Engineering: A Diverse Sector | Jo Foster | Women In STEM

IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Ying Wan LohSponsored by:

Jo Foster

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at the Institution of Engineering and Technology 

From space exploration and autonomous vehicles, to advancements in healthcare and sustainable energy – engineers are inventing new ways to do things and finding solutions that will make this world a better place. 

The opportunities are endless, and the industry is always evolving, but there is still a lack of understanding about what engineering and technology truly entails and the sector is suffering from a huge image problem. The stereotype of a typical engineer among school children is a white, middle-aged man.

Our research, conducted among a representative sample of 9 to 16-year-olds, revealed they see an engineer as white (51%), middle aged (31%) male (67%), with glasses (40%) and a beard (27%). In terms of the tools of the trade “he” might have at his disposal, 44% thought an engineer would wear a hard hat and 40% thought he’d wear a high-vis jacket. 

Sadly, less than one in ten (9%) children imagine engineers to be a woman. And, it seems this outdated stereotyping is being passed down from their parents. 

Challenging the stereotype 

To dispel these stereotypes, the Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards celebrates women working in modern engineering. As well as highlighting female engineering talent, these awards seek to find role models who can help address the UK science and engineering skills crisis by promoting engineering careers to more girls and women. Just 12% of those working in engineering occupations are women (source: Engineering UK).

I am proud to be recognised through this prestigious award and I hope to use it as a positive catalyst to drive for more women and diversity in engineering.

Ying Wan Loh, IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2019 

In December, Ying Wan Loh was named IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2019 (pictured). As a Manufacturing Engineer at Rolls-Royce, she analyses production data and carries out improvement projects to reduce defects. Ying also looks after the complex aerospace supply chain to ensure the company achieve quality and delivery on time. 

Where a career in STEM can take you 

Ying is, today, calling on her fellow young female engineers across the UK to enter the 2020 awards.

She said: “Winning the YWE award has provided me with a national and international platform to share my story. I have since gained some great exposure and expanded my professional network considerably.

“I’ve had the opportunity to appear on TV, radio and podcasts, as well as being invited to speak at various events across Europe. The opportunities I’ve had already demonstrates how winning the award has substantially increased the reach and impact of my STEM engagements and volunteering. I’ve also connected with many high-achieving and inspiring women in the industry, both within my company and externally.

“Overall, it has been a wonderful experience so far which I will always be grateful for. Engineering is dynamic and exciting, and I am so glad to be in a position to share this with students and wider society. I am proud to be recognised through this prestigious award and I hope to use it as a positive catalyst to drive for more women and diversity in engineering.”

The deadline for entries to the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards is 5 July 2020. For more information, visit:
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is one of the world’s largest engineering bodies to promote engineering, particularly among young people, helping them to see that engineering provides an exciting, creative and rewarding career option. 

Author: Jo Foster

“We’re proud to be women in the STEM sector”

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Two women with STEM careers reveal how they entered their respective industries, what it’s like to work in a male-dominated sector, and how to attract more women to STEM roles.

Louise McDonnell

Mechanical Engineer, RWE Generation UK, Pembroke Power Station

Louise has worked for RWE since 2006. She is currently part of a five-strong mechanical engineering team at Pembroke Power Station, one of the largest power stations of its kind in Europe. 

“I don’t think people used to talk about ‘STEM’ when I was at school, but I certainly wasn’t made to feel as though I was studying boys’ subjects” she says. 

“That only dawned on me when I was doing a degree in mechanical engineering with aeronautics. 10% of my fellow students were women!”

How has your STEM background helped in your role?

You do need a background in STEM to do what I do — although there are various routes into the industry. 

I’ve worked with people who came in through the apprenticeship scheme, for instance. I came in via the graduate scheme and did placements all around the company.

What’s it like to work in a male-dominated industry?

Out of the 90 staff here, eight are women. Of those, only three are in technical roles. I haven’t had to deal with any issues, and I feel proud to be a female engineer. 

Occasionally if I’m running a meeting, I might notice that eye contact is more prominent among the men. But once they understand your position, that changes.

How can more women be attracted into the industry? 

I have two young boys, so we watch a LOT of CBeebies, and I’m impressed by how many strong female characters there are. 

That’s important for children to see. Plus, parents have a huge role to play if children need help or encouragement with STEM subjects.

Why should women aspire to a STEM career?

It’s so varied. For example, mechanical engineering is needed in every industry — food, clothing, petrochemicals, energy, etc. Being a mechanical engineer is a ticket to everywhere.

Abhi Selvarajah

Freight Logistics Operator, RWE Supply & Trading

Abhi — part of a 15-strong team — has been a Freight Logistics Operator for 15 months. Her role is to manage the operation and optimisation of six ships in the RWE fleet. 

Abhi started her career with the company in a freight-related back office role. “Doing that job made me realise that I wanted to be on the frontlines managing ships and making decisions,” she says. “For example, does the ship need fuel? Does it need to carry cargo? Is it sailing at the right speed?” 

She now aims to take shipping exams and become a more senior member of the team.

Can you chart your career development?

I took chemistry, maths, further maths and economics at A Level, and then did a finance degree. 

After my second year at university I took a (non-freight) placement opportunity with RWE. That went well, and I was made aware that there would be a role for me with the company after graduation.

What’s it like to work in a male-dominated industry?

