Young asian female chemists with senior caucasian chemist working together in lab, looking into microscope, Women in STEM

Success in STEM and overcoming hurdles – from one woman to another

Article provided by Amy Nelson, Chair of the TCG PC Client Work Group

It is no great secret that women are disproportionately underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, under one third of the world’s researchers are female, and even women that do work in STEM careers are published less frequently and receive less pay than their male counterparts.

But it is vital that we have women working in these fields. The United Nations recognise that science and gender equality are of the utmost importance for the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, yet girls are continuously excluded from participating. What’s more, a study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) showed that companies that make an effort to diversify their management teams see more innovative products and services, and higher revenue as a result.

The large number of males in STEM careers is something I have witnessed first-hand throughout my career in cybersecurity. This being said, my experiences at Dell and Trusted Computing Group (TCG) have revealed that women are consistently breaking barriers in the technology industry, and gaining well-deserved recognition for doing so! But obviously, there are still hurdles for us to overcome.

The importance of diversity in cybersecurity

 If the last year has shown us anything, it is the importance of the internet for staying connected and allowing us to function through the strangest of times. However, the more we rely on technology, the greater the threat is for interference and attacks, and the more devastating their potential. That is why the importance of cybersecurity is more prevalent than ever, and why diversity lead innovation is vital to the industry right now.

With over 25 years of experience in the field, I have come to understand the layout of the technology landscape well. After undertaking a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Texas Tech University, I landed a job as a Component Engineer at Dell, where I have worked my way up through the company ever since. I am also the inventor or co-inventor of eight patents. I represent Dell within TCG, where I hold several positions including Chair of the TCG’s Technical Committee, and participate in a number of work groups, driving forward cybersecurity within the PC industry.

Alongside my technical contributions across the cybersecurity landscape, I am passionate about promoting technical careers as viable paths for young women. Alongside mentoring women in STEM programmes and technical roles within Dell, I have participated in Dell recruiting events at the Grace Hopper Women in Computing conference, making invaluable connections with the next generation of empowering females in our industry.

How I overcame the hurdles

One of the first questions I was asked by a new mentee related to the corporate culture - what the environment is like, whether people are collaborative or confrontational, whether there will be diversity of opinions? In short, the corporate culture is a difficult place to navigate as a woman.

Women who end up in engineering are talented and can do the work, but sometimes the biggest hurdle is how they progress and influence their career while remaining true to their core personality. There is a certain set of behaviours that are encouraged that women don't typically find a natural fit for, which means we have to work a little harder to earn our space in an arena dominated by men.

I had to find the space to be heard using my soft skills as well as technical knowledge to find that space. In a corporate environment, attributes like creative thinking, resolving conflicts and communication are fundamental, and arguably equal in importance to your specialised skills. Advancement gets progressively more difficult as candidates for promotion are identified by the outcome of self-promotion and open conversations about career goals. In my personal experience and from insights gained from mentoring other women seeking to advance, women engineers have the skills, experience and talent needed but feel uncomfortable with self-promotion and career advancement networking.

TCG provided me with an avenue to learn and develop. To be successful in TCG requires communication skills, being able to verbalize an idea succinctly and coherently is important. I have found other useful skills to be negotiation, networking skills and being able to advocate and sell your proposals. It offered me the ability to observe various communication styles, assess what was effective and what was not, and the opportunity to develop leadership skills by volunteering to co-chair work groups or edit specifications.  Participating in a standards organization has served me well in my career because this type of participation is prized by managers when looking at candidates for advancement.

My advice for women in STEM

 Some of my biggest struggles and experiences have helped me mentor and support other

women in STEM careers. Figuring it out as I went along has allowed me to recognise specific pieces of advice that I can give to young women starting out in this tough industry.

My main piece of advice would be to rely on those women around you; it is important to support each other and find allies when we’re the minority gender in the field. Seek out diverse mentors; there is a lot to learn from others’ experiences, struggles and victories, whether they’re similar or starkly different from your own.

