International Women in Engineering Day: Girls Can Too

Elementary School Science Classroom: Cute Little Girl Looks Under Microscope, Boy Uses Digital Tablet Computer to Check Information on the Internet. Teacher Observes from Behind, STEM education, gender neutral

23rd June marks the annually celebrated International Women in Engineering Day, dedicated to celebrating the work of female engineers across the globe.

2022 marks the 9th year of the annual celebrations, but still, only 16.5 per cent of engineers are women. With only a quarter of girls aged 16-18 considering a career in engineering compared to over half of boys, there is still a long way to go for equality in the industry.

To coincide with the day, WeAreTechWomen spoke to nine industry leaders to determine what businesses can be doing to support their female engineers and encourage more women and girls into the industry.

Creating a more equal world

The world of engineering encompasses a huge range of roles in the modern day – from the traditional jobs in civil and mechanical engineering to the more modern tasks involved with developing and building software. There are ample opportunities for everyone, yet women remain very outnumbered.

Fluent Commerce, Lesley Dean“Women who do find interest in engineering, and perhaps even study it, find themselves in a very male dominated, competitive environment, and often don’t stick to it,” begins Lesley Dean, Director, Enablement & Learning at Fluent Commerce. “Even for the few women that build a career in the industry, the management level is often dominated by men, which continues to deter women.

“I’ve been in this industry for more than 20 years, and in many ways I feel as though there are even fewer women in engineering.

“Women tend to take specific roles or areas of study, where the numbers are more balanced, or even predominantly women.”

Anais Urlichs, AquaAlso sharing her personal experience entering the industry, Anais Urlichs, Developer Advocate at Aqua Security, reveals how she “did not consider pursuing a career in technology until university. It didn’t seem like an option because no one had taken the time to educate me about potential careers in the sector. As a young girl, I had been discouraged from trying activities in that space. Simple conversations about the jobs and technologies that are out there would have made a huge difference for me.”

Fiona Hood, TotalmobileHowever, it is not all doom and gloom – Fiona Hood, Director of Presales at Totalmobile, stresses that the situation is improving: “The number of women coming into the STEM workforce keeps increasing year on year and WISE have estimated that by 2030, they expect to reach over 29% of women in the STEM workforce.” 

Start from the bottom

Agata Nowakowska, SkillsoftA major part of this inequality within the industry can be traced right back to the start of a girls’ career – in education. This is, therefore, the best place to start in our efforts to close the gender gap. As Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft, explains: “A big contributor to rectifying this balance is considering how engineering is taught in schools. The onus should be on finding new ways to keep girls engaged in STEM subjects throughout their academic career by providing them with the opportunity to build their skills — for example, by developing websites, learning to code, or using robotic toys.”

Ronit Polak_Exabeam“Teachers should be the first to combat the misconception that a career in engineering is a ‘man’s world’,” agrees Ronit Polak, Vice President of Engineering at Exabeam. “Many young girls have the idea that engineers code all day, which discourages them from expressing interest in the field. This is something we desperately need to change. Educating young girls about the wide range of engineering occupations might help them understand where their interests might fall inside the engineering umbrella sooner. Early exposure increases the likelihood that children, particularly girls, would pursue a career when they reach college age and beyond.”

Whilst education is a great starting point for encouraging more girls into the industry, Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Aqilla, stresses that it is important to recognise that it is not the only avenue to start an engineering career: “It is not just about academic success — there are many opportunities to encourage women into the industry without formal academic qualifications. Businesses should try to ensure they are championing women who have practical experience or simply a passion and natural affinity for engineering — and support them in their careers as engineers too. There’s more than one path to success in this sector, and we should be open to them all.”

Be supportive and flexible

Once we have succeeded in getting girls to enter the industry, it is essential that the support continues throughout their careers. Accenture and Girls who Code’s study highlights how prominent of an issue the retention of women in the sector is as it reveals 50% of women abandon technology careers by the age of 35.

Having empathy, understanding women’s commitments outside of work and being flexible to adapt to such circumstances is key to this retention, advocates Jen Lawrence, Chief People Officer at Tax Systems: “Flexible working is an essential criteria that many employees have come to expect in the current world of hybrid working. This can be a particular requirement for women, many of whom have to balance work with childcare and other responsibilities. Having the option to work around school drop off and pick up times, or even having the opportunity to take a slightly longer break in the afternoon to have some time to do the things that enables them to focus on themselves, can have a huge impact on how women view work.

“Flexibility brings enjoyment back into working hours, rather than growing to resent the restrictions of the traditional 9 to 5.”

“The great thing about software engineering is that it can be done from anywhere – businesses should utilise these benefits and offer flexibility as a standard working practice.”

Pournima Parange, Engineering Manager at ConnectWise, agrees that, “working mothers are still expected to manage their home and children, alongside their office work. The pressure to juggle both, and complete everything on time without compromise, can cause women to struggle. Organisations should support female workers and ease the pressure, providing equal opportunities for growth and encouraging women to consider what is possible in their career.”

To conclude, Dr Shirley Knowles, Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Progress, summarises: “Eradicating bias means promoting a balanced gender access to STEM subjects from school level and driving out discrimation right from the top of organisations. With the increasing importance of ESG strategy, business credibility is beginning to be judged on gender balance.

“Leaders should understand not only the risks of not being inclusive but also the huge benefits diversity and gender balanced teams bring to their business.”


Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day

International Women in Engineering Day

International Women in Engineering Day is an international awareness campaign, which raises the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to women and girls in this exciting industry.

INWED is the brainchild of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES).

This year’s theme is all about celebrating the amazing work that women engineers around the world are doing to support lives and livelihoods every day.

You can share your engineering heroes with WES through their Twitter and Instagram pages, using the hashtag #INWED22.

Here at WeAreTechWomen, we believe that women have a rightful place in the engineering, and we will continue to help increase the representation of women in STEM and share a variety of voices and opinions – and never has it been more important!

Below you will find interviews with some amazing women in STEM; and resources designed to help educate and understand.

Throughout the day, we will also be showcasing events, covering news and continuing to shine a spotlight on issues surrounding women in engineering, STEM, technology and equality.