Some of the people I’m in contact with by phone or email obviously find it hard to understand that a woman is managing ships! 

We do have to get more women into freight operation. Ultimately, though, I’m lucky because seven of us in my team are female, including my manager.

Do you feel you have to prove yourself more than a man does?

Yes, to a certain extent — although I want my work to speak for itself. 

On the other hand, there are women in senior roles in the company, so I’ve never felt restricted in what I’m capable of achieving.

How important are female role models?

Every manager I’ve ever had at RWE has been a woman. In my placement year it was so important for me to work with a high-flying female. It made me realise the same opportunities she had would be open to me.

Author: Tony Greenway

Diversity is the key to future success

iStock / Getty Images Plus Sponsored by:

Sonia GonCalves

ASIC Digital Design Manager, based in Portugal

Mari Puhakka

Software Engineering Manager, based in Finland

Exciting initiatives have been rolled out to promote women in engineering.

Diversity and inclusion is one of the most crucial aspects in STEM. 

Sonia GonCalves, ASIC Digital Design Manager, has been curious about ‘how to make things’ since she was a child. She works at Synopsys in Portugal.

After graduating from the University of Algarve in Portugal with a degree in engineering – just one of two girls – she went to work in electronics.

“I started as a digital designer in 2008,” she says, “and I was happy to be in a big team. It was tough at the beginning as I was a girl in a man’s world. You had to be extra willing to show you could do it. 

“It is very exciting to be always on the edge of technology and innovation”

Sonia is now involved in building a new product involving connecting neurons in the brains of robots which is very challenging but exciting. “At Synopsys, I progressed to manager in 2016, and have had the opportunity to invest and grow my team.”

“I work with people from diverse cultures – Egypt, India, Canada etc. You respect each other’s culture and adapt,” she says.

Training and learning throughout your career is important, but we should look into building the diversity already among young people and in schools.

Sonia has been involved in the company’s Women in Leadership programme. “We gathered a lot of women, brainstormed ideas, attended conferences and ran peer coaching meetings.”

“We closely collaborate with universities, creating internships, summer jobs, master projects and a special contest for girls – ‘Girls Go Engineering’. I also visit universities in Lisbon and speak about what I do,” she says.

Learning to code

Mari Puhakka is a Software Engineering Manager at the Software Integrity Group. “Ten years ago, I was working for a research group at university,” she says. 

“It was then that I learned to code. There was a job opening that matched my skills at that time. I had recently graduated and chose the path of going with the industry instead of an academic career.”

In the last decade, Mari has grown from a hands-on software developer to becoming part of the management team, which has quite different requirements. 

Importance of training and development 

“I have been offered training and other development opportunities for that path,” she says. “The ‘Ignite Your Impact’ programme I participate in brings together women in leadership roles from the whole company across the globe to exchange ideas, offer support and do training together in a safe environment. It has been valuable considering we are in a highly male-dominated business and it is not guaranteed you meet women on daily basis.”

“Training and learning throughout your career is important, but we should look into building the diversity already among young people and in schools,” says Mari. “Technology is so broad that there are considerably more touch points today for girls to get interested in. We must do better at explaining the connection between basic mathematics, English and physics skills, to the possible application areas.”

“Quite often, software industry teams are organised into smaller responsibility areas,” she says. “My team, on the other hand, works on the full stack, so to speak. We have a team of diverse gender and nationalities.”

“I believe that kind of diversity helps to keep up conversation and forces us to consider and brainstorm before reaching a solid decision.”

“When recruiting, I try to build on the diversity already in the job description and we strive to have a diverse shortlist of candidates for every job we are recruiting for. It is very easy to stay in a bubble with people with same education, gender and similar career paths, but it’s far more rewarding to build an inclusive culture for diverse perspectives.”

Key facts about Synopsys

We value diversity, different perspectives, and new ideas and embrace everyone from enthusiastic learners to seasoned innovators who share our vision for the world of Smart Everything. We work to strengthen communities, encourage employee engagement and inspire a new generation of technology leaders. We are committed to making technology smarter and safer, from silicon to software.

Author: Virginia Blackburn

“It’s amazing to use innovative technology to make dramatic changes in real life”

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Artem PeretiatkoSponsored by:

Yuhe Qin

Maths and Stats at UCL, post grad at Imperial 

I’m Yuhe, and I am a data analyst in the Global Data Department at Bloomberg. 

Mathematics has always been my favourite subject. I enjoy resolving problems through different approaches and am attracted by how models can resolve complicated real-life scenarios.

I studied Mathematics and Statistical Science for my bachelor’s degree and Risk Management and Financial Engineering for my Master’s. 

The analytical, critical thinking and problem-solving skills obtained in my degree are transferable in many different areas. 

Team-working skills through many collaborative projects, presentation skills and project management skills can also be applied in most roles. 

STEM degrees are great because they give you more insight into the latest technologies and innovations. 

They make sure you can adapt to the rapid changes within technology, and help you to be more rational when dealing with many problems in real life.

STEM degrees are great because they give you more insight into the latest technologies and innovations.

Maths is a good starting point if you want to be a data analyst 

To become a data analyst, I really recommend learning mathematics and statistics. 

You will gain a firm understanding of how to interpret and analyse data, and the ability to refine your logic to solve problems. 

Data can be easily misinterpreted, so it is important to be sceptical and think through before reaching a final logic.

