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

Article by Siobahn Meikle, Managing Director – UK & Ireland at Eaton Corporation

Embracing people and giving them a space to be themselves can only enable ideas and innovation to shine.

When people think of STEM employers, there’s often the expectation that all our employees come from traditional STEM backgrounds and have had years and years of technical training, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I always say to my team that we want to be hiring curious thinkers, no matter their background. If we really want to innovate as an industry, we need to expand our views on what STEM talent looks like. In reality, any innovation-driven business needs a broad range of backgrounds to embed creative thinking into the team. In this way, STEM actually becomes STE[a]M, with the arts filling the gap.

To take Eaton as an example, when we’re developing new products or services, we don’t just want products that work efficiently for our customers; we need them to go above and beyond in terms of user experience too. Aesthetics plays a huge part in product or service development for exactly this reason.

However, the need to be expanding the STE[a]M talent pool goes far beyond this practical need. If you build a team with a diverse range of personal and professional backgrounds as possible, you suddenly start having much more creative solutions to problems. This is where real innovation happens. For example, if you look at the Eaton senior leadership team, you’ll see a range of backgrounds – many who have come up through the energy and power management ranks on the engineering side. But there’s also some incredible business and marketing minds, who like me, were drawn to the innovation going on in the sector and wanted to be a part of it.

As an industry, I think there’s still a huge amount that needs to be done to ensure we are recruiting from a wide a pool of talent as possible. This means that collectively, we have a big education job on our hands – most arts graduates won’t have considered a job in STEM because it will have never been presented to them as an option. This means that we could be missing out on some exceptional talent, purely because historically, we’ve not been looking in the right place. At Eaton, we have developed a program to support young people in understanding what STE[a]M opportunities look like. We also have an inclusion employee resource group (iERG) ENGAGE which, among other initiatives, drives awareness for future generations and brings to life STE[a]M activities.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have a front row seat as our team finds innovative solutions to some of the UK’s biggest energy challenges. But these solutions need creative thinking – we can’t do this without changing the way we think about recruiting into STEM careers.