Discover more

News & Resources


FIND MORE NEWS HERE

Inspirational Profiles


FIND MORE AMAZING WOMEN HERE
International Women in Engineering Day

Women in Engineering Day 2022: Tech leaders come together to reimagine the role of women in engineering

Women In Engineering

The age-old problem of encouraging diversity across the engineering and technology sector is not one that is set to halt anytime soon.

Traditionally, these roles have been taken by men, but in more recent years, organisations have begun to realise the importance of increasing their diversity and ensuring a balanced and reflective point of view is available.

Organisations are starting to recognise how products, services, and solutions can only appeal to the masses if they have been engineered by a team that reflect those masses, understand their pain-points and needs, and can reflect them in the final design. As we look to celebrate this year’s Women in Engineering Day, eleven women reflect on how far we’ve come and what we still have left to do if we are to encourage even more diversity in the industry.

The changing of mindsets throughout the industry

Sue-Ellen Wright, Sopra SteriaSue Ellen, Managing Director of Aerospace and Defence at Sopra Steria believes, “There needs to be a significant mindset change when we talk about a work-life balance, something we are already seeing as a direct result of the pandemic. Supporting workers to get the right balance has become a business priority – something that’s historically been more difficult for women. Women now don’t have to choose between their professional and personal lives, and we’re seeing more women in leadership and management positions leading the way for others to follow in their footsteps.

“The benefits of having a diverse workforce are clear, yet an equal gender balance is still not being achieved in many industries – especially tech and engineering. This is despite an increased focus on encouraging girls to study STEM subjects at school. In fact, the percentage of women in the UK tech industry has only grown 1.3% in the last 11 years, while women still only make up less than a fifth of the engineering workforce.

Mairead, AND DigitalMairead O’Connor, Exec for Cloud Engineering at AND Digital agrees that organisations should be working harder to diversify their teams: “With science and technology shaping every aspect of our lives, there should be endless opportunities for women in engineering. One example of an area where any contribution is valued is software development: whether it’s creating mobile apps, building infrastructure platforms or designing compelling user experiences – there’s something in software for everyone. Yet the gender-gap is currently very clear.

“I’d love to see businesses understand more about what they need from their tech roles, and work hard to get the right people in them.

“I’m keen to see more sponsorship from big companies that have graduate schemes for women or have resources for women to do tech conversion courses or similar. We also need to look at every stage of the pipeline – everything from early years, and how we’re encouraging parents to buy tech-orientated toys for their girls, through to supporting young women through university and beyond. And when children are at school, there should be tailored advice on specific technology-based roles, the skills they will need to break into their chosen career route, and the softer skills they will need to work in fast moving teams.”

Pantea Razzaghi, AutomataPantea Razzaghi, Head of Design at Automata shares her tips for female success in the sciences: “Individuals need to be more open to the idea that it’s ok to make mistakes. For women in STEM, it can feel like there’s added pressure to succeed and even outperform, when the industry is still very much male-dominated. But often we are our biggest critics, and my advice for young women that are early into their science and engineering journey will be to not sit on mistakes for too long. Scientists are trialling and erroring things in labs all the time – that’s how invention works. So don’t be afraid to experiment and learn from your mistakes too.

“Another key point to remember is to trust your instincts.”

“If you find yourself in an environment where it’s impossible to make a change, assess whether that’s the right environment for you. By putting yourself into a healthy environment, there’ll be a greater chance for you to be more influential and proactive in your role. Be selective about where you position yourself for growth, especially if you want to be ambitious in both your work and family endeavours.”

Diversifying the recruitment pool in which you search

Orna Zakaria, F5“To bring more women into engineering, businesses should be actively recruiting female students to increase the talent pool – ensuring that smart, intelligent women can rise as high as their ambitions and abilities will take them,” says Orna Zakaria, Vice President of Engineering at F5.

“I was first exposed to computers and security software during military service in Israel, before going on to study computer engineering and eventually becoming a software developer. I always believed that if I did my job diligently, advancement in my career would follow. But I have found that women need to be their own advocates for growth and progress, and start being candid about what they want and how much they want,” Zakaria explains.

Meng Muk, MatillionSook Meng Muk, Senior Director of Engineering at Matillion agrees that having a diverse team will lead to future success: “A crucial element of building a great team is incorporating diverse backgrounds and personalities and nurturing this diversity so that one day they could be doing the same with their own teams. It’s so pivotal that we encourage the next generation of women leaders in tech and engineering, and the right people need to be given the opportunities to shine and develop their own leadership skills. The only way the women leaders of the future can emerge is if they are given a sense of ownership and accountability, and part of this means letting go yourself and handing the reins over to others.

“Our hiring approach needs to be inclusive in the first place, ensuring that we are looking for candidates who are a culture “add” rather than a culture “fit” to encourage thought diversity. It is also important to educate engineering teams on unconscious bias to build up the awareness of our own biases so that we move away from stereotyping perceptions.” 

Breaking down the barriers and allowing women to become pioneers

Dr. Maria Aretoulaki, Founder & Director DialogCONNECTION Ltd & Principal Consultant Voice & Conversational AI GlobalLogic UK&I said: “Every year International Women in Engineering Day encompasses more and more disciplines from STEM fields. It’s an important milestone celebrating women who successfully drive innovation in their areas of expertise and a timely reminder and proof that working in these industries is for everyone. It’s disheartening that we still need to normalise female success in disproportionately male-dominated professions, particularly as being scientifically-minded is not a gender-specific trait.

“It’s crucial to give girls and young women concrete role models in STEM that they can look up to and eradicate any thoughts that STEM is ‘not for me’.

“In my field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) there are many exceptional women doing amazing things. From Researchers to Software Designers and Hardware Engineers building the tools of tomorrow, we are seeking input from a diverse skillset in order to actively reduce biases in these tools. I’m part of AMELIAS’s Women in AI programme and am delighted to see female executives pioneering AI within their organisations and carving out a future for women in STEM careers. We’re constantly addressing both internal barriers and legacy external biases that have held us back for so long”

Liz Parnell, RackspaceLiz Parnell, Chief Operating Officer at Rackspace agreed that although we’re continuing to see a huge drive to increase gender equality, more needs to be done: “We need to help young people to understand that it’s not a boy’s club and that women started this industry! We should be making industry heroes like Margaret Hamilton as famous as Alan Turing or Steve Jobs.

