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International Women in Engineering Day: Inspiration, Challenges and Future Opportunities

Ross Kelly

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International Women in Engineering Day
On International Women in Engineering Day, DIGIT heard from STEM leaders about what sparked their initial interest in engineering.

International Women in Engineering Day (IWED) serves as a potent reminder of how far the sector has evolved, with a recent report showing that 31% of UK tech jobs are now held by women.

As we look to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, here are the thoughts of some of the female leaders within the engineering space.

These STEM leaders share with us what sparked their initial interest in the field, the challenges faced, and where future opportunities lie for the next generation of female engineers.

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 maximise 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 across industries collaborate as effortlessly as possible.

“From global enterprises to non-profit organisations, 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% 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.”


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% 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.”


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 jewellery-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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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