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Women in engineering – Why diversity is more than just a buzzword

Engineering’s growth and innovation are incredible but overshadowed by the pervasive lack of diversity. It’s not a checklist item but essential for groundbreaking ideas and solutions. To address this, organizations must promote diversity, support underrepresented groups, and increase women’s representation, creating a positive impact on society.

The world of STEM industries has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, transforming into an innovative and exciting field. In engineering particularly, technology advancements have opened up numerous avenues for individuals aspiring to work in the STEM sector. With a growing global population and an increased focus on addressing environmental, security and safety challenges, fostering innovation has become more crucial than ever.

However, it is disheartening that diversity still remains a big problem in the industry, with a mere 12% of engineers being women and only 9% of engineers in the UK being from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds. Diversity allows us to foster an innovative environment, so these low numbers don’t bode well for an industry that relies on the skills, knowledge and talents of people to positively impact the world around us. It is not enough to simply think of diversity as a checklist exercise or a buzzword for businesses, but rather something that is integral to the very nature of the field.

What diversity truly means in practice

Awareness days like International Women in Engineering Day are a great step for us to acknowledge this issue and do better to truly be diverse as an industry – but this doesn’t mean that we should only hold initiatives on these dates. Instead, we need to ensure that diversity is always at the forefront of our plans.

Technology is not just about advancements and breakthroughs; it is about the minds behind the tech, diverse perspectives, and experiences from different walks of life. As a senior software engineer at 8×8, I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact that women have on the field. It is inspiring to see more women occupying senior and leadership positions, bringing their unique insights and creative problem-solving abilities to the table. This is something that needs to continue at a faster pace across the whole industry.

Diversity is not merely a buzzword; it is a catalyst for groundbreaking ideas and transformative solutions. Therefore, it is imperative for organisations to actively support and promote diversity in engineering. This includes collaborating with universities to offer graduate programs for aspiring engineers from underrepresented groups, supporting initiatives that train women to code and help secure their first tech roles, and actively recruiting, upskilling, and retaining women in the industry. By embracing diversity and fostering inclusive environments, we create spaces where innovative ideas thrive and different perspectives contribute to the development of cutting-edge solutions.

The importance of representation

Representation matters. Having diverse engineering teams in your organisation is essential for several reasons. First and foremost, it provides role models and inspires the next generation of engineers. When young girls see women that they can relate to, succeeding in the field, it challenges stereotypes and encourages them to pursue careers in engineering.

It’s also important to ensure women in engineering and tech are not siloed to specific roles later in their careers. Technology is about progress and innovation and we can only be successful by ensuring that the minds behind the tech are diverse and are given equal opportunities. By increasing the representation of women of all backgrounds in engineering, we enhance the industry’s ability to address complex challenges and create a positive impact on society.

Accelerating diversity through skills development

There are a number of core skills that play a vital role in entering the engineering industry, such as effective communication, leadership, adaptability and creativity. While graduate qualifications are not always a requirement, problem-solving and taking a logical, methodical approach to tasks are crucial skills that can be honed in various academic disciplines.

Technology and software are ever-evolving, so being open to learning and continuously acquiring new skills is vital. Organisations should definitely be open to the many skills and talents that women have to offer. Overall, having passion for technology and a genuine care for the end user experience are fundamental aspects that make a successful engineer.

We all have a role to play in supporting and encouraging more women and girls to enter the engineering industry. Holding ourselves accountable to create environments that nurture growth and learning in women looking to enter the industry is so important.  For women considering a career in engineering, my advice is to be bold and pursue roles that inspire you. Do not let the fear of not meeting all the requirements hold you back. Researching companies, their workforce demographics, and gender pay gap reports can provide valuable insights into their commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

Diversity in engineering is not just a goal; it is an essential ingredient for excellence in society as a whole. By embracing diversity, supporting women in their careers, and fostering inclusive environments, we can build a future where women can thrive and contribute to the exciting world of engineering. Together, let us create an industry that values and promotes diversity, innovation, and societal progress.

By Jessica Mowatt, Senior Software Engineer at 8×8

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