“I believe that focusing on the next generation is where we will see real transformation.”

“By speaking to children from a young age, we can encourage and help them see themselves in technology and engineering roles, and get them excited for new technologies and applications in the future, all of which will influence their future career decisions. This is something we contribute to through our Racker Resource Groups, where we help school children get a foundational understanding of the technology – from how to code to what the future of the cloud will be.”

EJ Cay, Genesys“International Women in Engineering Day is a reminder we should continue to encourage women and girls to study STEM subjects and transition these skills into the workplace,” explains EJ Cay, Vice President, UK and Ireland, Genesys. “Once they enter the workplace, we must create platforms for women that ensure their careers are not strewn with obstacles and enable them to build a fulfilling work-life balance.

“I pursued a career in technology as I was inspired by its ability to transform businesses in the way they operate, how they go to market and how they serve their customers. Technology evolves at pace, and I’ve always wanted to be part of this transformation and not left behind. The value it can bring to drive progression and development within organisations continues to excite me. I hope young women of the next generation are inspired to pursue careers in engineering and technology in the same way.”

Mentoring women throughout the industry

Roisin Wherry, GrayceRoisin Wherry, Data and Technology Specialist at Grayce reflects: “From my personal experience in the industry, I’ve seen first-hand how important it is to offer the right support to encourage more women into the field of STEM. Promoting more women into the industry, by fostering environments from school to work in which girls feel comfortable, should be a key priority for education bodies, along with businesses. Improving awareness of women’s industry networks and communities will help girls broaden their horizons of what opportunities are available and help tackle the issue of accessibility, and further down the line, help address the digital skills gap that is hindering innovation in our country.

“I believe peer-to-peer initiatives for those exploring the industry can then help create space for a diverse range of people in STEM and help begin their careers with confidence. Initiatives like mentorship programmes are also key to supporting a new generation of talent to kickstart their careers, as well as developing key skills for those already in industry to become the leaders of the future.”

Jane Saunders, Director of Engineering at Secondmind, said: “For me, the focus should be on parity and getting closer to equal numbers of men and women working in engineering. The reason we don’t have this parity is because so many women and girls get filtered out of the industry at every stage of their career and/or education.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to explore engineering and discover if it’s right for them.

“For that to work, opportunities must exist at all levels, from school to university and into the world of work.  Increasing the number of technology focused activities available to early years would help to ensure that engineering is not ruled out as an option early on. This would also show that engineering’s fun, while helping people understand what it’s about and that anyone who wants to do it, can do it.”

Jumana Al-Zubaidi, VP UK and Europe at Disperse agrees that visibility is the key to higher female representation in the industry: “Higher female representation in construction is beneficial for all parties involved.”

“Combating this starts at a young age and during early, formative years. By showcasing women thriving in male-dominated sectors, new generations can draw inspiration and believe that they too can achieve just as highly. Speaking from experience, throughout a woman’s journey into the construction sector, there is constant reinforcement that it is a male career and a man’s world. This can start at college or university, working alongside a large male majority, but rarely comes close to evening itself out at present.

“Female mentors can play a crucial role in combating this male dominance and help to make women feel more at home.”

“The value they bring by sharing their own personal experiences is far beyond what even well-meaning male mentors will be able to offer. If you don’t have a suitable mentor within your organisation, then try making a concerted effort to listen to your female staff. Hear their feedback and show that you have listened. Alternatively, look across industry for people outside your organisation that you can introduce them to, or even to other sectors – a woman’s experience and challenges in succeeding can be relatable and valuable even if not directly comparable.”


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”.


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.

 

 

 


woman wearing a white lab coat working on an engineering project, International Women in Engineering Day

International Women in Engineering Day: Everyone has a part to play

woman wearing a white lab coat working on an engineering project, International Women in Engineering Day

There are now over 50,000 women in engineering professional roles in the UK – almost double the number a decade ago.

However, the number of women in tech roles has flatlined at 16 per cent since 2009. The industry has a clear role to play in managing this disconnect and encouraging women to consider a career in engineering.

This is why days such as International Women in Engineering Day are so important. Not only is it a day for women to recognise and reflect on their success, it also provides the industry with the opportunity to make sure it continues to engage women and put measures in place to support their entry into engineering and other STEM roles.

The root of the problem

Sara Boddy

Women still only account for just over 10 per cent of engineering professionals. According to Sara Boddy, Senior Director, F5 Labs: “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.”

So, what’s the answer to this problem? Sara believes the solution lies in finding ways to tell interesting stories about what this industry does. “We need to drive early involvement at state 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.”

Creating a welcoming environment

Aine McCaugheyA supportive and nurturing environment is also essential to retaining and encouraging new talent. For Aine McCaughey, Senior Software Engineer at Civica, this is achieved through training: “When I saw an advertisement on Twitter that Code First Girls was looking for volunteers to help teach its Introduction to HTML, CSS, and JavaScript course, it was something that I couldn’t pass up. Women come from all backgrounds and career paths to take part in these courses, and in some cases, we see participants seriously consider switching careers to give tech a chance. It is incredibly humbling and exciting to be part of something that nurtures women and allows them to explore all the options that a tech career can offer them.”

Aine is currently participating in the Civica Potential programme, a leadership course that will also provide her with a qualification. “Taking this course is allowing me to develop skills such as time management, conflict resolution, and managing a budget. These skills will be hugely beneficial in equipping me to take on leadership and mentoring roles in the future and ensuring I can continue to support young professionals entering the industry.”

Natasha KiroskaWomen should also feel empowered in the workplace, and Natasha Kiroska, Solutions Engineer at IPsoft believes this can be achieved through a number of ways. “Ladies entering the profession should follow their passion and their dreams, believe in themselves, and work hard at the same time. They should gravitate only towards people, professionals, and companies that will appreciate their work and contributions, and will give them the chance to grow and prove themselves. They shouldn’t feel intimidated by anyone else’s behaviour, as we all come from different cultures and backgrounds. Finally, they should always remain professional, take every opportunity that comes their way, and enjoy their amazing STEM journey.”

