be a challenge to get out of your comfort zone and try something new – and it provides me with a varied set of experiences and a unique outlook, and the change has always kept me engaged and interested. More hiring managers should look beyond the traditional engineering CV to identify talent.

I am delighted to have a job where innovation and creativity are richly rewarded. It is an exciting time to join a sector that will change radically over the next decade and beyond, but to achieve a real cultural shift, we all need to be committed to championing gender diversity and create more opportunities for women to enter, advance and thrive in the tech sector.

My hope is that in future, female engineers won’t have to face the same trials that myself and many of my peers had to deal with. That feeling of being outnumbered when entering a lecture hall of 300 people where fewer than 10 are female; the sense of not belonging in their working environment; or being viewed as a “token” female. Those kinds of things shouldn’t be concerns for the women who follow in my footsteps, because there should be more women in the room.

Then we can really move on from a world designed for men.

About the author

Therese is a Test Engineer in Cyber and Intelligence for Raytheon.


Sara Boddy

International Women in Engineering Day: Sara Boddy shares her experience in STEM

Sara BoddySara Boddy is a Senior Director overseeing F5 Labs and Communities.

She came to F5 from Demand Media where she was the Vice President of Information Security and Business Intelligence. Sara ran the security team at Demand Media for 6 years; prior to Demand Media, she held various roles in the information security community over 11 years at Network Computing Architects and Conjungi Networks.

On International Women in Engineering Day, we speak to Sara Boddy about her experiences getting into the cybersecurity industry and her advice to aspiring students who are looking at joining this field.

When did you become interested in technology/engineering? How did you first get into the industry?

I started out in the security world back in the late 90s, three weeks after graduating high school. At that time, the practice of security was known as network security, and there weren’t university programs for it.

In fact, there were very few universities that even offered computer science degrees. I got a job as a receptionist for Conjungi Networks, which was owned by two guys in Seattle that were some of the more forward-leaning thinkers in the security space at that time. They kicked off their business by implementing Microsoft's first firewalls around 1995 and became known as security experts from that point on. We were one of the only businesses in the Seattle area doing firewall implementations, vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, incident response, etc. during that time.

They saw potential in me, and I started managing the backup tapes (which I wasn’t any good at) and, after a few years, I was doing base configurations on SonicWALL firewalls, writing statements of work and proofreading vulnerability assessments for customers. We deployed firewalls and intrusion detection systems, conducted vulnerability and risk assessments, and consulted our customers through a lot of incident response.  Things got really interesting when the company participated in a sting operation with the FBI as part of a big hacking extortion case impacting one of our customers. I think I was maybe 21 at the time and it was exciting work to me. That is when I knew I was going to be in this field for life! Four companies and 20 years later, I still work with Ray Pompon, who was the lead on that case at Conjungi.

How did you get to the position you’re in now?

The beginning of my career was in consulting, which meant I worked directly with customers on different kinds of projects – not just basic security control and implementation. I learnt how to consult around compliance, test for effectiveness of controls and define security programmes. Every way that you could fail in security, I've seen it from a consulting role, which was really good experience in the early days of my career.

After 12 years, I got a job in internal security. I stayed for seven years, progressing from a security manager up to the VP of Information Security and Business Intelligence.  The company went public while I was there, so I got to build a SOX program from the ground up. We also went through a public company split, and dozens of acquisitions. Some of our business divisions had high appetites for risk, and some were just big targets, like our domain registry and registrar businesses.  This put me in a position of constant incident response, and I started to crave something different. I think this type of situation causes a lot of security operators burn out. I moved on when one of my prior managers, who was working for F5, created the opportunity to start the F5 Labs threat intelligence team. This was very intriguing to me. I wanted to move from constant defense into proactive threat analysis and help other defenders that were experiencing the same issues I was. We just weren’t talking about it.  I was the first employee of F5 Labs and now, 4 years later, we are a team of 8 researchers that have published over 300 reports, articles and thought leadership blogs.

What is normal work week like for you?