Be confident in your career aspirations, and don’t be afraid to vocalise these. Talking to others about where you hope to be, and what you hope to achieve will open doors for you, as they will make you aware of opportunities to get there and achieve those goals. After all, those in STEM careers are working towards new ways to innovate and advance, every day.

Focus on the skills that each job will offer you to advance in your career. Don’t just consider whether you will like the position but view it in terms of where it will take you. The perfect position doesn’t exist, but each job will provide you with a specific skill set that will aid you in advancing your career.

Lastly, make yourself known to management and others in the organisation. Of course face-to-face meetings have proved difficult over the course of the last year, and while technology has offered us so much, connecting in person will always remain unparalleled. Help quieter voices be heard and get things on the table in a way that people are comfortable with, rather than allowing dominating voices to flood discussions. That’s how diversity, not just in terms of gender, race and age, but in terms of opinions, will lead to meaningful advances and innovation.

Amy NelsonAbout the author

Over the last 25 years, Amy Nelson has built up an extensive repertoire within the IT and cybersecurity space. She represents Dell within the Trusted Computing Group, where Amy holds several positions, including chair of the PC Client Work Group and TCG’s Technical Committee. Alongside her technical experience and contributions, Amy is keen to promote technology as a career for women and has served as a mentor to young women in STEM.


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.


Engineering students

What does the perfect engineering graduate look like?

Engineering students

Article provided by Sarah Acton, a metalworking fluids sales engineer, who writes for Akramatic Engineering

For some time now, there has been a bit of a disconnect between how universities and engineering companies — and even the world at large — view the ideal engineering graduate.

According to a survey by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, nearly 3 out of 4 businesses are worried about the practical, work-related skills of graduated students — and if they are able enough to enter into the work. The concern here being, that engineering graduates have plenty of academic knowledge, but in a way that doesn’t really translate well outside of educational institutions.

For engineers, this is yet another concern to be added to the pile. There is already a massive recruitment shortage in engineering. The last thing the sector needs is a skills shortage in the few who do apply.

Inexperienced graduates and the productivity gap

It is not uncommon to hear about industry professionals struggling with graduates who appear to lack the skills. I personally know an acquaintance who worked in the motorsport industry, developing engines for racing cars. His stories often involved new recruits fresh from university, who didn’t have a clue about many practical methods and protocols.

This meant that it took a while to gradually introduce students to the process, meaning up to six months of productivity was stalled by the inexperience.

If there is just one industry where you can’t fake it until you make it, it’s engineering. After all the well-put-together presentations, and all the talk of theory and analysis, inevitably an engineer will actually have to sit down and make something, using practical skills that work.

Another manifestation of this “fake it” attitude resides in graduates who think degrees from prestigious universities will automatically give them a head up when it comes to seeking employment. It won’t. And as we have been seeing, some of the top-university students are losing out to job applicants from less attractive (on paper) universities because of a lack of practical experience.

Practicality and ‘side projects’

But even if a university course itself is mostly theoretical, there’s still lots to do voluntarily within the university to strengthen a CV application.

One such thing is the Formula Student competition. It challenges students to build racing cars, and to them race them all over the world. And despite a perception that such voluntary acts are ‘side projects’ most employers will see them as integral parts to learning and development.

For example with Formula Student, what the job applicant can essentially say is that they have worked within a team of 40 or more students, with a modest project budget (or perhaps £100,000), to build an incredibly complicated, functioning vehicle.

Practical experience has been linked with better overall academic performances and, with all that learning and achievement to talk about, it’s hardly surprising that students with side projects also perform much better in interviews.

In short, the perfect engineering graduate isn’t necessarily prestigious university alumni. In fact, if anything, the opposite is true. Practical experience is king, above all, background or education.