International Women in Engineering Day provides women in the industry with a day to celebrate their successes, but it should also be a reminder of how much more work there is to be done to increase the number of roles held by women across the sector. From ensuring young people are educated on a career in engineering in school, all the way through to creating a nurturing working environment, the responsibility is on everyone to make sure more women consider a career in engineering.


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.

 

 

 


Women in engineering, International Women in Engineering Day

International Women in Engineering Day: Insights from 11 top female engineers

Women in engineering, International Women in Engineering Day

To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day and this year’s theme of engineering heros, we have collated the thoughts of a number of female engineers across the tech industry.

Here they share their thoughts on the challenges they’ve faced, their advice for other women and what they hope to see in the future.

Elizabeth Irzarry, Engineering Manager, Glovo:

“This year’s International Women in Engineering Day, and its theme of engineering heroes serves to both highlight the achievements of women in the space and encourage the next generation of female talent.

“At Glovo, we’re creating a culture that is diverse and ultimately accessible for everyone. This includes championing our female engineers. By doing this we hope to encourage more women to join our growing tech hubs in Spain and Poland and be a core part of scaling our engineering teams worldwide.

“Without more female role models, young women continue to view a career in STEM as one dominated by men, so this International Women in Engineering Day let’s continue to break down the status quo and empower more women to start their engineering career.”

Xiaojue Fu, Senior Data Engineer in Data & Business Intelligence, Airwallex:

“Being a woman in engineering can be challenging - there is still a view among some people that our technical skills aren't as good. But this is not the case, and young women shouldn’t be discouraged from pursuing a career in STEM. I’ve learnt that by diving into my responsibilities and demonstrating my capabilities as an engineer shows others around me I am more than qualified.

"Personally, I would love to see more women in engineering. You work on truly interesting and innovative projects. My advice to young women is, if you want to pursue a career in engineering, act on it! Don't be afraid of testing the barriers. Be confident in your own skills - challenging stereotypes in a male-dominated sector is something we must continue to encourage and bring more talented women into the field.

"At Airwallex, we’re surrounded by an extremely motivated, talented young team. This year’s theme of ‘engineering heroes’ resonates well with me. I am constantly inspired and energised by the people, and it is these people that are the true heroes and who drive me to always want to do my best.”

Areeba Yusaf, Software Engineer at Cervest:

“The more women and people from different backgrounds that enter a career in STEM, the more our field will benefit. If I could give someone considering going into engineering one piece of advice, it’d be: don’t let anyone hold you back because of your gender - your ideas and input are important and valuable!

“I'm currently helping build the world's first AI-powered Climate Intelligence platform. What I love most about my job is the creativity: I need lots of it to solve problems and build our products. Our team is truly multidisciplinary, spanning climate science, data science and advanced computing. Together, we’re helping make the world better manage the risks of climate change. The diversity of our team makes our work easier, and more fun, too. That’s why we’re celebrating this year’s International Women in Engineering Day.”

V Brennan, Regional Lead Engineering EMEA at Slack:

“The benefits of flexible working have become clear for all industries in the past year. Yet research conducted by our consortium, Future Forum, found that there has been a disproportionate burden on working mothers as they often have to juggle work with caregiving. As a mother first and engineering leader second, flexibility is key to my performance, both personally and professionally. Therefore, the message is clear: business leaders need to do more to give employees autonomy over their time and promote a healthy work-life balance.

“For me, flexible working has eradicated a three-hour commute and allowed me to take my children to school and exercise daily—I get to take care of them and myself. Embracing hybrid working and tools that enable asynchronous work levels the playing field for everyone, shifting the focus from time ‘present’ to quality and outcomes. I’ve always worked remotely at Slack, which meant that sometimes I couldn’t participate in important, in-person initiatives. Now in a remote-first world, I can be involved in major projects without sacrificing family time or work-life balance. This International Women in Engineering Day, leaders must encourage and implement a flexible culture where all employees can thrive. Championing flexibility will create an empowering and inclusive environment built for the new world of hybrid work.”

International Women in Engineering Day banner

Monica Jianu, Senior Software Engineer at Healx:

“International Women in Engineering Day is an opportunity to recognise and champion women in engineering and allied professions. As it stands, less than 13 per cent of all engineers in the UK are women, so this serves as a day to encourage and inspire young women to pursue careers in the industry.

“Although we’re seeing more girls take core-STEM subjects at GCSE and a larger proportion of women enrolling on undergraduate courses in such subjects, there is still a long way to go; more must be done to raise awareness of the disparities in STEM and break them down.

“While my background was in computer science, I was fortunate enough to undertake an industrial placement in a multi-disciplinary scientific environment during my degree. From this experience, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in this space, working alongside scientists to solve real-world problems, often (but not always!) using technology. So for those women and girls thinking about progressing in the STEM field, go for it and seize the opportunity; and for leaders in these workplaces, ensure you have an inclusive and representative work environment, or risk missing out on the next generation of talent.”

Kadi Laidoja, Lead Engineer at Pipedrive:

“Recent data reveals inclusive and diverse companies are 70% more likely to lead and capture new markets. The more diverse the company, the more great ideas and business opportunities the team can potentially come up with. On International Women in Engineering Day, we have an opportunity to celebrate one aspect of diversity - female representation in the engineering profession - highlighting the benefits of women and girls pursuing a career in this field, and how to do it!

“As Lead Engineer at Pipedrive, I am fortunate enough to work with a team of like-minded individuals on complex, challenging and rewarding projects that make a difference to the world. There’s something for everyone in engineering - no matter where your interest lies. For those thinking of pursuing a career in engineering or an allied profession, I would recommend you take the time to explore your passions and let your strengths guide you on your career path. This way you will always maximize your full potential and have an enjoyable and fulfilling career.”