I spend a large amount time in meetings talking about the latest research from my team. I also do my own research and writing when I find time at night. I’m always looking at large aggregated datasets to spot patterns and trends. The key is to gain insights into what the bad guys are up to prior to the day they start attacking systems. These insights help me consult with customers on the need to be proactive about security. This is all crucial work and puts businesses in a good position to defend themselves from threats by using the intel from the F5 Labs team.

Why do you think there is a lack of women in engineering and tech roles?

There’s no denying that engineering and technology is a male dominated industry. In my experience growing up, computers simply weren’t something many girls were interested in, perhaps because they weren’t marketed that way. I still think we're in a situation where computers and gaming are still very sexist worlds. I mention gaming specifically because that's how a lot of kids get passionate about computers. They've got gaming consoles and iPads and they want to figure out how they work, or they build their own gaming server. These products are still not being designed or marketed with girls in mind, and I think that contributes to a lack of interest on the female side. Plus, I don’t think there is enough awareness about what this field really is about. It’s really cool! It is constantly changing, there is never a dull moment, and you can make an impact on a global scale. People forget we depend on the internet for modern life to function, and it’s a very fragile ecosystem that needs a lot of help. We desperately need more women in this field!

Did you face any obstacles when it came to progressing in your career?

I’ve been very fortunate in my career to work for men that have always championed my successes. I've never had to fight for a promotion and I’ve always had leaders who saw potential in me and pushed me, which helped me grow. I realise not a lot of women have had the same support.

However, like every woman in this field, I’ve run into people that don't want to listen and assume you are inexperienced. No matter how many years I've been in this industry, I still have a lot of people come up to me after a talk and say things like “That was really great. You really do know what you're talking about.” Well, thank you for assuming I didn't! Or, when I’m giving a keynote speech, the expectation is that I got the opportunity because of an interest in diversity versus merit. I think the need to prove your worth or expertise is something a lot of woman in this industry grapple with. My speech coach tells me, “you have something to say, nothing to prove.” I still tell myself that before every opening line, whether it’s a meeting with a customer or a keynote. Women in STEM have to be confident and have thick skin.

How do you think businesses can make it more inclusive to women?

Continued funding from the tech industry for STEM schools is very important!

I also think we can help to overcome the gender gap by finding ways to tell cool stories about what this industry does. We need to drive early involvement at a governmental and local school level. More details about how cybersecurity makes an impact on the world would excite and inspire kids to get into the sector. It may be a while before we start seeing significant differences in terms of gender balance within the industry at all levels, but I’m positive that change is coming. With girls in primary school now learning coding, I’m hopeful we’ll have a more level playing field in years to come.

And would you say that you had a role model there anywhere who was female? Whether it be someone in a different business or someone you just don't even know?

I’ve always had really supportive managers and mentors, so I haven’t really had a reason to look for an external role model. I do think women in STEM are really good at creating community groups to congregate, talk and learn. We are very supportive of each other. There are definitely a few female CISOs that are active on social media that I pay attention to, but I don't know them personally.

What advice would you give to individuals trying to start a start either start or advance advanced their career in engineering or tech?

Getting involved in your local community is important. Knowing other people in the industry will give you a better idea of the sector and help when new job openings arise.

I think businesses in general need to get more comfortable hiring entry level employees too. There’s a common perception that if you don't have 10 to 15 years of experience, you won’t be able to solve the problem quickly, or you’re not going to be able to consult clients and implement good security controls. That is not necessarily true.

At F5 especially, we’re always on the lookout for smart, curious, ambitious people, especially those who are early on in their careers. I've had a lot of success hiring people right out of college. They’ve always been really keen to learn and grown their careers quickly, take a very creative approach to security and aren’t biased by “the way we do things”.


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Mechanical Engineering featured

Breaking Down The Barriers: Why More Women Should Consider Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

Sorria Douglas knew she wanted to go into a technology or science-related job - she just wasn't sure what exactly until she took an online questionnaire which highlighted mechanical engineering as a possible career choice.

Sorria, now 26, didn't even know what mechanical engineering was at the time, but she thought it sounded interesting.

After watching videos and contacting universities for information on their related courses, she enrolled at the University of Derby and studied Mechanical Engineering (BEng Hons). She was one of only five females on her course - out of 100! Here she shares her journey and why she thinks more women should consider a role in her field.

