Tech Experts Share Their Sentiments in Celebration of Women in Engineering Day
Today marks the annual celebration of International Women in Engineering Day which serves as a celebration of the irrefutable contribution female professionals have had on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It’s a palpable reminder of why we must continue to improve the paths that embolden and support girls throughout their education.
Although women account for about half of the U.S. workforce, STEM related fields are still heavily skewed towards men, and women only account for about 27 percent of all STEM workers. Because of the fearless women who prevailed despite institutional barriers, countless young women who would have previously been denied access are now able to freely realize their potential. This International Women in Engineering Day, several female executives have provided their sentiments as they continue to build upon the success from those before them.
Ronit Polak, vice president of engineering, Exabeam
“Teachers should be the first to combat the misconception that a career in engineering is a ‘man’s world.’ 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.
It is not just on educators. Organizations must also work to establish a welcoming environment for all people, from all walks of life. Every employee, regardless of gender identification, should strive to establish an environment in which people can voice their concerns and be heard. We all come from a diverse range of backgrounds and have taken different paths to get to where we are now. Executive level and senior management would be wise to focus more on employees’ career paths to learn more about who they are and their growth targets within the organization. As a result, team leaders can provide opportunities for people to try out different tasks and positions in order to find where their skills and talents fit best. Both parties then benefit.
It has been well documented that different perspectives support better innovation — the core of the engineering way of life. When individuals within an engineering team all look the same, act the same, and come from the same backgrounds, end users may not find unique or better solutions. Encouraging women at a young age to pursue engineering provides varied perspectives to attract various customers. On this International Women in Engineering Day, I hope company leaders and educational institutions commit to paving the way for a more equal engineering environment.”
Doviana Tollaku, operations manager at Glasswall
“Engineering is a very rewarding sector that offers many avenues to grow, learn and progress, whilst also offering flexibility and variety. This should be appealing to women as much as men, but it remains a very male-dominated field. Part of this reason is likely the discriminatory nature of hiring within the sector — a lot of job postings are clearly written to attract men, which can, of course, be off-putting to women when applying for engineering jobs.
“This needs to change to reduce the gender gap in the industry and there are many more things that businesses should be doing to encourage women into the sector. Create an inclusive culture and shout about it – many women are reluctant to change jobs when they’re in their comfort zone, especially within a male-dominated industry, so the reassurance that they will be supported and empowered at work will encourage them to take on new challenges. At Glasswall, we have established the Women in Tech committee to bring those at the company together and raise the profiles of women more widely. As everyone has different ideas and inspirations, providing opportunities for women to collaborate will help solve problems, drive innovation and make a positive overall impact.
“Ultimately, my advice to women looking to enter the engineering industry is to believe in yourself. Don’t let obstacles get in your way — the second you let doubt creep in, you will want to give up. Be passionate, seek the opportunities and go for it — it will be worth it and drive you to great success.”
Annemie Vanoosterhout, release and project manager, Datadobi
“It’s crucial that both men and women make space for people of all backgrounds, races, and genders by challenging their work environments. Now that remote work is more common, organizations can use this increased flexibility to the advantage of their employees. For example, flexible hours which include working from home can particularly benefit women tasked with balancing their family life and their job responsibilities. This can then open up the door for more opportunities, especially in engineering and tech.
But, it’s not only up to organizations to challenge the status quo. As women, we must also seek to go beyond the limitations of what we, and others, say that we can do. In my own career, there have been one or two times when I was passed over for a promotion and another candidate was chosen because my supervisor didn’t think I was a good fit. I used this opportunity to work closely with the new manager and identify areas where I could excel and contribute best. Just because you aren’t accepted right away, that doesn’t mean you can’t turn the situation around and prove what you’re capable of. Sometimes, you just have to accept that people aren’t caught up with you yet.
I recently read an article that said women tend to take on too much of the burden and try too hard to change the world. But, I have to ask, why not try? If not us, then who? The only thing is, we shouldn’t be expected to do it alone.”