Lisa Sheridan, Engineer at Envoy:

“According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, it will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress. Worse still, in the UK, fewer than 13% of all engineers are women. What are the reasons for this disparity, and the gender imbalance within the engineering sector? Lots of theories have been proffered, but one of the main causes is culture. “Engineering and allied professions are frequently perceived as ‘male-dominated fields’ and women attempting to pursue a career or progress in engineering can fall victim to unconscious bias or sexism from peers. While old habits die hard, they can and must be altered.

“At Envoy, we actively challenge the status quo and our approach to diversity and inclusion. Instead of treating diverse talent as a separate talent pool, myself and the team look at it for what it truly is - attracting and retaining the best talent possible. Actively looking inward at why we hire, promote and retain employees, ensures we avoid unconscious or conscious bias. Enabling us to focus on what matters - working in a profession that challenges and interests us, and focusing on our own abilities and what we can achieve in our career. The future of work is continually changing, but those organisations that don’t focus on creating an inclusive and diverse workforce risk losing talent and being left behind.”

Bella Kazwell, Engineering Manager at Asana:

“Engineering is a problem-solving career with limitless opportunities to learn and grow - we have the opportunity to make a real difference by designing, maintaining, and improving aspects of our day-to-day lives. At Asana we’re doing that for the world of work: We’re building a tool to help companies of all sizes work across industries collaborate as effortlessly as possible. From global enterprises to nonprofit organizations, it’s empowering to know that the work we’re doing on the engineering team helps teams stay connected, aligned and on track.

“While most people use software on a regular basis, its makers remain largely white and male, making it close to impossible to ensure that products are built with a truly global audience in mind. In fact, both in the US and the UK, 13% or less of all engineers are women – a worrying statistic and one that needs addressing quickly. On International Women in Engineering Day, I want to take the opportunity to celebrate this field and its ability to solve real-world problems, and hopefully inspire girls and women to follow suit and take up a career in engineering or an allied profession.

“In addition, imposter syndrome is on the rise, with 62 per cent of global knowledge workers having experienced it last year, a statistic that rises to  73% among women in the UK. For business leaders, to attract and retain brilliant female engineers, it’s vital to cultivate an inclusive environment to support our women in engineering, from providing coaching benefits and mentorship at every career stage.”

Charlene Marini, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Pelion:

“I grew up in a supportive family environment where engineering and computers were central to discussions and activities. Pursuing a career in engineering was a natural path. Through childhood, I was not always an eager participant in the latest project. I sometimes went off track (turning a computer board soldering project into a jewelry-making project in one instance). But over time, I found the problem solving and challenging nature of engineering to be highly motivating. Tackling a problem and producing a tangible working product as a result, be it code or a machine or other, was, and is, extremely rewarding.

“Being a female engineer is not without its challenges. I have appreciated the supportive and vibrant environment of colleagues and mentors. Technologists care about progress and impact; we all have that in common and it creates a like-minded community ready to tackle anything.

“The next generation of female engineers has an amazing opportunity to enable purpose driven technological innovation with impactful outcomes for individual and societal wellbeing. Combining engineering skills with core scientific disciplines is shifting focus from areas like communications and semiconductors to solutions that can combat climate change, transformational medical diagnosis and therapy, and enable increased natural resource efficiency.”

Bee Hayes-Thakore, Senior Director of Marketing and Partnerships at Kigen:

“I was drawn to engineering with a particular fascination with all things aeronautical, spending my idle hours around the airfields that were close to my grandmother’s home in India. My curiosity led to many warranties becoming void, which helped me appreciate that engineering was a great way to find solutions to problems through our understanding of physics and the natural world. This was in the days of hand-writing BASIC and LOGO command programs and having to wait in line to test and verify them on scarce early school computers. I’m glad that these experiences have enabled me to apply my engineering skills across aerospace, robotics and computing.

“Today technology is woven into the fabric of our lives and engineers’ work has life-changing ramifications on our collective future. The advent of machine learning, the ability to harness data, technology that shapes efficient and greener smart cities are all areas for the next generation of female engineers: I say ‘Dare mighty things!’. Let’s also not forget the many examples that have been highlighted recently showing that more female engineers result in better user-focused and bias-corrected products across all sectors.”

Chrystal Taylor, Head Geek, SolarWinds:

“After more than 10 years in IT, I still love being part of it. IT is a space of innovation, learning, surprises, creation, and challenges. Just as everyone likes to describe their local weather: if you don’t like it, wait a minute. It’s interesting, and opportunities are abundant if you look. Like most things in life, it’s better with diversity of ideas, thoughts, and opinions. There’s no right path to tech or through tech. You can go the college/university route, the certification route, or just gain experience on the job like I did. If you’re considering tech, know that there are more opportunities than ever before – especially with the ongoing digital transformation and considerations for remote workers because of the pandemic. If you get bored, burnt out, or tired of doing something in tech, learn something new and look for an opportunity to use your new skills. If you enjoy learning, as I do, and the challenge that comes with an industry that is always changing, join us as we need more female representation.”


Discover more for International Women in Engineering Day:

Engineering studentsWhat does the perfect engineering graduate look like?

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.

Read the full piece here


The importance of women in STEM, post-pandemic

Although working from home has been a positive experience in the sense of boosting productivity and enhancing work life balance, several studies have shown that female employees have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

For example, many female parents have been left feeling completely exhausted, having to juggle work with caring responsibilities such as homeschooling. According to a study from the Office for National Statistics, more women reported that home schooling was having a negative impact on their wellbeing, with 53 percent struggling compared to 45 per cent of men.

Read the full article

 


International Women in Engineering Day 2021: How has the pandemic impacted gender diversity?

coronavirus, Royal Academy of Engineering, COVID-19

Every June, the tech industry comes together to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day.

Ada Lovelace springs back onto social feeds, talented women around the globe are championed, and talk inevitably turns to what can be done to encourage more women into the sector.

Before COVID-19, the industry's male to female ratio was imbalanced by as much as 77% in favour of male directors. The pandemic has only exacerbated this. In fact, a new study of women in tech reveals:

  • Over half (57%) feel burned out at work this year, compared to just over a third (36%) of men
  • Women are nearly twice as likely as men to have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the pandemic

So what does International Women in Engineering Day mean today for leading figures in the industry today?