How I Got Into The Industry

After discovering mechanical engineering from my research, I instantly knew that this was something I wanted to do. I loved how varied the university course sounded; I’d get to learn about things like thermodynamics, thermo fluids and machine design. I also liked the fact it was rooted in maths and science, which is something I’d always enjoyed since school.

My first lecture at The University of Derby was relatively daunting as I didn’t initially see any other females. This led me to wonder if I was the only one on the four-year course, but it turns out there were five of us in total. While this might have been a concern to other people, it was not a deterrent for me. We instantly gelled and are still friends to this day!

Throughout my degree, I particularly enjoyed the problem-solving element and how the course challenged me; it was exciting to work through a variety of situations and discover the most effective solutions. In my last year, I decided to specialise in mechanical design that focused on 3D and 2D modelling machinery allowing for a better visualisation of features and components of an overall build.

I was so happy when I received 76% in my dissertation (which involved designing and developing a novel wind turbine that could be used in a rural village) and was awarded a First Class Honours for my degree overall. It really cemented the fact I’d chosen the right career path.

Graduate Recruitment in the Engineering Market

Due to the competitive nature of the graduate market, I began looking for employment during my dissertation. I felt lucky to land myself a role at a local company, but a few months into it I knew it wasn’t for me; I gave it a bit more time then left after a year.

After browsing LinkedIn one afternoon, I saw a job advertisement for mechanical design engineer role featured on STEM Graduates. Once I knew the company hiring was L.A.C. Conveyors and Automation within the Nottinghamshire area, I was really excited as the company was developing quickly and worked on a range of projects. I also liked how there was an existing pool of engineers there that I was able to learn from.

I am the only female engineer at L.A.C Conveyors and Automation. It’s something that the company raised during my second interview as they wanted to check whether I’d feel comfortable within the environment, which I appreciated. Growing up with three older brothers, two older sisters and completing a male-dominated degree, I responded with something along the lines of  ‘I’m quite used to it and I wouldn’t be bothered’.

I’ve now been working at the company for three months and not one single person has made me feel less and everybody has been warm to me!

What I Do on a Day-to-day Basis

I have a lot to learn but everyday I’m learning something new, and I’m excited about my future here. During my day-to-day role, I am usually designing components for client projects, which I was put on straight away. I loved having the extra responsibility, though it was somewhat nerve-wracking. I also ensure the designs are sent  to the manufacturer and oversee the assembly of the projects being built.

Working for such an innovative company provides a wide range of learning and progression opportunities (and equal opportunities for men and women). One thing I find really exciting about L.A.C. Conveyors and Automation is the work it does in the AI and robotics industry, which is a hot topic at the moment. The diversity of the work also provides me with the opportunity to expand my engineering knowledge to include electronics and control engineering.

Why More Women Should Consider A Career in Engineering

It’s undoubtedly an exciting time to be involved in the engineering industry. Every skill learnt is valuable and there’s a constant demand for fresh minds to keep developing ideas. 

The issue with women in engineering (or lack of) seems to be a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. Women need someone who they can look up to in the industry, but in many places that doesn’t exist. I think if we educated children more on STEM in primary and secondary school, you’d see an increase of females going into the industry. As mentioned, I didn’t even know what mechanical engineering was until I’d finished my GCSEs! At school, woodwork and bricklaying was offered, but from my experience it was always boys on those courses, which I understand can put girls off.

There’s so much you are able to do with engineering; it’s a field that’s interesting and ever-changing. If you’re into science, technology, maths, enjoy being challenged and want to make a real world impact, then engineering could be for you!

The industry itself is starting to make progress, but it’s slow. I recently spoke at a women in engineering event, for children aged 12+, and was asked a lot of questions about gender diversity in the industry and how I felt about it. It was so nice being able to respond, honestly, that I’ve never once felt out of place or treated differently by my male colleagues.

Sorria Douglas L.A.C. Conveyors and AutomationAbout the author

Sorria Douglas joined L.A.C. Conveyors and Automation in July 2019 as a Junior Mechanical Design Engineer in the Automation division. Over the last ten years, L.A.C. Conveyors and Automation has grown rapidly to become one of the country's leading and versatile conveyor companies.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.