Abigail Hipp, engineering program manager, Imply
International Women in Engineering Day celebrates the hard working women who dedicate themselves to innovating and progressing the engineering fields. While there’s been a lot of improvement in the industry for women over the years, there’s still more that can be done. Two primary areas where I see room for growth are around mentorship and recognition for women. It can be difficult to picture yourself in a job where there aren’t many people who look like you, so the more we can provide women with these kinds of resources, the more they will believe that they can have success.
I also want to encourage women to be bold, courageous and feel confident that they have the skills, intelligence and perseverance to succeed. Find a mentor who can help you navigate your career and keep a circle of positive people around you. One great way to gain valuable experience is to volunteer your professional services for non-profit organizations—you’ll be giving back to your community while simultaneously practicing your craft.
One of my favorite things about my job is collaborating with an incredibly talented and diverse team of individuals to creatively solve problems. By bringing together diverse perspectives, your team will be able to create better products, which will benefit your company and the industry as a whole because it will open up a significant part of the customer base that shares those different perspectives.
Sylvia Zachary, cybersecurity and software director – secure communications (SCOM), Cubic Mission and Performance Solutions
“As we celebrate Women in Engineering Day, it’s important to remember that diversity is inviting everyone to the table.
Engineering curriculum teaches you critical thinking skills transferable to various career options. Having the opportunity to work across multiple business areas at Cubic, has given me the ability to explore numerous career paths in engineering and management. This priceless experience has been advantageous for me personally and professionally. To all the women chasing a career in this area, remember to agile and open to new possibilities. Who knows where it will lead you! Use your support system, mentors, allies and advocates for encouragement and constructive criticism. Believe in yourself and value your contributions. Women belong in engineering, period. You belong here.”
Olga Ivanova, senior product manager, Plutora
“One of the best ways that we can encourage more girls to take up STEM subjects at school,and more women to choose engineering and development roles as adults is to show them that there are already women following these career paths. Having good role models is vital for anyone considering a job in our field as we’re able to show that it is being done, and women shouldn’t ignore roles such as these as viable and rewarding career choices. It’s also a win-win scenario for businesses with a more even balance of men and women with multiple studies suggesting that a mixed gender group brings more diverse thinking to any project than a group that is predominantly male or female.
It’s particularly important to begin encouragement amongst girls at an early age—research from the University of Houston found that girls were more likely to take part in a computer science-related activity when they were told that both girls and boys were interested in it. When they were told that boys were more interested in it than girls, far fewer of the girls were keen to get involved, showing ‘how stereotypes can affect a sense of belonging,’ according to the researchers.
The same can be said for adults, too. It can be difficult to picture yourself in a job if you think no one like you has ever succeeded in it before. That’s why this Women in Engineering Day, I think it’s vital that women from across our industry use their experiences to encourage more women and girls to consider taking a STEM subject at school or applying for a role within the STEM industry. There’s nothing to lose and so much to gain!”
Svenja De Vos, CTO, Leaseweb Global
Despite making up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, women are still vastly underrepresented in the STEM workforce. In commemoration of Women in Engineering Day, it is critical that we teach young girls that women can be successful in engineering roles. Despite recent increases in the number of women entering an engineering or a STEM position, being a female manager in any engineering role is still not as common as it should be.
We should encourage industry leaders to speak to the younger generation about their experiences in order to persuade young people to pursue technical education or careers.
More female role models are needed to shift perceptions, and practical measures, such as training and internship opportunities, can assist to develop a positive image of the Tech industry as a pleasant and productive place to work. As our world becomes increasingly defined by technology, now is the time for the tech industry to create and elevate more female role models who can inspire young girls to follow in their footsteps.
Renata Budko, head of product, Traceable:
“I am happy to see a day dedicated to raising awareness and celebrating the achievements of women engineers. These women are a huge part of shaping the future and helping solve tomorrow’s problems.
As a woman engineer, it is a gratifying experience to show girls and young engineers why what we do is so rewarding. We can make a difference in the world with our developments and have taken it upon ourselves to tackle real-life problems. There are also so many different aspects to it, so it never gets boring.