Why trust will drive greater success

Natasha KiroskaNatasha Kiroska, Technical Lead, Amelia, says women must be made to feel their ambition will be matched by their progress. “In my first position as a Telecom developer, I was working with a lot of internationals and seniors from all over the world and I was always trying to identify who is the best in some particular area and always trying to learn from them. We had few excellent engineers who I can consider as my mentors. Environments where trust and respect are served gain the maximum of everyone's potential. In those kinds of environments, women will be more confident and brave to pursue the next steps in the career and not be stuck on the same level.”

Eliza Dickie, Data Analyst, Grayce, believes woman are the perfect answer to the current skills gap. “As a young woman working in data engineering, I am constantly reminded of businesses’ need for data skills. I hope that this International Women in Engineering Day will reach more females and inspire them to pursue STEM education and careers, no matter their age. Starting out in my role, I didn’t realise how many sectors you can work across or how versatile it is, but more importantly how in demand data engineering professionals are!”

Celebrating female employees and showcasing creativity

Nuria Manuel, QA Technical Lead, Distributed, believes companies have a responsibility to make sure their female employees feel celebrated. “Firms can ensure women feel as though they belong in the sector by giving them access to key decision-making roles in the business and championing and celebrating key awareness days, such as International Women in Engineering Day, which helps to drive the narrative that the business is fostering a diverse environment.”

Akhila DsouzaAkhila Dsouza, Rich Web Community Lead, UK and Ireland, Cognizant Technology Services believes recognition of the value of women in engineering is slowly getting there. “There is also recognition now that teams are stronger for having women in them, especially in tech and engineering, which is often about perfecting certain things. In my opinion, women are naturally perfectionists! It has taken a lot of hard work, and I am constantly learning and improving but I am very proud to be a woman in engineering and of what I have achieved and hope others can find the same belief.”

Edel KellyEdel Kelly, Senior Manager of Development, Genesys, also highlights how rewarding a career in engineering can be today. “International Women in Engineering Day is a timely reminder that a career in this field can provide women with high levels of job satisfaction, and is well suited to those that enjoy problem solving and creativity. Individuals considering courses in computer sciences can look forward to a rewarding career upon graduation, and whether the goal is to stay closer to home or explore the world by travelling internationally, software engineering can tick that box.”

Widening skillsets and identifying role models

Clair Griffin, Projects Director, Vysiion, comments how important it is to inspire others to step outside their comfort zone and seek opportunities to grow, much like she was given the opportunity to do. “With a widening digital skills gap, especially in cyber security, the opportunities on offer should be made available for everyone. Online training courses have become more available over the past year, making it easier to extend existing skills and develop new ones. To increase digital knowledge, organisations need to recognise aligned skills, encouraging women from different areas of the business into more technical roles.”

Lisa GuessLisa Guess, SVP Global Sales Engineering at Cradlepoint believes mentorship and sponsorship are critical tools to develop and support diverse talent, as these are customisable providing equity for each individual’s needs. “For women leadership, especially in technical roles, its critical to help lift up those who may benefit from guidance. And, people are inspired by what they see: the more women in senior roles in the industry, the more those just starting out will be able to envision themselves in those roles and work towards them.”

Lynn CarterLynn Carter, Data Centre Operations Manager, Sungard AS, highlights how role models can come many forms today. “Role models don’t necessarily have to come from the industry, it is hugely beneficial for young girls to see female accomplishments in all walks of life. As someone who loves sport, I have always been inspired by the Irish Olympic athlete Sonia O'Sullivan. She has a fantastic trait of always looking forward, learning from her experiences and improving, which is something that can be adopted by women in the engineering industry. Whatever your career path, it is vital to have people that inspire you.”

Kerry FinchKerry Finch, Software Engineer, Civica, echoes this sentiment, stating a teacher played a crucial role in inspiring her into the profession she thoroughly enjoys. “I took computer science A-level and had a wonderful teacher who always said I would enjoy working in software development. After school I studied Maths at university, which included computer science modules which I thoroughly enjoyed and inspired me to start searching for jobs in software engineering so that I could use my maths degree background to continue with something I enjoyed.”

Addressing an industry imbalance

Rosie GallanczRosie Gallancz, Software Engineer at Labs, VMware Tanzu, is hopeful the current gender imbalance can be addressed soon. She concludes “What’s made the difference for me, has been seeking out supportive environments, inspiring individuals – both who I work with, but also in the wider industry – and pursuing encouragement have all been conducive to my growth as a woman in engineering. I’m hopeful that as more women enter engineering fields, and rise through the ranks, the imbalances that I saw when I started out will diminish.”

Lisa McLinLisa McLin, Global VP Alliances and Channel Chief, and Head of POWER, Rackspace Technology takes a similar stance. “On International Women in Engineering Day, I celebrate all women that are shaping the world and helping to make our planet a better, safer, more innovative and exciting place to be. We need more women engineers, which is why we should all be a voice guiding our young girls and showing them the possibilities and career opportunities available in engineering.


The importance of women in STEM post-pandemic

Happy African American building contractor and construction worker greeting with elbows during coronavirus epidemic, women in STEM, women in engineering

Although working from home has been a positive experience in the sense of boosting productivity and enhancing work life balance, several studies have shown that female employees have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

For example, many female parents have been left feeling completely exhausted, having to juggle work with caring responsibilities such as homeschooling. According to a study from the Office for National Statistics, more women reported that home schooling was having a negative impact on their wellbeing, with 53 percent struggling compared to 45 per cent of men.

Women in STEM are excelling

Despite this, many women across the country have excelled throughout the year. The pandemic has been such a turbulent time for many, yet we have seen an impressive amount of innovation, especially within the science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing industries. Professor Sarah Gilbert, for example, will go down in history as a co-inventor of one of the Covid vaccines, saving thousands of lives to-date. Megs Shah and Fairuz Ahmed have also done amazing work by creating an app to tackle the rise in gender-based violence during the pandemic. In addition, Anja Stolte is an engineering innovator who has combined the best of 3D printing to create metal parts using additive casting, helping businesses throughout the UK reduce their carbon footprint.