I also recommend learning some programming languages, such as python or R. They are very useful when conducting analysis on large datasets and improve the efficiency of analysis. 

The application of skills is also very important. Instead of focusing on more theoretical knowledge, I recommend learning by doing. 

Being a woman working in data isn’t something I tend to notice

Being a woman working in data isn’t something I tend to notice at Bloomberg. Men and women are given equal opportunities and everyone’s ideas are appreciated and supported. Now, I just want to leverage my skills to bring great impact in this industry. I want to improve on my technical skills further and work on projects with innovative technology – it is developing so fast!

Author: Yuhe Qin

Tackling gender diversity in cyber security

iStock / Getty Images Plus / GaudiLabSponsored by:

James Gray

Managing Director, Cyber & Intelligence 

Gender diversity must be more than just a buzzword that is thrown around; it needs to result in action – particularly within the cyber security sector.

Women only make up 11% of the global cyber workforce. Here in the UK, the problem is even more acute, with the proportion of women in the sector standing at just 8%, one of the world’s lowest.

As the demand for individuals with cyber security skills grows, organisations are depriving themselves of a considerable talent pool if they fail to recruit more women into cyber roles. 

Gender balanced teams create diversity of thought, which in turn leads to greater innovation. 

As hackers are constantly innovating and finding new ways to cause trouble, cyber professionals must be equally creative to counter their threats. 

So why does there continue to be a gender gap in the sector?

Making people aware of a cyber career

According to Emily and Kara, two of Raytheon UK’s Software Engineers, people may not be aware of the career opportunities that are available in cyber security, especially for those with the correct skills, regardless of background. 

“Often, people don’t choose a certain career path simply because they are not aware it exists and the work has never been demonstrated to them”, says Emily. 

Initiatives like the Women in Cyber Academy (WICA) are crucial in highlighting opportunities for women like Kara, who may not have considered a cyber career in the first place. 

“I am very new to software engineering, having spent many years working in academic research. I was considering career options outside of academia.

“I saw a post on social media advertising the ‘Women in Cyber Academy’”, she says. “It sounded like a fantastic opportunity.

“I got in touch with the organisers and was eventually invited to an engagement day to meet with potential employers. Following a very intensive 12-week course, I started work at Raytheon straight after”. 

Always be willing to learn

Despite initiatives such as WICA, the cyber sector can continue to feel daunting, and a distant aspiration for some. 

Often, it’s a perceived lack of technical experience, formal qualifications or contacts – these are the typical barriers that can hold people back from landing their dream cyber security role.

However, according to Emily, this should not put people off from applying for a cyber role

“My advice would be to just go for it! It is an extremely interesting and challenging career choice. Every day is different with new challenges and there are great opportunities to learn and use some exciting technologies.” 

This enthusiasm must be combined with a passion for learning how technology works and evolves, as well as how people interact with it. 

Many of the best software developers are self-taught, for example, using the likes of YouTube to experiment on their own personal projects and practicing how to code

“My main advice is to keep your tech skills up to scratch, make sure you have a good grasp of the fundamentals and show interest in engineering by completing your own side projects or learning in your spare time”, Emily adds. 

“As a software engineer, a good understanding of programming principles and being proficient in at least one programming language will really help you get started in this industry.”

Addressing the gender gap is a collective effort

So, on this International Women in Engineering Day, it is vital for us to consider the skills that everyone can offer in countering cyber threats, regardless of background, gender or experience. 

Whether you are more artistic or a scientific, your talent could be crucial in keeping the UK cyberspace safe and secure. 


With more than 30 years of experience in cyber, Raytheon UK protects critical information and infrastructure from complex threats and vulnerabilities – allowing customers to unlock the true value of their data and information. Our services encompass the following business areas: national security cyber; defence intelligence, space systems and digital. 

Author: James Gray

What it really means to be a female engineer

Image supplied by CumminsSponsored by:

Dawn S Whiting 

Global Project Leader – Engineering, Cummins Generator Technologies

Devna Devang Chauhan

Applied Controls – Technical Leader, Cummins Engine

Engineers can make a meaningful impact on the world, say two women from the industry, who are passionate about what they do and keen to attract more women to the sector.

Dawn Whiting believes that she has the best job in the world. As an engineer, she’s travelled the globe to work on projects in China, India, Brazil and the US, among other countries. 

“I don’t think people understand that this is where an engineering career can take you,” says Whiting. 

“The stereotype is that engineers are car mechanics, or someone who fixes your washing machine. Actually, we may have to work in high pressure environments and I’ve certainly been involved in some serious and challenging engineering issues. But I love that I’m always doing different projects and no two problems are the same.” 

There’s never a dull day in engineering, says Whiting. Plus, she admits it’s a good feeling to know that what she does can make a meaningful impact on the world.

As Global Project Leader – Engineering at Cummins Inc, Whiting is currently leading a team investigating new design innovations. 

Yet she started her career at the company as an apprentice, 22 years ago. “I knew I wanted to do something in science and had an interest in vintage transportation,” she says. “After college, the idea of earning while I was learning really worked for me.”

Now I understand I have a responsibility to promote women in the industry, because female role models are so important.

Dawn S Whiting 

Taking a lead from female role models

Back then, Whiting admits she wanted “to fit in and be one of the guys” in what was (and still is) a male-dominated industry. 