Minorities in engineering 

What then, can we say for minorities in engineering? Both BME and women are underrepresented (with women being ‘severely’ underrepresented according to Engineering UK’s State of the Nation report). If there’s anything we can do culturally to boost their numbers — which is important given the recruitment shortfalls we are currently facing — it’s that we make sure engineering is open to everyone.

To do this we don’t even have to make changes that are terribly ambitious. We only have to speak to minorities about possibilities in the world of engineering. From personal experience, I’ve spoken to many women — engineers and non-engineers — who’ve said that engineering was never advertised to them as a possible career growing up. Engineering needs to be advertised as suitable and welcoming no matter what you look like.

It’s also true that underrepresented groups are having success in building networks to help open up the field. Networking is a great place for women and BME candidates to build up contacts, find out about opportunities, and to reframe the sector.

To summarise 

In short: the perfect engineer is one who has good practical skills. It does not matter if you attend the most expensive, most privileged, or a lesser known education centre.

In terms of physicality, how the perfect engineer “looks” shouldn’t matter. But unfortunately, it almost certainly still does in some job roles, and parts of the industry. But that is starting to change. With more inclusive outreach campaigns to younger women in education, more visible representation in the sector, and with networking for underrepresented minorities, hopefully the only thing future engineers will have to worry about is their practical experience.


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.


Digilearning GirlRise mentoring programme

Help a young person by becoming a mentor with Digilearning's GirlRise

Digilearning GirlRise mentoring programme

Can you commit 1 hour to a young person to change their lives?

The Digilearning Foundation needs mentors for young people aged 16-24 from marginalised and underrepresented groups from all over the world.

Digilearning mentors will help and guide mentees through the course and support them if or when they begin looking for work. Mentors will ideally support them for the first few months in their new roles of if they are setting up their businesses.

Why get involved?

We all have a superpower and we want our young people to understand theirs, Digilearning's programmes do just that. The journey begins in helping our youth to believe in themselves and providing them with relevant career insight and skills over 12 weeks as well as matching them with a mentor for 6 months.

Head Of BBC Diversity, author and TV Presenter June Sarpong OBE; Business Entrepreneur and Author Shaa Wasmund MBE; BBC TV Presenter Brenda Emmanus OBE; Founder of MOBO Awards Kanya King CBE and many others are volunteering their time and expertise to support the campaign.

About Digilearning

For underserved and marginalised groups in particular, technology can be a great equalizer. Digital can help bridge the economic divide, diversify and connect people and communities to greater opportunities. At Digilearning, they want to do just that! They have reached thousands of young people with digital skills in the UK and Commonwealth.

SIGN UP NOW

Have a question? Email [email protected]


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.

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BT & Code First Girls partnership

BT launches partnership with Code First Girls to close the UK gender skills gap in tech

BT & Code First Girls partnership

BT has announced a new strategic partnership with Code First Girls, to work to close the gender skills gap in the UK technology sector.

The partnership, which includes funding from BT, helps enable Code First Girls, to provide £10,000 worth of free education to every woman undertaking a course with them and to upskill upwards of 900 women. Participating women will also benefit from the expertise of BT’s world class technologists who have helped to shape the Code First Girls courses, ensuring the next generation of women in technology are equipped with the skills they need to succeed.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic risks having regressive consequences on gender equality due to the economic impact on employment and retention. To tackle this, and to boost the representation of women in technology roles, BT is committing to provide the tools, support and skills women need to excel in the fields of technology and IT. Within BT, TechWomen, an award-winning 12-month development programme, encourages and equips more women to move into senior technology jobs across the business. Meanwhile, BT’s new strategic partnership with Code First Girls will address the need for an increased pipeline of female talent with the technical skills required for tech-focused roles.

BT’s new strategic partnership includes financial support for Code First Girls to provide their services for free, along with offering support for the design and delivery of Code First Girls courses, which are available free to women in full-time education and recent graduates. These courses include nanodegrees, classes and open online courses in a range of skills from Python and SQL coding to website development.

