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Real-life experiences for women thinking of becoming engineers

Men will apply for a job when they meet about 60 percent of qualifications, while women tend to apply only if they meet almost all qualifications.

Zara Rutherford hopes her round-the-world record bid will inspire even younger girls to study science and engineering or become pilots. — © AFP
Zara Rutherford hopes her round-the-world record bid will inspire even younger girls to study science and engineering or become pilots. — © AFP

Despite making up half of the U.S. workforce, women are still vastly underrepresented in the STEM sectors. This is particularly acute within engineering. According to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, female engineers represent only about 13 percent of the total engineering workforce.

June 2022 sees International Women in Engineering Day featured. Digital Journal has heard from several industry professionals on the experiences of women working within the engineering field.

First up is Shreshtha Mundra, Senior Software Engineer, Cohesity, who provides advice for young people considering entering the profession. Mundra states: “My advice to young women in engineering, today and always, is to not second-guess yourself — just go for it. Research shows that many women do not apply for positions they’re qualified to hold, with a LinkedIn study finding that women apply to a staggering 20 percent fewer jobs than men overall.”

Mundra draws on another statistic that highlights the lack of women entering the workforce: “What’s more, an internal report by Hewlett Packard found that men will apply for a job when they meet about 60 percent of qualifications, while women tend to apply only if they meet almost all qualifications.”

The roots of this rest with the education system as well as industry, as Mundra points out: “Of course, that’s only one part of the story. Within both the industry and in academia, we too often see a skewed pipeline of talent that overlooks highly qualified, capable women engineers. It’s beyond time for organizations to examine their hiring processes and work culture to ensure they’re creating opportunities for women in tech. Establishing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion councils, as well as employee resource groups, can go a long way toward opening new doors while also addressing the systemic factors behind existing biases.”

Also providing background information is Nathalie Tikwa, Engineering Manager at Nitro. Tikwa stakes stock of her position engineering and how she entered the profession: “The most significant thing I’ve learned in my career is first, to learn how to work with a diverse set of people takes openness and patience.”

She adds: “Secondly, for each project or task find the most optimal way to communicate within a team to get things done and with the stakeholders to accomplish strategic alignment. Finally, be aware of your team structure and ensure communication flows naturally – leaving minimum space for interpretation gaps.”

In terms of advice to aspiring women, Tikwa recommends: “My advice for someone looking to build a career in engineering is to jump straight into it. There are very few topics within the field that I have not been able to find high quality, open-source learning material and courses. It is an unlimited playing field, and nothing stops you from getting started on the topics you wish to explore.”

The third commentator is Kiara Oliver, Software Engineer, Tamr. Looking at the software industry, Tamr  says: “As a software engineer, I have a passion for technology and problem solving. Although I fix bugs, do code updates and troubleshoot daily, I hope to learn more about design so I am able to create my own code from the ground up. I really want to be able to improve the efficiency of my code.”

These areas of advice may help to younger women weigh up the options when considering STEM careers.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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