“But a few years later, I realised there was so much support among my colleagues for who I was and what I was doing. That led me to find out more about the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. 

“Now I understand I have a responsibility to promote women in the industry because female role models are so important.”

Whiting now regularly talks in schools about what it’s like to be a woman in engineering and is a highly visible member of the company’s Leading Inclusion for Technical group, which champions different cultures, backgrounds, religions, genders and sexualities. 

“Going into schools is a chance to educate children, parents and teachers about what we do, and showcase some of the cool stuff,” she says.

Of course, in a cutting-edge engineering role, you have to keep ahead of the knowledge curve so that your career can reach even greater heights. 

Take Whiting. In 2007, she graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, funded by the company; and she’s now studying for her Master of Science in Global Product Development and Management. 

“Technology is changing really fast,” she explains. “As an engineer you have to keep up with practical learning and learn to apply it in your work.”

“This is an ever-changing field”

Devna Devang Chauhan, Applied Controls – Technical Leader at Cummins, agrees with Whiting’s assessment. 

“This is an ever-changing field,” she says. “That’s what keeps us on our toes and what makes it so exciting. There’s always so much to learn and so many challenges to solve.”

Chauhan believes that while talent is important, personal integrity is highly prized by companies in the industry. 

“I’ve been involved in a lot of recruitment drives for Cummins,” she says. “The great thing is that we’re always concentrating on the core skills a person has, rather than how much they know on a technical level.”

Chauhan, who joined Cummins as a graduate in 2014, manages a team involved in developing the software that controls the engines the company designs and manufactures. 

Like Whiting, she is a strong advocate for women in engineering and heavily involved in networking activities. 

“Engaging girls and young women is one of the best ways to attract more females into engineering,” she says. 

“If they can see, talk and listen to someone who is just like them, they’ll want to find out more about the job and what it’s like to work as a woman in STEM. That will help change mindsets.”

For any young woman thinking of studying STEM or going into a STEM career, Chauhan’s advice is: go for it — and don’t give up if things get tough. “In today’s society, things are changing for women,” she says. “It’s happening in STEM, too, slowly and steadily — but it ishappening. So if you’re always open to learning and happy to take on new challenges, then you can achieve anything you want in this industry.”

Author: Tony Greenway

“You don’t have to know what career you want; STEM skills are very transferable”

iStock / Getty Images Plus / StockRocketSponsored by:

Azalea Micottis

Chemistry at Imperial

I’m Azalea and I work within the Bloomberg Analytics department, where I specialise in equity functionalities. 

I often collaborate across other teams and departments, to help make a positive impact for our clients. 

I love that I have the flexibility to propose innovative ideas that can benefit the department – and then implement and manage these projects myself. 

For anyone that has a passion for the sciences, I would strongly recommend a STEM degree.

My Dad inspired me into STEM

The main figure who has inspired me academically, throughout my childhood and today, is my Dad. So, encouraging females in these kinds of areas from a young age might help inspire more women to consider STEM career pathways, too. 

My degree in chemistry provided me with a skill set that was transferable outside of the subject. 

The main concepts lent heavily on logic, a solid analytical background, and the ability to interpret and deliver results. 

Today, these are all skills that I draw from in my day-to-day work.

Be open about the career opportunities out there

My STEM degree at university allowed me to build on my analytical capabilities, which can be transferred across a wide range of other disciplines. 

Not everyone knows exactly what kind of career they intend on following, but having a background in a STEM subject can help unlock doors outside of academia in many different areas. 

For anyone that has a passion for the sciences, I would strongly recommend a STEM degree . 

Deciding the career path can be very tricky and can take a lot of time! I have ended up on a pathway that I did not anticipate initially, but this was mostly down to being open to opportunities and applying for different types of internships, work experience, and networking to deepen my understanding of the industries that interested me. 

I learned about my current role at Bloomberg through LinkedIn. I would give this advice to anyone looking to follow a similar career to my own.

I enjoy working with financial data, and in the future, can see myself developing my skills in Python and transitioning to a more quantitative role.

Author: Azalea Micottis

“I’m passionate about data and problem-solving”

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Maria Teixeira

Maths and Stats at Universidade de Aveiro (PRT)

I’m Maria and I’m a data specialist in the Power and Gas Global Data team at Bloomberg. 

My role is to ensure the discoverability, high quality and completeness of Bloomberg’s data. The core of my work is to optimise our processes and product knowledge.

A passion for innovation, collaboration and sustainability drives our teams and individuals. 

I’m always looking for ways to improve our data and processes, in order to innovate and make them more sustainable. 

This can only be achieved as a team. The diversity of people and how well we collaborate makes all the difference.

A STEM degree opens the door to a range of career opportunities. It’s the perfect starting point to follow almost any career that you may want to pursue.

I love how much knowledge data gives you

I aim to become a leader of a data or product team, where I can play a key role in the decision-making process and help others to develop. 

I’ve always been passionate about data because there’s so much knowledge you can derive from it. 

My advice is: do your research. Find a job role that suits your skills and interests, and don’t be afraid to apply for it. 

Go the extra mile, speak to friends or someone on LinkedIn; try to learn as much as you can about the role you are interested in.

How I got here

I have a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a Master’s in Mathematics and Applications. The desire to explore and develop my problem-solving skills was my main motivator. 

I developed a wide set of skills that gave me a solid foundation to pursue a variety of different opportunities. 