Code First Girls’ nanodegree offering was influenced by their furtHER programme, a 4-month intensive full-time coding course for women, designed and delivered with the help of BT technologists. The aim of these courses is to boost recruitment of women from non-STEM backgrounds into technology jobs and to equip participants with the technical skills they need to begin an entry-level or graduate technology role.

Speaking about the partnership, Cathryn Ross, Group Regulatory Affairs Director at BT Group, and sponsor of BT’s TechWomen programme, said, “It is critically important that our tech sector reflects the diversity of the society it serves."

"At BT, as a leading UK technology company, we are playing our part to help close the gender skills gap in tech."

"Our TechWomen programme helps pave the way for women in technology to progress into senior roles at BT, but our work can’t stop there; we must support the next generation of women outside our organisation and before they enter the workforce too."

"We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Code First Girls and our new partnership signifies an important milestone in our shared ambition to support and encourage women into technology roles.”

Anna Brailsford, CEO at Code First Girls, added, “At a time when women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, our priority is to help women achieve fair employment in the tech industry."

"We have seen a vast increase in interest for our courses, since the first lockdown, with over 800 percent growth in registrations for classes."

"Through our new partnership with BT and expanded corporate partnerships, we’re able to provide more women than ever with the opportunities to learn coding, build confidence through mentorship and gain access to a wide range of careers in technology.”


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


Rising-Star-Awards-2021-Banner

Nominations are now open for WeAreTheCity's 2021 Rising Star Awards

Rising Star Awards 2021 Banner

WeAreTheCity is delighted to announce that nominations for our 2021 Top 100 Rising Star Awards are now open.  

NOMINATE NOW

Now in its seventh year, the Rising Star Awards are the first to focus on the UK’s female talent pipeline below management level. Our strategic goal, set in 2015, aims to showcase 1,000 outstanding women by 2022. By highlighting the accolades of these women, WeAreTheCity are not only promoting the amazing female talent that exists across the UK, but actively encouraging organisations and business leaders to invest in and recognise these women as leaders of tomorrow and individual contributors to their respective industries.

These awards will recognise and celebrate a further 100 female individual contributors from over 20 different industries that represent the leaders and role models of tomorrow. These winners will join our award’s alumni of 650 previous winners, across the UK and India.

New for this year, we are also excited to introduce a new “Global Award for Achievement” category to our awards to expand our search for global talent. This category is a female individual who works within any industry, outside of the UK, whose current position is below director level.

Alongside these categories, we are also calling for nominations for Champions, Men for Gender Balance and a Company of the Year. Our Champion award recognises the achievements of five senior individuals, of any gender, who are actively supporting the female pipeline outside of their day job. Nominations for this award are individuals who have demonstrated their commitment to gender, e.g. HeForShe supporters, network leaders, directors, MD’s & C-Suite individuals who are championing women either inside or outside their organisations.

The Men for Gender Balance category is for men who are championing women and gender balance either inside or outside their organisation. Nominees must be at least Director level (or equivalent) or above, and must demonstrate that they have actively supported the female pipeline either through their current work role or external activities.

The Company of the Year award recognises the achievements of a company who can clearly demonstrate that they are actively supporting its female talent pipeline through their initiatives, training, development programmes and internal employee relations and diversity network groups.


In previous years, the awards have been supported by an array of FTSE sponsors and this year is no different.

The 2021 Rising Star Awards are powered by the Royal Bank of Canada and supported by 3M, Accenture, Barclays, Bloomberg, the British Army, C&C Search, Cancer Research UK, Citi, CMI Women, Elysian, Goldman Sachs, GSK, Highways Sector Council, HSBC, Lloyd's Insurance, National Grid, Northern Trust, Oliver Wyman, Oxford Said Business School, and Reed Smith.

Rising Star Sponsors 2021(2)


The Rising Star Awards nominations process opens today, 11 January 2021, for all categories.

