Engineering should be for everyone.
It’s best when it’s practiced by everyone. Our UK Country Director Phil Hadfield sums it up well when he says, “Diversity of any kind is critical to a modern business in any discipline, but especially engineering. Having a greater cross section of our community working on applications and technical challenges means that more innovative and interesting solutions are created.”
Yet industry faces a huge challenge in terms of the representation of women, which can also be traced back to an underrepresentation in STEM subjects at school and at graduate level.
Put simply, we are not inspiring enough girls and women to pursue careers in engineering.
Transforming the Future
This is not something industry should accept. It is not inevitable. We can transform the future. International Women in Engineering Day (INWED, under the patronage of UNESCO) has chosen #transformthefuture as the theme for its 2019 campaign, and it is a great mechanism to focus minds on a vision for the future that exemplifies and benefits from a truly diverse and representative workforce.
Evangeline Anyaoha, who has a degree in electronics, recently completed a graduate training programme and is one of our account managers. Her story is one of many that should be celebrated as a success for the contribution of initiatives such as the INWED.
“I initially went into engineering because of a Women in STEM event, where, for the first time, I saw people who looked like me talking about why they went into engineering,” says Evangeline.
She believes that people, “should be encouraged to learn from each other and work together, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or age, and inspire the next generation to do the same.”
Hearing from engineers such as Evangeline is critical for improving the diversity in the future talent pool for engineering – and she now inspires young people, just as she was inspired.
Recent STEM projects in the UK show us firsthand that the skills and interests that underpin a career in engineering are equally present in all children.
If You Were an Engineer…
In fact, Primary Engineer, an organisation that our UK team is working with to help encourage the next generation of engineers, has an open competition for children of all ages that invites them to identify and resolve a problem they see in the world.
Entitled, “If you were an engineer, what would you do?” it receives tens of thousands of entries each year, from a self-selecting group of future engineers. They experience a completely even gender weighting with almost exactly 50% of entries from girls and boys.
Lynn Siggins, one of our automation engineers, is also involved as a STEM ambassador. Lynn points out that she is still often considered an “oddity.”
“Only a few weeks ago, I was complimented with, ‘It’s so nice to see a woman doing well in this job,’” says Lynn, “It was a well-meaning comment, but I, and most female engineers I know, don’t want to be considered an oddity! There is still so much more that we in industry can do to normalise the presence of women, and the valuable thinking and attributes that women bring to the problem solving and teamwork that are central to engineering.”
To transform the future, we must continue to offer role models such as Evangeline and Lynn to young people. And industry must continue to learn from the experience of women to make engineering environments welcoming to everyone.
Celebrating STEM Success
We must continue to celebrate the achievement of women in industry, and in STEM related careers more broadly. We must also train our leaders in countering the bias – whether conscious or unconscious – that can hinder ongoing progress for diversity.
The fantastic work of INWED and many other initiatives that work throughout the year to help improve diversity of all kinds in engineering are vital to engineering and vital to overcoming the huge engineering challenges of our age, from the skills gap to climate change and population growth.
As Phil Hadfield notes, “It is great that we use INWED19 as an opportunity to celebrate the success that having women in these technical roles has brought us and strive to transform the future for women in engineering for the benefit of everyone.”
If you would like to learn more about women in industry and about diversity at Rockwell Automation, here is a little recommended reading:
- Women in Engineering? Women in Engineering! a blog Lynn Siggins
- How FIRST Changed Me For The Better. It Can Change You, Too, a blog Emily Ralph, hardware engineer
- When One Group Moves Forward, Why You Must Look Back, a blog by Candace Barnes, Diversity Recruitment Program Manager
- Women: It's Time To Be Bold With Your Career, a blog by Tessa Myers, President, North America region
- Why Gender Balance in Industry Matters and What We’re Doing About It, a blog by Thomas Donato, Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, Rockwell Automation
And please don’t forget to mark the 23rd of June 2019 to celebrate INWED19 as an opportunity to #transformthefuture.