Critical thinking, problem solving and programming skills are definitely my top three, as they are highly valuable in the job market.

A STEM degree opens the door to a range of career opportunities. It’s the perfect starting point to follow almost any career that you may want to pursue.

Author: Maria Teixeira

Insights from three software engineers

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Katie Worton 

Graduate Engineer, Cambridge 

Why did you choose a degree in computer science?

I really enjoy problem solving and thinking outside the box. A computer science degree gives you the skill set to solve difficult problems creatively, so it was the perfect choice for me!

What are your key responsibilities? 

Writing test code and debugging CPU (central processing unit) designs. Since I am still learning my way around, I’ve learnt not to be afraid to ask for help when I am stuck. I am surrounded by many clever people, so this is a great hands-on way for me to learn.

Would you recommend a career in engineering and technology?

Yes, I would recommend a career in engineering and technology – it is an extremely rewarding career path, with many different areas to learn and explore!

How are you helping to shape the future?

In my job, I test and debug new CPU designs, helping the designers fix problems. This ensures the CPUs that surround us in our day-to-day lives are both reliable and secure.

Outside of work, I take part in volunteering opportunities such as Code First: Girls – a not-for-profit group who teach women programming skills. Here I can give back, teaching and inspiring the next generation of women in tech!

Caitlin Buchan 

Software Engineering Manager – IOT at Arm, Glasgow 

With a degree in biology with genetics, how did your career pathway lead you to becoming a software engineering manager?

My biology dissertation was lab-based and, halfway through, I realised it wasn’t for me. I then had a few years’ jumping between a variety of jobs (running a B&B, lifeguard, student loans assessor) before deciding to go back to university to move into technology. 

This allowed me to get a job as a junior software developer, and from there I worked my way up to software engineering manager.

Why did you decide you wanted to move into technology?

I wanted a career in which I could learn something new every day and I felt that the speed at which technology changes would ensure that I always had a new challenge to take on.

Is it a challenge to be a woman in science, technology, engineering and maths?

At times it can be, mostly because, typically, software development is a male dominated environment, and people subconsciously deal best with other people who are like them. I think the more diverse a workplace, the better the environment is for everyone.

How are you helping to shape the future?

I think the way I’m trying to help shape the future is by creating an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable and confident enough to speak up to share their ideas and opinions. 

I believe that there’s no such thing as a stupid question and, in fact, some questions that you may feel silly asking could be the key to a new solution or a different direction.

Nadia Noormohamed 

Graduate Software Engineer – Manchester 

What do you most enjoy about your role as a software engineer?

I am always solving problems, researching and learning new things. It’s an exciting feeling for me when getting closer to a solution and even more so, when it’s found. 

Usually, problems can be solved in more than one way, allowing me to have the freedom to be creative and have a sense of ownership over the solution. 

How did your computer science degree help with your career path?

I was introduced to many different areas of computer science during my degree, which helped me to figure out my interests. 

I opted to study modules that sounded novel to me, like quantum computing. I found that I really enjoyed programming and learning about how computers work at the lower levels of abstraction, which is why I decided to work for Arm.

What advice would you give girls choosing a degree?

Choose a degree based on what interests you. Think about where your strengths lie and the job prospects that come with the degree. 

If you are interested in studying a STEM degree, I fully recommend it. The job prospects are usually very good and they open up doors to many rewarding jobs – definitely look into computer science!

How are you helping to shape the future?

I like to help with events involving younger people to inspire and excite them about technology.

I get the motivation to help with these sessions to make young girls realise technology is something they could be passionate about! |  Twitter: @LifeAtArm |  Instagram: @arm | #LifeAtArm #WeAreArm

Author: Arm

“I’m cleaning up the Thames for future generations”

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Bianca Wheeler (pictured)

Construction Engineer

As a young girl Bianca Wheeler dreamt of being an architect or chef, but once she’d had a taste of a major construction project, her mind was made up.

“I’ve just always been interested in design and the way things are built,” says the 21-year-old.

Following schoolwork experience on Crossrail, Bianca chose subjects to put her on a path into construction. 

She started as a Civil Engineering Apprentice on Tideway, four days a week on site, and one attending college. 

Bianca is now a Construction Engineer on the ‘super sewer,’ a 25km-long tunnel being constructed beneath the River Thames to help tackle the millions of tonnes of raw sewage that overflow into London’s waterway each year.

The tunnel will intercept these overspills, cleaning up the river for future generations. 

Coinciding with Women in Engineering Day, Tideway is highlighting those who have inspired their own inspirational women on this vast project. 

Every day is different and there are always new challenges to overcome.

Bianca chose Fiona Keenaghan who was one of the two first apprentices to join the Tideway project, which has since awarded over 100 apprenticeships. 

Fiona became a mentor from day one in 2016 when the women were paired together as buddies.

“I admired Fiona’s confidence both on-site and in the office, and aspired to one day be like that,” commented Bianca. 

“Fiona has always been a great role model and I look forward to our paths crossing again.” 

For now, Bianca is revelling in her role. “Every day is different and there are always new challenges to overcome,” she adds.

Discover more about the inspirational women building the Super Sewer.  Follow Tideway on social media: @TidewayLondon and discover our educational resources at people can chat directly with women working on the project at I’m a Scientist’s Summer Zone on June 23.  

