This year, 23rd June marks the sixth anniversary of International Women in Engineering Day, and 100 years of the Women’s Engineering Society. There’s no hiding from the fact that STEM careers can be a male-dominated world, and with only 15% of engineering graduates being female, it appears there’s still a lot more that can be done to encourage women into STEM.
With this in mind, seven women working in the field of engineering and technology have shared their thoughts, advice and own personal stories with Engineering Specifier as to why it is important to promote women in STEM.
Amber Johanson, VP Global Pre-sales Engineering at Zerto, shares her own experience as being a ‘female engineer’
“I believe women should pursue what they are passionate about, regardless of what field. Don’t let obstacles keep you from pursuing your dreams, because there will always be challenges.
“My first role in a leadership position, if I raised my voice, I was called emotional. It was ridiculous but it taught me that I would be held to a higher standard, that I had to be exceptionally professional. So I was. I spoke my mind, I spoke clearly, articulately and authoritatively. But most importantly, I spoke with the conviction that I deserved to have a seat at the table. I wasn’t a female engineer, I was an engineer. I wasn’t a female business leader, I was a business leader. I was fortunate to have two people on my professional journey who were crucial, one a woman and one a man, who treated me as that—an engineer and a leader.
“I have the benefit of 20 years in engineering leadership positions and have seen the evolution of the way gender disparity presents itself. But it does still present itself. Now when I hear something, it jars me a bit, because my expectation is to be treated as an equal.
“Every day, I show up knowing that I am there to do the job I was hired to do. So that’s what I do. And that’s the best advice I can provide women considering a career as an engineer: if it is your passion, pursue it. Show up every day knowing you are a capable engineer, speak clearly and definitively, and do the job you were hired to do. Set the expectation of being treated as an equal and don’t accept anything less.“
Ruth Thomson, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Mango Solutions, gives her advice to young women, as to why the world of engineering and data can be an exciting one
“In my view, there has never been a more exciting time for women to build a career in data science and data engineering. Advanced analytics and data science is a rapidly evolving field, presenting massive opportunities for organisations to derive value from data science. Companies are investing like never before, and as a result the diversity of roles available in the sector is really increasing. This is really important, considering that currently across the data profession, women make up only 26% of the workforce. My advice to young women considering entering the world of data is not to be shy - enthusiasm, confidence and pride in your work will bring reward, and encourage other women to take the same steps.”
Sophia Zheng, Product Manager at Bitglass talks about how we can begin to encourage girls into choosing STEM at a young age
“I think we can do more to foster interest in STEM subjects for girls, and this goes right back to school. I remember being chosen for a gifted and talented ‘Maths Enrichment’ class, and at one point, I was the only girl. At 10 years old, I didn’t want to be the only girl in the class and, because of that, I didn’t really want to be there at all. I don’t know if many people would have signed up voluntarily - I was certainly more interested in being in dance classes rather than extra maths classes at that time - but I think that having the option to participate is better than not having the option at all. It could have a long-term impact on seeing more girls interested in STEM subjects from a younger age.”
Bethany Allee, EVP Marketing at Cybera discusses the importance of diversity in the technology industry
“Women’s Engineering Day is a great reminder to reflect on the amazing achievements of women in the industry across history. From day one women have been a major part of technology developments, after all, the world’s first programmer was a woman! So, it is only fitting that technology provides a platform for equality when it comes to recognising everyone, regardless of gender identity.
“Diversity is so important. In the technology industry alone, it has proven to result in better business decisions, increased efficiency, and better results. Women’s Engineering Day celebrates the smart, qualified, and innovative women who continue to follow in the footsteps of the mother of programming, Ada Lovelace.”
Jeannie Barry, Director of Technology Enablement at ConnectWise shares her advice on why women shouldn’t be afraid to speak up in a male-dominated industry
"For women who are struggling in a male-dominated industry, the key is to not stop learning. It helps with maintaining confidence in any situation and allows you to prove that you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else. Don’t be afraid to speak up, either. If you have something to share, don’t hide behind someone else – that’s how you gain the respect of the room."
Joanna Hu, Principal Data Scientist at Exabeam explains why it’s important we encourage women into STEM, and how her own experiences have made her proud to be in the technology industry
"On International Women’s Engineering Day, we celebrate the many strengths of women and the perspectives they bring to technology while encouraging other women and young girls to pursue their engineering passions.
“As a data scientist, I’ve helped contribute to discoveries and solve real problems in healthcare, energy and now the cybersecurity industry. Demand for data scientists continues to rise as companies seek to learn new insights to make better decisions about everything.
“But it turns out that only about 15% of data scientists are women, and women continue to be underrepresented in technical careers. I see this as an opportunity: that gap leaves a lot of room for more women in tech. For any curious young women passionate about innovation, I encourage you to pursue a career in the field.
“It’s important to remember that women bring a unique voice to the table. Know your worth, and don’t be afraid of advancing. And no matter what roadblocks may come, never let anyone limit your potential.
“During my first business trip to Asia, I was always the only woman at meetings (5-20 people). Instead of blending in, I always voiced my opinions at meetings confidently, and was not afraid to argue with men if I believed in my ideas. I explained my reasons and gave numbers and examples. I was happy to find that I was soon taken to be an expert engineer, and my ideas were implemented into the final product.
“Our communities and companies need diversity in engineering roles because every person’s individual background also brings a new perspective that can drive the bottom line, culture and overall success of the business.
“I am proud to be in the tech industry, and feel lucky to live in the information age when both women and men are given many more opportunities than before to improve the world and impact society."
Tara O'Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft discusses the challenges that women may be facing when applying for STEM jobs
"There have always been challenges with women entering jobs that are seen as ‘for men’ – from directors all the way to the Supreme Court. Let’s face it, STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) compromises mainly of white males. People tend to hire people they recognise and identify with. This unconscious bias can foster negative attitudes and lead to damaging stereotypical behaviours that affect the education, hiring, promotion, and retention of women in STEM.
“These views, however, simply don’t stand up to the facts. Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, Forbes found. Additionally, a study from Bersin by Deloitte showed that diverse companies had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee than non-diverse companies did. Encouraging women to get into STEM ultimately starts with education – from school to the boardroom. In school, coding should be mandatory for everyone; complex problem solving and critical thinking should be part of everyday life. In the workplace, training programmes can help people understand conscious and unconscious bias; both helping people to change the way they think, and call out unfair behaviour.”