A shortlist of ten women from each industry category will be chosen by an esteemed panel of judges and will be published in April. The shortlist will then be open to a public vote. Judging for the final five winners for each category will take place with independent judges in May. The Top 100 Rising Stars will be announced on 25 May 2021.

Our 2021 winners, Rising Star alumni, judges, sponsors and supporters will be invited to a prestigious ceremony - details to be announced.

Watch our 2020 virtual awards ceremony below:


Categories including in the 2021 Rising Star Awards are as follows:

  • Rising Stars in All Other Industries
  • Rising Stars in Banking & Capital Markets, sponsored by Goldman Sachs
  • Rising Stars in Charity & Not-for-Profit, sponsored by Cancer Research UK
  • Rising Stars in Defence, sponsored by The British Army
  • Rising Stars in Digital, sponsored by Barclays
  • Rising Stars in Diversity, sponsored by Citi
  • Rising Stars in EA/PA, sponsored by C&C Search
  • Rising Stars in Education & Academia, sponsored by University of Oxford Saïd Business School
  • Rising Stars in Energy & Utilities, sponsored by National Grid
  • Rising Stars - Entrepreneurs & Start-Ups
  • Rising Stars in Healthcare, sponsored by GSK
  • Rising Stars in HR & Recruitment
  • Rising Stars in Infrastructure, Transport & Logisitics, sponsored by Highways Sector Council
  • Rising Stars in Insurance, sponsored by Lloyd's of London
  • Rising Stars in Investment Management, sponsored by Northern Trust
  • Rising Stars in Law (The Lynne Freeman Award), sponsored by Reed Smith
  • Rising Stars in Professional Services, sponsored by Oliver Wyman
  • Rising Stars in Science & Engineering, sponsored by 3M
  • Rising Stars in Technology, sponsored by Accenture
  • Rising Star Champions, sponsored by CMI Women
  • Rising Stars Company of the Year, sponsored by Bloomberg
  • Rising Stars Men For Gender Balance, sponsored by HSBC
  • Rising Stars Global Award for Achievement

Criteria for entries

  • Open to all women regardless of age
  • Nominees must be below senior management level (e.g. below Director level)
  • Nominees must be working within the industry of the category for which they are nominated
  • Nominees must be working in the UK (with the exception of the Global Award for Achievement)

How we define a Rising Star

  • Someone who is or who has the potential to be a role model in their business or sector
  • Someone who strives to achieve success and results
  • Someone who gives back or inspires others
  • Someone who is recognised by others as having the potential to become a future leader in their industry

Awards Timeline

  • Nominations open: 11 January 2021
  • Nominations close: 08 March 2021
  • Shortlist announced and public vote*: 19 April 2021
  • Public voting closes: 30 April 2021
  • Winner's announced: 25 May 2021
  • Award's ceremony: Date TBC

*There is no public vote of support for the Champion of the Year, Global Award for Achievement, Company of the Year or Men for Gender Balance award

If you have any additional questions about the awards, please contact [email protected]. For details of entry criteria, please visit here.

NOMINATE NOW


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


WeAreTechNetworks supported by The Tech Talent Charter

WeAreTechWomen launches new collaborative networking forum for Women in Tech Network leaders

WeAreTechNetworks

SUPPORTED BY

Tech Talent Charter

WeAreTechWomen are proud to launch WeAreTechNetworks, a collaborative networking forum for individuals who are leading their organisations Women in Tech networks.

WeAreTechNetworks will welcome the chairs, co-chairs and D&I leads from a broad range of industries and sectors; and allow them to share best practice and collaborate. Founding members of WeAreTechNetworks are PwC, Visa, HSBC, Barclays, Oliver Wyman, Credit Suisse and KPMG. The group will meet for the first time in January 2021. The new network is also supported by the Tech Talent Charter.

WeAreTechNetworks founding membersMembers of WeAreTechNetworks benefit from four networking and learning events a year with topical speakers, network hacks, gender and tech headlines and speed networking with other members. Members contribute to an annual company-wide survey, which details their strategic objectives, how they are engaging male allies and the governance of their networks.