Author: Bianca Wheeler

Ways to forge a fascinating career in engineering

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Martinan

Elizabeth Donnelly

CEO, Women’s Engineering Society

Engineering offers a range of opportunities across a vast array of sectors. More women are needed in these roles so that their talents can help build a more sustainable world.

At the last count, there were 6.1 million engineering jobs in the UK — but only 12.3% of the people in those jobs were female. 

It’s high time that this depressing statistic improved, says Elizabeth Donnelly, CEO of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), a charity and a professional network of women engineers. 

Part of the problem is that engineering is usually associated with the tired stereotype of oily rags, wrenches and hard hats. Yet it’s a subject that offers myriad opportunities across a range of industries, insists Donnelly. 

“Engineers can be found in every sector, from architecture and biomedicine to IT and sportswear development,” she says. “Engineering is everywhere. You name it, and it probably has a form of engineering behind it.”

Female engineers needed to help deliver a more sustainable future

The truth is that women’s talents are needed now more than ever, particularly if the United Nation’s member states are to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) they’ve identified for a better, more sustainable world. 

These include providing clean water and sanitation for all; funding projects that provide basic infrastructure; and creating sustainable cities and communities. 

Delivering these goals by 2030 is going to require top-flight engineering skills from both men and women, notes Donnelly. 

“Engineers are innovative problem-solvers,” she says. “They’re the ones devising solutions to the challenges the world is facing, be it climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic.”

At the last count, there were 6.1 million engineering jobs in the UK — but only 12.3% of the people in those jobs were female. 

A recent article from the World Economic Forum points out that “building a more sustainable world will require more women engineers” — a sentiment that Donnelly wholeheartedly agrees with. After all, it makes no sense to exclude half of the available talent pool because of their gender. 

“Women bring a different perspective to any situation,” she says. “I heard one example recently of a tool-setting machine that took all day to reset because it was so heavy. So, a group of female engineers got together and developed a system that allowed the machine to be reset in 90 minutes without any heavy lifting. They came at the problem from a different direction. 

“More women are needed in engineering because the joy of a balanced team is that it offers both perspectives and more co-operative working.”

The available pathways into engineering careers are changing

Donnelly hopes that more visible female role models will explode gender stereotypes and demonstrate to young women that engineering is a rewarding career option. 

She points to high achieving women such as Natalie Desty, a maritime engineer; Jessica Noble, a jewellery designer; and Abbie Hutty, a spacecraft structures engineer. 

All have different stories about how they found their way into their respective industries.

“Generally, the route into engineering has been via university with a general engineering or a speciality engineering subject, and then a specialist post-grad,” says Donnelly. But that’s changing. 

“What we’re finding now, particularly with the government’s Apprenticeship Levy, is that more young people are joining organisations as apprentices and then doing degrees as part of their apprenticeships. That means they’re earning so won’t end up in debt, and they get hands-on experience, which companies like.”

Donnelly would advise any young woman to seriously consider an engineering career, whatever pathway they take. 

“I’d tell them to go for it,” she says. “The industry is still hiring and can offer salaries of around £50,000 – £60,000. That’s something you don’t see in many other professions, so it’s incredibly lucrative. Plus, because you’re continually solving different problems, every day is different.”

Author: Tony Greenway

Women are needed to solve society’s greatest challenges

Helen Wollaston 

Chief Executive, WISE, the campaign for gender balance in STEM 

WISE, the campaign for gender balance in STEM, looks at why diversity and inclusion are more important than ever. 

The recent global pandemic highlights the vital role science, technology, engineering and mathematics play in the world today. 

From scientists working on life-saving tests and vaccines, IT specialists providing technology to allow us to stay in touch, technicians and engineers manufacturing medical equipment, to epidemiologists and data scientists advising the Government – never before have STEM professionals been more in the public eye. 

One million women now work in STEM

In 2019, we reached the significant milestone of one million women working in STEM roles in the UK. 

By sharing stories of women using science and technology in real life situations, such as saving lives at risk during a pandemic, we can inspire and motivate more girls and women to choose STEM, so that they too can make a difference. 

Working together to reach girls

This year we launched our ‘1 of the million’ women campaign, putting faces and stories to the women in the UK STEM workforce. 

Women can join the campaign by uploading a photo and a few words about their job for sharing on social media. 

My Skills My Life

They can also add their profile to the ‘My Skills My Life’ online careers platform, which helps girls discover their personality type and explore exciting opportunities in STEM that match their strengths, skills and interests. 

STEM ambassadors use My Skills My Life to inspire girls as part of their outreach and engagement activities. 

Last year, WISE hosted ‘STEM Accord’, a partnership to co-ordinate STEM activities to reach more girls and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Next year, via our involvement in a ‘Gender Balance in Computing’ project, led by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we will train women working in tech to trial My Skills My Life in primary schools. 

Only by working in partnership, evaluating the impact of our programmes and scaling up those that are proven to make a positive difference will we make progress at the scale and pace required. 

‘Ten Steps’ to transform organisational culture 

We must also support employers in developing workplace cultures where everyone is made to feel welcome, supported and able to fulfil their potential. 

WISE’s ‘Ten Steps’ address the underlying issues for women in a traditionally male-dominated organisational culture. 

We offer practical advice and guidance to employers, based on real examples, on the steps they can take to transform their culture. 

Organisations may be doing one or two of the right things, but what makes a real difference is a systematic approach throughout the business, led from the top. 

