Career in STEM

Celebrating difference is the future of STE[a]M

Artile by Kim Wakelin, Engineering Manager, Power Switching and Protection, Eaton 

Over the last several years, there has been significant progress made surrounding women in STE[a]M, yet more still needs to be done.

Statistics show that since 2015, the number of women graduating in STE[a]M subjects has grown roughly 11% from 22,020 to 24,705 in 2019. This may look promising, but due to the rapid increase in the number of men graduating in these subject areas, the percentage of women in STE[a]M has fluctuated and stalled. 

I’m an Engineering Manager in the Power Switching and Protection unit at Eaton, and I am lucky enough to thoroughly enjoy my job and the industry I work in. No day is the same, and I get to work on really exciting projects involving the likes of electric vehicles and renewable energy.    

Back at school, I was particularly inquisitive about how and why things happened, so studying physics was a natural fit for me. I was one out of only two girls studying the subject, which I found incredibly intimidating at the time. After school, I went on to study Physics at Loughborough University, eventually graduating with a PhD.   

Once I had finished studying, I started to work in the electrical industry, which was the best decision I have ever made. In my first role, I was given the opportunity to take a leadership programme, which allowed me to experience the different parts of the business. This meant that when I came back to field application, I had a really good understanding of how the organisation works and how I could contribute towards making it better.  

This would be my first piece of advice for any women trying to get a job in a STE[a]M industry – take all the opportunities you can. The experience will become invaluable, maybe not straight away, but certainly later on in your career. Today, for example, I manage a team of engineers worldwide, and I know I have benefitted immensely from this opportunity.  

In my team at Eaton, we have a workforce that is made up of 20% women, which is very different from what it looked like six years ago. We have benefitted from hiring gender blind, resulting in a naturally diverse and talented workforce.  I’m also proud to work for an organisation which has set ambitious sustainability targets, including diversity & inclusion. Eaton believes in doing what matters, which includes greater gender diversity helps fuel innovation and growth. This outlook has helped us attract, retain and engage talented women from around the world, with an increasing number taking on leadership roles. 

My second and biggest piece of advice would be to celebrate and make the most of your difference in the STE[a]M industry. By following your passions and your interests, you will make a huge difference in any role you’re hired for. When we embrace the different ideas, perspectives and backgrounds that make each of us unique, we —as individuals and as an industry —are stronger.  

Women in STE[a]M have come a long way. We must continue to go further and look to each other to overcome the obstacles we might face, whether applying for a new role, studying at university or making STE[a]M subjects accessible to all. By doing this, we will help our industries to thrive and achieve things that we previously considered impossible.


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