Members also benefit from hotline access to a WeAreTechNetworks co-ordinator for advice, networking matching and connections; bonus networking events; gain access to other relevant events and activities; and share the latest insights, front-line experiences and best practices.

 

 

Debbie Forster, WeAreTechNetworksWeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen have extensive experience in bringing together the chairs and co-chairs of networks to share best practice and collaborate. In 2009, CEO, Vanessa Vallely OBE launched Gender Networks, the network for women’s network leaders. This group has now grown to 100 FTSE member firms and over 400 members. Gender Networks members have benefited from cross company collaborations, sharing of ideas and best practice as well as hearing from speakers such as Baroness Goudie, June Sarpong OBE, RtH Nicky Morgan, Jo Swinson, Sadiq Khan, Shola Mos Shogbamimu and Dr Helen Pankhurst CBE.

WeAreTechNetworks’ members comprise of individuals who already chair or co-chair a corporate or public sector women in tech network; and individuals who are looking to set up a women in tech network within their organisations.

Find out more, register your interest or become a member here.


Computer Weekly Top 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Marija Butkovic, Sheree Atcheson & Sophie Deen amongst those named on the 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech list

Computer Weekly Top 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Marija Butkovic, Sheree Atcheson & Sophie Deen are amongst those named on Computer Weekly's 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech list.

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, CEO, founder and head stemette at social enterprise Stemettes topped the list for 2020. Stemettes is an award-winning social enterprise inspiring the next generation of females into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics roles via a series of events and opportunities. In three years 7,000 girls across the UK, Ireland and Europe have had attended Stemette experiences. As part of the initiative she has also Co-Founded Outbox Incubator: the worlds first tech incubator for teenage girls. She sits on the boards of Redfield Asset Management, Urban Development Music Foundation and Inspirational YOU. She has previously worked at Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers.

Imafidon recevied an MBE in 2017 for her services to STEM.

In September 2020, Imafidon joined the Hamilton Commission, a research project set up by race car driver Lewis Hamilton to help find and break down barriers to recruitment for black people in UK motorsport.

Now in its ninth year, the 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech list, was introduced in 2012 to make female role models in the sector more visible and accessible.

While the original list in 2012 featured only 25 women, it was expanded in 2015 to include 50 women, going on to also introduce annual lists of Rising Stars and a Hall of Fame to ensure as many women in the sector as possible are given recognition for their contribution to the tech sector and the advancement of diversity and inclusion in the IT industry.

Also recognised in the list were Marija Butkovic, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables; Sophie Deen, CEO, Bright Little Labs; Sheree Atcheson,director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Peakon; June Angelides, venture capitalist, Samos Investments; Liz Williams, CEO, FutureDotNow; Anne Boden, CEO, Starling Bank; and Carrie Anne Philbin, director of education, Raspberry Pi Foundation.

You can view the full list here.


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


Not just London - Why we need to support women in tech nationally.

Watch and listen to Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, TechUK president, on why is it important to support women in tech #notjustlondon.

Question posed by Ortis Deley, Host and presenter of the Channel 5 show, The Gadget show "Why is it important to support women in tech not only in London but the whole of the UK." Filmed live at the Leadership Panel Discussion at the WeAreTechWomen Conference 2019.

Because we do a lot in London so we should share it, you know we are a whole community and not just London. But I think we are reaching a point in technology where it is a noble cause where we should have equality.

https://youtu.be/NbeqrFs9Ge8

 


Science

The truth about women in science and engineering

 

Elrica Degirmen, is a second year physics student at the University of Leeds. Here she provides her account of being a woman in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

scienceSomehow, I stumbled upon an article on the WeAreTheCity’s website where they reported that the IET has complained that only nine per cent of the engineering workforce are women.