Companies using the Ten Steps for three to four years show an average improvement of 10% recruitment, retention and progression of women into leadership roles. 

The benefit of training programmes

We are seeing an encouraging growth in returner and retraining programmes from employers, which attract a lot of interest from women and work well for employers seeking to attract and retain talented people. 

We would like to see training programmes available to women across the UK who would like to move into a more technical role – which means connecting education, training and work placements on a national scale. 

In the long-term, we need to improve the relevance and appeal of computing to girls at an early age. In the short-term, to fill immediate skills shortages, we should offer more accessible pathways for women to retrain to work in technology. 

Technology qualifications open doors to work anywhere and provide exciting opportunities to work on projects that have such a fundamental impact on all our lives – whether it be a global pandemic or climate change. 

Author: Helen Wollaston

Why AI needs female developers

Photo credit: Getty imagesSponsored by:

Carolyn Herzog 

EVP General Counsel and Chair of AI Ethics Working Group, Arm 

Artificial intelligence is already making key decisions in our lives – whether it’s your smartphone adjusting its lens to snap the ideal portrait, or vehicle making an automated emergency stop – we need methods to identify and place limits on bias in computer algorithms.

New applications for AI are created every day – an exciting frontier for technologists. But new developments in AI have also illuminated a novel problem: human bias reproduced in computer algorithms.

At scale, these biases could contribute to an increasingly lopsided world where the benefits of a modern, digital society are not inclusive. 

As the General Counsel and lead for AI ethics initiatives at Arm, a foundational IP processor technology company, I spend a great deal of time thinking about technology, good governance and how AI could and should impact humanity.

To realise the full benefits of AI, it must be built in an inclusive way and be trusted by everyone. Global governments have begun to explore these considerations, and the EU has even drawn up proposals for regulating AI in situations where there is risk of harm.

The price of less-inclusive AI

We’re calling for a vigorous industry-wide effort to take responsibility for a new set of ethical design system principles through the establishment of an AI Trust Manifesto

A key principle in the manifesto states every effort should be made to eliminate discriminatory bias in designing and developing AI decision systems. 

Women are the largest underrepresented group as a whole in the world, which means we will need to have an inclusive team of people – including women of diverse backgrounds and women of colour – involved in engineering AI.

According to STEM Women, the UK saw little to no change in the percentage of woman engineering and technology graduates from 2015 to 2018. In fact, only 15% of graduates between those years were women. 

That brings up an important consideration – AI is programmed to mimic human thought and rationale. If programmed by a non-diverse workforce, it can seriously hinder widespread technology development and implementation. 

One example of this is facial recognition. If trained on only Caucasian faces, for instance, that oversight could result in AI misidentifying minorities during facial recognition scans. 

There is wide acknowledgement that the careful use of training data is crucial in ensuring that discrimination and bias do not enter AI systems to the extent that the implementation of such data may be illegal or unfair. 

Engineering change

If we are to give machines the ability to make life-changing decisions, we must put in place structures to reveal the decision-making behind the outcomes, providing transparency and reassurance. 

Companies must take the lead by setting high standards, promoting trust and ensuring they maintain a diverse staff trained in AI ethics.

We must continue to explore different solutions to the complex issue of ethical AI decision making. One possibility is building a review process that incorporates the key pillars of AI ethics, including issues of bias and transparency, to ensure products and technologies available in the marketplace receive appropriate prior approval for adherence to ethical standards. 

This type of system would help consumers trust that the technology has been anti-bias trained and produced with fairness and inclusivity methodologies. 

To fully realise this reality, it’s critical for girls, women and the greater technology industry to use their voices and networks to increase female participation in STEM and AI. 

In all its forms, AI has the potential to contribute to an unprecedented level of prosperity and productivity. 

To do that, it must be built on a foundation of trust by the diverse range of people for whom the technology will ultimately be catered toward – including women. |  Twitter: @LifeAtArm |  Instagram: @arm | #LifeAtArm #WeAreArm

Author: Carolyn Herzog

Is the maternal wall causing a critical leak in the STEM pipeline?

Isabel Torres

Co-founder, Mothers in Science

Despite continued efforts to increase participation of women in STEM, gender differences in career progression remain mostly unchanged. Is motherhood a major factor contributing to the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields?

Women remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, and the gender gap widens as they climb the career ladder. 

This so-called ‘leaky pipeline’ can start even before undergraduate studies, but the bottleneck occurs after women complete their education and enter the STEM workforce. 

In STEM academic research, more women are earning PhDs than ever before, reaching parity or even outnumbering men in some STEM disciplines, yet the number of female tenured professors remains stubbornly low. 

Gender discrimination and implicit bias are widely studied mechanisms driving the gender gap in STEM, but less attention is paid to motherhood as a contributor factor. 

Why is it important to speak about motherhood? 

The career paths of women and men diverge in opposite directions soon after having children, with fathers being unaffected or receiving a career boost, while mothers may move to part-time employment, change career path, stay in a lower-responsibility role, or exit the labour force altogether. 

Mothers not only have to face challenges for being women, but they also encounter additional obstacles – pregnancy and motherhood bias and discrimination, also known as ‘maternal wall’. 

Nearly twice as many women as men report having fewer children than desired because they pursued a STEM career.

This widespread form of gender discrimination affects the career trajectories of women across most professional sectors, including STEM. 