A positive impact

Throughout many industries, including the engineering sector, the pandemic has resulted in richer academic research through collaboration on digital platforms. The ability to work from home coupled with flexible working has given women in the industry an opportunity to see what is possible. It has resulted in greater diversity within the workforce which can lead to more creativity in engineering product solutions for all of society. Agile working has meant more inclusivity for single parents, disabled people and women taking care of older relatives. It has also allowed meetings to be more inclusive as a more diverse group of people can now attend a meeting virtually.

As we gradually ease out of the pandemic, it is great to see women using this time as a chance to innovate. It is important to note that every person is different, depending on their work and home life, and this pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. Prior to the pandemic, many women have felt as though they had to make a choice between a family or career. However, this time has hopefully given women the chance to showcase their ability, talent, and leadership skills.

Keeley Crockett headshotAbout the author

Keeley Crockett is an IEEE senior member and a Professor in Computational Intelligence in the School of Computing, Mathematics and Digital Technology at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. She is a knowledge engineer and has worked with companies to provide business rule automation with natural language interfaces using conversational agents. She leads the Computational Intelligence Lab that has established a strong international presence in its research into Conversational Agents and Adaptive Psychological Profiling and practical Ethical AI. As an ambassador for women in STEM, Keeley regularly advocates for equality and inclusion on both a regional and national basis.


Discover more for International Women in Engineering Day:

Inspirational Woman: Jen Marsden | Director of Design Engineering, SharkNinja

Jen Marsden is Director of Design Engineering at leading home technology firm SharkNinja and is originally from the Wirral, Merseyside.

From a young age she was fascinated by engineering, sparked by her Dad, who having previously worked as a Navy Engineer, would teach her about how things work.

Jen’s interests grew throughout secondary education and she gained a place to study Design Technology BA at Loughborough University, graduating in 2005.  She started her career as a junior designer at Vax, where she worked on floorcare products for 11 years, swiftly working her way up to Head of Product Development. Keen to progress her skills in a different sector, Jen joined SharkNinja as Design Manager in 2017. Over just three years, Jen has progressed to a leadership team role. During her time heading up New Product Development for the Ninja Heated category, she has led the team through the development of several hero products including the Foodi Pressure Cooker, Ninja Foodi Health Grill and Which? Best Buy’s Ninja Air Fryer.

Read Jen's full interview here


Mechanical Engineering featuredBreaking Down The Barriers: Why More Women Should Consider 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.

Read the full article here


Girls in tech, STEM

Ensuring equality for the engineering sector through education

Girls in tech, STEM

Although the engineering sector is primarily male dominated, the sector actually has the potential to be an inspirational leader in equality.

If we were to define engineering, it would come down to the capability of shaping technology, which is a creative combination. Engineering is ultimately conceiving, designing and developing technology systems, their parts, and the related vertical applications.

An industry for everyone

Like many industries, the engineering sector has significantly evolved over the last few decades. Despite this, the constant core capability of an engineer is to design and build a technological framework. This characteristic should be one of the key driving forces to strive for equality. Why? Because technology is neutral, it is neither good nor bad, and is there to be tailored to assist the needs of us humans. Therefore, a profession based on technology, and on the capability of using it in the design and development stages, starts with a great advantage. Certainly, the neutrality of technology is a great responsibility for engineers, because along with their systems, they can also shape it to benefit humanity.

Essential enginnering education

At this point, education is key to largely improving the potential for equality within the sector. There is a lot of content in the education domain which can help reach this goal. The first is recognising technology as an ally of humanity, rather than a competitor. The pandemic has clearly shown all humans do not need to be afraid of technology – because it is neutral. An example of this is with Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based robots, which are a major outcome of the amazing progress of engineering over the last few decases. The relationship between humans and AI-based robots should be more cooperative and thus based on a peer-to-peer approach. By educating younger generations on this, society will be much more educated around the benefits of technology.

Education on the above items can make the difference in the way engineers approach the ideation, design and development of systems and their vertical domains. The effects would then result almost automatically in a broader, deeper and more lasting equality in the field. There has never been a more important time for us to encourage education in this field, especially for women, who may feel that it is not as achievable.

Marina RuggieriAbout the author

Marina Ruggieri is an IEEE fellow and Full Professor of Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. She is co-founder and Chair of the Steering Board of the interdisciplinary Center for Teleinfrastructures (CTIF) at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. The Center focuses on the use of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for vertical applications (health, energy, cultural heritage, economics, law) by integrating terrestrial, air and space communications, computing, positioning and sensing.


Discover more for International Women in Engineering Day:

Kerrine Bryan featuredInspirational Woman: Kerrine Bryan | Award-winning Engineer and Founder of Butterfly Books

Kerrine Bryan – an award winning black female engineer and founder of Butterfly Books.

Kerrine has gone on to smash many glass ceilings to become respected in her field.

She was shortlisted in Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 for notable women in business and, in 2015, she won the Precious Award for outstanding woman in STEM. Kerrine is a volunteer mentor for the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET) and is an avid STEM Ambassador. It was while she was undertaking talks at various schools across the country for children about engineering and what her job entails that she became inspired to set up her independent publishing house, Butterfly Books.

In response to this, Kerrine published a series of books (My Mummy Is A Scientist, My Mummy Is An Engineer and My Mummy Is A Plumber) as a means of communicating to children a positive message about all kinds of professions, especially STEM careers, that are suffering skill gaps and diversity issues. The fourth book in the series, My Mummy Is A Farmer, launched last month – August 2018.

Read Kerrine's full interview here


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.

Read the full piece here


Two Female College Students Building Machine In Science Robotics Or Engineering Class

International Women in Engineering Day 2020: Time to #ShapeTheWorld

Two Female College Students Building Machine In Science Robotics Or Engineering Class, International Women in Engineering Day

The theme for this year’s International Women in Engineering Day is ‘shape the world’: a call to action for women (and men) to challenge gender disparity in the engineering sector.

International Women in Engineering Day is an annual event that showcases the incredible work of female engineers and it aims to encourage more people to think of engineering as a profession for all.