It is not that difficult to browse through the internet to see the supposed reasons as to why the figure is seen to be so low. However, I think the issue runs deeper than women are put off from having a career in engineering or because there is a lack of female role models in the industry. In fact, I think it has nothing to do with that.

I am currently a physics undergraduate and I personally want to work in the fusion sector one day, be it in plasma physics, fusion materials or nuclear engineering. It is a multi-disciplinary field and I wanted to study physics for the solid foundation that I believed would help me enter into one of these three pathways into the future, irrespective of what I eventually decide in the end. As someone who has already had undergraduate research experience in national laboratories, I fail to accept the notion that the sector is not welcoming to women. This assumption that the scientific and engineering industries are off-putting to women is lacking in evidence and arguably counter-productive as it reinforces impressionable teenagers that STEM industries are sexist, when they are not.

I have a possible explanation as to the low rates of women in engineering. The normal way for one to obtain experience is to apply for engineering internships. It should be mentioned that an accredited engineering degree gives you the specific skills and knowledge that allows you to be chartered – providing you eventually fulfill all the academic requirements. Many summer internships stipulate that you must be studying an engineering subject, which automatically closes off potential applicants who may have the ambition and attitude to succeed in an engineering career, but just happened to have studied another STEM subject at eighteen. It is far harder to be chartered as an engineer if you studied a different subject at the age of eighteen.

I am aware that the Institute of Physics provides its own pathway to be chartered in engineering if you have studied physics, but even so, one has to get into the engineering industry in the first place. Thus, how does a science graduate compete with someone who already has studied engineering in the first place? The answer it seems, is pretty difficult. There are no obvious or even formalised schemes for those who are studying quantitative-heavy degrees to pursue an engineering career.

Engineering is worse compared to other sciences in terms of the proportion of women studying it. If women do not choose to study engineering, they are almost closing off their options later in life to be chartered as an engineer. Even if one decides to pursue postgraduate studies in engineering where their science qualifications are accepted, then there is the issue of finances. Engineering programmes are relatively more expensive to run, and the £10k loan recently introduced by the government can only go so far. Perhaps more funding should be directed for postgraduate engineering courses that allow science graduates to “convert”.

I feel that the profession closes off potential people, irrespective of gender, who may want to have a career in engineering, but just happened to have studied physics or computer science or even mathematics as their undergraduate degree.

I personally do not subscribe to identity politics, and I do not care about the proportions of women in whatever industry so long as the best people are working in the jobs. However, I feel it is a major distortion of the reality to suggest that women do not want to work in engineering. Even if people decide later on to pursue an engineering career, they find that it is too late because of the choices that they made whilst applying for university during school.

Perhaps it is the case that that there is a lack of awareness of what engineering is, or the value of studying engineering at university. Even so, I do not think that specific efforts to increase uptake from pupils to study engineering deals with the specific issue of many students whereby they later decide they want to do engineering.

I know that I will find it much harder to get into engineering (if I choose that as my desired career path). Not because I am female, but because I just happen to have studied physics as opposed to engineering at eighteen. Considering that only a relatively small percentage of women even take up engineering in the first place, I am shocked that the figure is as high as 9% personally as for a wide variety of factors not all those who study engineering will go on to pursue an engineering career.

In my opinion, if you are going to complain about the lack of women in the industry, you have to understand the real reasons why the statistics are as they are, rather than assuming it is owing to false claims of sexism or misogyny. Competition for a restricted number of engineering internships (which for many people is the first step to enter an engineering career) is already competitive by those who have studied engineering. The reality is that it is difficult for anyone, but if women do not make the right A-level choices at sixteen, then greatly hinder their chances of studying science and engineering at eighteen. I think it would help if there were a wider variety of routes for young people to enter engineering. I appreciate the need for vocational training schemes such as apprenticeships, and I fully support it but even then, you have to decide early on to pursue this. There seems to be only one academic route, in other words choosing to study engineering at university during sixth form.