A recent study showed that 42% of mothers and 15% of fathers in the US leave full-time STEM employment within three years of having children. 

Female academics have fewer children than women in other professional sectors, and women who have children soon after their PhD are much less likely to get tenure than their male counterparts. Is motherhood driving women away from their STEM careers? 

Mothers frequently earn less than childless women and fathers

There is ample evidence that mothers in every professional sector earn lower salaries than childless women and fathers (called ‘motherhood penalty’). 

In STEM, a US study found that female PhD holders suffered an 11% pay penalty after having a child, while fathers saw no decline in their earnings. 

Women with children are also less likely to be hired or promoted than fathers and childless women and are perceived as less competent by their employers. 

42% of mothers and 15% of fathers in the US leave full-time STEM employment within three years of having children. 

Assumptions that mothers are less available because of family responsibilities means they are often excluded from career advancement opportunities like conferences and out-of-office hours meetings. 

Social expectations based on gender stereotypes put pressure on women to be primary caregivers and prioritise family over career. 

Women carry most of the childcare and housework burden, and this is an enormous disadvantage in male-dominated STEM fields, which have an inflexible work culture that demands long working hours and round-the-clock availability. 

Lack of affordable childcare also pushes women into part-time roles or out of STEM employment- again due to internalised social expectations that women should be primary caregivers. 

Can women have it all? How to eradicate the motherhood stigma

Career progression divergencies between women and men after childbirth are often explained by differences in personal choice and ‘biology’ – and these motherhood myths conceal the real underlying causes. 

A large body of evidence clearly shows that normalised discrimination and subtle bias against women with children, combined with internalised gender stereotypes and an inflexible, family-unfriendly work culture, are the invisible forces putting pressure on women to step back from their career track. 

Mothers in Science is a non-profit organisation that aims to advocate for workplace equality in STEM and raise awareness of the barriers preventing women with children from progressing in their STEM careers. 

Among other initiatives, we have created an online community where young mothers in STEM can find relatable role models and share their experiences juggling motherhood and a STEM career, and we are conducting a global survey to study the impact of parenthood on scientific productivity and career choices in STEM. 

42% of mothers and 15% of fathers in the US leave full-time STEM employment within 3 years of having children, and nearly twice as many women as men report having fewer children than desired because they pursued a STEM career.

Author: Isabel Torres

It’s never too late to start a career in tech

Debbie Forster 

CEO, Tech Talent Charter 

Why women of any age can consider a career in tech, and how companies can and should help make this a reality.

Addressing the tech gender gap

In 2019, HP and the Fawcett Society collaborated on research which found up to 70% of young women would be interested in a tech career. This was wonderful news and, I believe, reflects the efforts made in recent years to inspire school and college age girls to embrace a passion for technology. 

Partner organisations like Tech She Can and the Institute of Coding are working tirelessly to inspire a generation of tech-savvy young women to help address the pitiful gender gap that persists in the UK’s tech sector.

But what about this working generation? The women who do not have tech qualifications, or started down a different career path? Is it too late for them?

Women without tech backgrounds can’t see themselves in tech

Lack of confidence is a major obstacle to encouraging women into tech, with around 25% of those polled in the research saying they didn’t study STEM subjects because they didn’t think they could do it. 32% of women not currently in technical roles said they felt they didn’t have the appropriate qualifications to make the move. But encouragingly, the HP research also found that 45% of women expressed willingness to retrain in a technical job.

This tells us that companies seeking to access that untapped talent pool can’t simply cross their fingers and hope women show up. Our research shows that the best way to drive acquisition and retention of women into tech roles is through proactive retraining, mentoring and returners programmes, making it unmistakably clear that women are welcome and in demand.

Companies need to create returners and retraining programmes to attract mid-career women into tech

At the Tech Talent Charter, we work with some of the most progressive organisations on this front, in multiple sectors. These companies know the value of championing women in tech roles, and the benefits this brings to their products, their teams and their businesses.

We recently asked them to send us interesting examples of women who had found alternative routes into tech careers in their organisations. We received more than 300 stories inside a week. Women with backgrounds as teachers, marketeers, pastry-chefs, or stay at home mums had found the courage to take that leap and follow their dreams. We were so inspired by their remarkable stories that we’re running a campaign later this year to publicise the opportunities available for women to switch to a tech role. 

One such woman, is Maryam Qureshi, who discovered her early career as a teacher was not where her true passions lay; “Although I loved teaching, I quickly realised my real passion lay in a more technical field. I took a leap of faith with a role at a heat recovery company. I was then head hunted and introduced to the fascinating world of 3D printing. I had no previous experience in the sector, but I was totally captivated by the industry and my passion for innovation came to the fore. I am currently a technical consultant at HP, mobilising the UK’s fleet of 3D printers to help rapidly make needed healthcare supplies – such as ventilator parts, adjustable mask straps and face shields.”

The more companies take direct action to attract women to apply for tech roles in their organisation, the quicker they will access this remarkable talent and help close the gender gap. Because I know from personal experience, that it’s never too late to start a career in tech.

To address the tech gender gap now, companies must proactively connect with women who don’t have tech backgrounds and create alternative routes into tech for them, such as returners and retraining programmes. See the Open Playbook at for best practice advice on how to do this. 

Author: Debbie Forster

Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: June 24, 2020)

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