Currently, there is a considerable lack of female representation in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industry - with women making up just 12.37 per cent of all engineers in the UK, the lowest numbers of any country in Europe.

For young girls, whose future choices are heavily influenced by today’s experiences, lack of visible female representation fuels the misconception that engineering is a career for men wearing high-vis jackets. Whilst people are now more comfortable questioning gender bias in the industry, diversity now being a recognisable issue, there is still a long way to go before gender parity is achieved.

WeAreTheCity, spoke to six female STEM experts to learn about their own career experiences in the engineering industry, and advice for how best to #ShapeTheWorld this International Women in Engineering Day.

STEM starts at school

Imogen Smith, Content GuruSTEM subjects such as engineering are often looked at as being harder for women. This often starts in primary school, where girls can feel social pressures from peers of their local community, to pursue other avenues, like humanities and arts.

Imogen Smith, Applications Engineer at Content Guru, describes her own experience of being deterred from following her passion for mathematics during her A Levels: "At school, I was encouraged to do History or Law over Maths by our Pastoral Care Department and Head of Sixth Form. In fact, the school wasn’t planning on running the Further Maths A-level at all, as it ‘wasn’t a real A level’. But I liked how Maths is so logical, which is probably what drew me to it initially. I think I was always going to end up doing a STEM subject because both my parents have PhDs in Sciences, so I learned to love it from a young age. I consider myself very lucky in that respect."

Jacquelyn-Ferrari, ConnectWise“While I haven’t experienced the common bias against women in tech myself, I recognise the disparity between the genders in the field,” explains Jacquelyn Ferrari, Principal Software Engineer at ConnectWise. "This is largely because women are often deterred from STEM before their careers can even begin. For years, schools didn’t take steps to foster young girls’ love for these subjects, so their interest quickly dropped off. For me, playing video games sparked my interest in engineering. Now, women make up nearly half of the video gamers in the U.S., so I hope those numbers will rise.

“Even as more women enter the field, we must address these social issues and show girls that their enthusiasm can translate into rewarding careers from the start. Organisations like Girls Who Code provide outlets for young women in STEM, but we can also create new programs in our communities, dedicate personal time to educating women and ask our companies to bring resources to underserved communities.”

Make female engineers visible

Agnes Schliebitz-Ponthus, Fluent Commerce 1With girls finding themselves encouraged to pursue alternative paths from a young age, Agnes Schliebitz-Ponthus, Director Consulting at Fluent Commerce, argues that it's important to remind and encourage women and young girls to consider a career in the STEM sector. This is because, “STEM careers such as engineering are male-dominated, with misconception lying in the myth that men are for some reason better suited to these careers. Research suggests that at primary school age, girls and boys are equally excited by these topics. It is by the time they reach senior school, that gender socialisation has already done enough “damage” to impact girls’ enthusiasm for STEM.

“In my own career, I had the opportunity of taking a position at Amazon HQ in Seattle. Whilst there, I was inspired by the substantial numbers of female software engineers from a variety of backgrounds in senior roles. These women worked extremely hard and motivated me to push myself more to perfect my programming and software engineering skills. And now at Fluent Commerce, I'm surrounded by an equally inspiring team working to the common goal of helping retailers adapt quickly to the rapidly changing world of ecommerce.”

Challenge expectations, go for promotions

Agata Nowakowska, SkillsoftAgata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft, said that it’s not just about recruiting women into STEM, but challenging unconscious gender bias’ and personal expectations, so that they can progress their careers. She suggests: “If we want to see more women in these industries, we need to change how women relate to STEM subjects, and how they measure their own potential. Women are often tougher on themselves, not giving themselves the recognition they truly deserve. Research shows that from primary school age, girls are significantly less likely than boys to view themselves as capable of becoming an engineer if they wanted to. And when looking for a new role, women will apply only if they feel that they meet 95% of the job description, whereas men may apply for the role even if that percentage is much lower.

“Encouraging women to pursue a career in engineering and other STEM disciplines means challenging the unconscious bias that they are not as capable. Women should be confident in their abilities, and not be held back from going for a job, a promotion, or from asking for a pay rise.”

Accelerate change

Debra Danielson, Digital GuardianIn order to accelerate change, Debra Danielson, Chief Technology Officer & SVP of Engineering at Digital Guardian highlights the importance of supporting and participating in events and organisations that help mentor and inspire women. She explains: “Over the past decade I’ve been coaching, mentoring, and guiding women in the industry by supporting and participating in some really great organisations dedicated to leveling the playing field for women and minorities in tech, including Springboard Enterprises, Tech Girls Rock, WITI (Women in Technology International), and the Anita Borg Institute.

“Initiatives like Women in Engineering Day shine a light on how far we as an industry, have to go. At Digital Guardian I’m fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing and diverse team. I never want to work again in an organisation where I’m the “odd man out,” and I’d love it if all women had the opportunity to experience this in their careers.”

Support diversity initiatives

Samantha-Humphries Exabeam“Diversity is now a conversation and a recognisable issue in the industry - which is a step in the right direction,” concludes Samantha Humphries, Security Strategist at Exabeam. “More people are comfortable talking about it and voicing their opinion, and there are more opportunities and safe spaces for people today, which is vital.

“For the last three years, I’ve been involved in The Diana Initiative, which is one of the many conferences that take place at ‘Hacker Summer Camp’ in Las Vegas. They’ve done an amazing job of creating a safe space focused on diversity and inclusion in cybersecurity, where participants feel comfortable to network and learn, and be inspired by speakers at a conference that embraces everyone. I’m also proud to be part of the ExaGals program, which looks to support and empower the women of Exabeam, as well as women in the technology community at large, with career development, education and personal growth opportunities.

“My hope is that by supporting programs that expose and encourage women and girls to the possibilities of an education and career in tech, we can help address the skills shortage by introducing new perspectives and problem-solving skills to the industry.”

International Women in Engineering Day brings to light problems of gender disparity within the engineering sector, but it also enables us to showcase the incredible female (and male) engineers that are working hard each day to make positive change. By giving platform to their voices, and creating opportunities for more girls and women in the industry, we can help to #ShapeTheWorld.


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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