I think that the IET, and other professional engineering institutions, should develop alternative routes for chartership for those who have not studied engineering but have studied a scientific subject. School outreach programmes are not enough, and talking about the perceived sexism in these industries is counter-productive.

 

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Deborah O'Neill featured

Inspirational Woman: Deborah O’Neill | Partner and Head of Digital, UK & Ireland, Oliver Wyman

 

deborah-oneil-featuredIn her time at global management consultancy Oliver Wyman, Deborah has supported some of the world’s biggest financial institutions and developed a passion around user centricity for business reporting. She is an alumnus of Imperial College, London, and recently co-authored an article for the Harvard Business Review entitled “Using Data to Strengthen Your Connections to Customers.” Deborah is actively engaged in mentoring the next generation of tech experts and is using her role as a senior team member in Oliver Wyman Digital to help support the female talent pipeline. You can follow her on Twitter: @DeborahLabsOW

You’re very open that you specialised in technology relatively recently. What advice do you give to other people and women in particular – considering a career change into digital and technology sectors?

The first thing is to just believe in yourself and that you can do it. Seriously. It’s that simple. It’s a common anecdote that from a list of ten criteria on a job description, men consider meeting five of them as a reason to apply, whereas similarly skilled women view “just” five out of ten as not being enough to support their application.

In my case, I’d found myself working more and more on data, systems, and tech issues, which I really enjoyed. I decided that would be where I would focus my career, incorporating my other strengths of managing projects and clients and being a fast learner and a team player. The business – Oliver Wyman – recognized my potential and supported my move to our technology arm – Oliver Wyman Digital – because of those skills. So, my advice is to go for the jobs you want and, when you get them (which you will), consider moving away from lists of requirements in the job descriptions you write.

My second recommendation is to ask for help and feedback and proactively seek out a mentor. Many people are great at giving constructive advice on how you can develop but wouldn't think to share their experience unless invited to. If your company doesn’t run a mentoring program, you can encourage them to join the 30% Club who provide mentoring for women in business.

Don’t forget that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t have to be in the same industry as you, or be female, or even be more senior than you. Sometimes the best advice I received was from peers or junior members of my team who have a different perspective on how I could be more effective in my role. Giving colleagues permission to share their constructive feedback and suggestions builds trust within a team and benefits the business overall.

According to Madeleine Albright, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” What should senior women be doing more of?

Possibly the best advice I was ever given was “lead from the centre, not the top.” Senior women shouldn’t be afraid of acknowledging the gaps in their experience or skill sets and using this insight to surround themselves with people who fill these gaps and elevate the whole team. This approach is far more effective than leading from the top as a means of control. I’ve seen both styles in practice – and I know which one I’m constantly striving for.

Where possible, I think senior women should offer themselves as mentors for other women and advocate for them. It’s also worth remembering that just because they made it to a leadership position, it may not be as easy for others – for a wide range of circumstances – and senior women could be using their privilege of seniority to champion a fairer playing field.

In recruitment situations, I would ask all interviewers to understand the motivations of each candidate. For example, are they looking for a particular development opportunity, and do you believe the role will provide the appropriate challenge? People who are appropriately challenged and motivated will flourish, which is what you need if you want to create a high-performing team.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

I’m incredibly lucky with the company I work for and the way they supported me moving from financial services consulting into Oliver Wyman Digital. They’ve taken a conscious decision to enable and encourage employees to work in ways that work best for them. Whether this is reducing hours to start a family or a business, they’ve recognized that the best talent may not want to work a five-day week with standard office hours and they’ve adapted accordingly. This has given me a lot of reassurance about my future and that I don’t have to trade off career success against other personal ambitions.

This means that in ten years’ time, I can see myself doing anything I want to do – whatever that may be.

If you had to tweet your top three career tips, what would they be?

In your #career, don’t hesitate to ask for feedback, & for help if needed. It's a strength not a weakness.

Remember: other people DO want you to succeed. #mentoring #career

Go for it! Bring your uniqueness to the challenges you face. #diversity