Women in this field know our strength lies in working together to see the bigger picture. When we celebrate the achievements of women, we support equal opportunity for all. Today we acknowledge the women in engineering that are a part of the solution and are working for a brighter future for all.”
Katie Busch-Sorensen, director of project engineering, Cubic Transportation Systems
“I am very excited to see the societal shift where young girls are actively being encouraged to explore STEM activities at an early age. Along with this shift, I would love to see engineering organizations and companies play a more active role in fostering young girls’ interest in STEM—beyond just attending expos.
Companies and organizations are in a special place when it comes to providing opportunities to young girls interested in STEM. There are many ways organizations and private companies can create entry points for girls in elementary and middle school. I’m eager to see more STEM programs in schools and more affordable STEM engagements. Activities and opportunities like these can help aid in the elimination of the outdated gender bias regarding young womens’ career choices.
As a woman engineer you will have the opportunity to change how the world functions. To be a world changer, I would encourage all young girls to be curious explorers. Don’t be afraid of STEM or any other career you wish to pursue. For all you young ladies out there, get involved in as many hands-on STEM activities as you can. Attend expos, listen to technology speakers online and don’t be afraid to reach out to any professional for help.
We need equal gender representation because no-one gets it done alone in Engineering. Putting together a smart and diverse team, that is engaged with one another, is the secret recipe for success.”
Pournima Parange, Engineering Manager at ConnectWise
“There are many barriers facing women in engineering. 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. Organizations should support female workers and ease the pressure, providing equal opportunities for growth and encouraging women to consider what is possible in their careers.
These self-expectations can be a serious obstacle to women in the industry. However, there is so much to gain from a career in engineering. Every day is a new day. There are different challenges, and one has to think uniquely for resolutions. It’s important for women in the field to consider the value they bring to the table.
My advice: be innovative and chalk your own path for success. There is no formula for success in the professional world. Be proud of what you do and take extra efforts to achieve your goals. After all, the sky’s the limit.”
Lesley Dean, Director, Enablement & Learning at Fluent Commerce
“There is still much societal bias in deeply ingrained gender stereotypes. 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. 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. If there were a few more female engineering managers around, this could encourage more young women to pursue this career, believing they too can climb the ranks and have influence and recognition in this field.
Don’t get me wrong, we are moving forward, but too slowly to see a significant impact in the numbers. 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.
My advice for girls and women looking to start a career in engineering: Please do it – we need you! Don’t shy away from one of the most fun and rewarding careers on the planet. Learning and being able to build things, solve problems, and innovate with new ideas is addictive! Every day you have the opportunity to add value, solve a problem, be creative, and see the outcome of your work.
Organizations can do something with and through schools, helping to change some of the systemic problems. Actively seeking to hire more women engineers, contribute scholarships, and encourage their women engineers and leaders to share their stories, and talk more about the great things they are doing in their company, will also help to address this balance.
After all, diversity brings more rounded and more innovative outcomes. Women often have unique perspectives from men, and this can only result in better outcomes when both can come together to design and build solutions to problems.”
Swathi Desai, Staff Engineer, Acceldata
“Growing up in India, engineering was something I was drawn to the very first time I got to interact with a computer, in the 8th grade. I got to develop small programs as part of the curriculum, which was so exciting for me! It eventually led to me to choose computer sciences as my major, and along the way, I had some university professors who were an incredibly positive influence on me. At one of my first jobs, I was also lucky to meet more people who changed the way I looked at data and computer science as a whole. Today, I work on the development team for one of my company’s core products. I get to speak to customers, understand their requirements, and ensure they are incorporated into our product – something that I find extremely rewarding.
So I have been very fortunate, throughout school and in my career, to be part of environments where women in engineering are valued, and to have great mentors to help guide me. But challenges still exist for women in this field, and that’s why initiatives like International Women in Engineering Day are so important, because they encourage women to pursue STEM careers and highlight to companies the value that women bring to the engineering field.
Every woman who is part of an engineering team is there because of her talents and capabilities. My hope is that more and more women around the world get to be part of this profession that I find so fulfilling.”