International Women in Engineering Day 2021: How has the pandemic impacted gender diversity?

Natasha Kiroska of Amelia

Every June, the tech industry comes together to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day. Ada Lovelace springs back onto social feeds, talented women around the globe are championed, and talk inevitably turns to what can be done to encourage more women into the sector.

Before COVID-19, the industry’s male to female ratio was imbalanced by as much as 77% in favour of male directors. The pandemic has only exacerbated this. In fact, a new study of women in tech reveals:

  • Over half (57%) feel burned out at work this year, compared to just over a third (36%) of men, and
  • Women are nearly twice as likely as men to have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the pandemic.

So what does International Women in Engineering Day mean for leading figures in the industry today?

Why trust will drive greater success

Natasha Kiroska, technical lead, Amelia, says women must be made to feel their ambition will be matched by their progress. “In my first position as a telecom developer, I was working with a lot of internationals and seniors from all over the world and I was always trying to identify who is the best in some particular area and always trying to learn from them.

We had few excellent engineers who I can consider as my mentors. Environments where trust and respect are served gain the maximum of everyone’s potential. In those kinds of environments, women will be more confident and brave to pursue the next steps in the career and not be stuck on the same level.”

Eliza Dickie

Eliza Dickie, data analyst, Grayce, believes women are the perfect answer to the current skills gap. “As a young woman working in data engineering, I am constantly reminded of businesses’ need for data skills.

I hope that this International Women in Engineering Day will reach more females and inspire them to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) education and careers, no matter their age. Starting out in my role, I didn’t realise how many sectors you can work across or how versatile it is, but more importantly how in demand data engineering professionals are!”

Celebrating female employees and showcasing creativity

Nuria Manuel

Nuria Manuel, QA technical lead, Distributed, believes companies have a responsibility to make sure their female employees feel celebrated. “Firms can ensure women feel as though they belong in the sector by giving them access to key decision-making roles in the business and championing and celebrating key awareness days, such as International Women in Engineering Day, which helps to drive the narrative that the business is fostering a diverse environment.”

Edel Kelly

Edel Kelly, senior manager of development at Genesys, agrees, highlighting how a career in engineering can be highly rewarding. “International Women in Engineering Day is a timely reminder that a career in this field can provide women with high levels of job satisfaction and is well suited to those that enjoy problem-solving and creativity.

Individuals considering courses in computer sciences can look forward to a rewarding career upon graduation, and whether the goal is to stay closer to home or explore the world by travelling internationally, software engineering can tick that box.”

Widening skillsets and identifying role models

Clair Griffin

Clair Griffin, projects director, Vysiion, comments how important it is to inspire others to step outside their comfort zone and seek opportunities to grow, much like she was given the opportunity to do.

“With a widening digital skills gap, especially in cyber security, the opportunities on offer should be made available for everyone. Online training courses have become more available over the past year, making it easier to extend existing skills and develop new ones. To increase digital knowledge, organisations need to recognise aligned skills, encouraging women from different areas of the business into more technical roles.”

Lynn Carter

Lynn Carter, data centre operations manager, Sungard AS, highlights how role models can come in many forms today. “Role models don’t necessarily have to come from the industry, it is hugely beneficial for young girls to see female accomplishments in all walks of life.

As someone who loves sport, I have always been inspired by the Irish Olympic athlete Sonia O’Sullivan. She has a fantastic trait of always looking forward, learning from her experiences and improving, which is something that can be adopted by women in the engineering industry.

Whatever your career path, it is vital to have people that inspire you. Ultimately, International Women in Engineering Day is about giving women an opportunity to come together, feel supported and celebrate their successes, while helping each other to foster growth and mentorship.”

Kerry Finch

Kerry Finch, software engineer, Civica, echoes this sentiment, stating a teacher played a crucial role in inspiring her into the profession she thoroughly enjoys. “I took computer science A-level and had a wonderful teacher who always said I would enjoy working in software development.

After school I studied Maths at university, which included computer science modules which I thoroughly enjoyed and inspired me to start searching for jobs in software engineering so that I could use my maths degree background to continue with something I enjoyed.”

Addressing an industry imbalance

Rosie Gallancz

Rosie Gallancz, software engineer at labs, VMware Tanzu, is hopeful the current gender imbalance can be addressed soon. She concludes “What’s made the difference for me, has been seeking out supportive environments, inspiring individuals both who I work with, but also in the wider industry and pursuing encouragement have all been conducive to my growth as a woman in engineering.

I’m hopeful that as more women enter engineering fields, and rise through the ranks, the imbalances that I saw when I started out will diminish.”

Biography

Industry experts in the technology and engineering space share their reflections on International Women in Engineering Day and what it means to them. Contributors include, Natasha Kiroska, technical lead, Amelia; Eliza Dickie, data analyst, Grayce; Nuria Manuel, QA technical lead, Distributed; Edel Kelly, senior manager of development, Genesys; Clair Griffin, projects director, Vysiion; Lynn Carter, data centre operations manager, Sungard AS; Kerry Finch, software engineer, Civica; and Rosie Gallancz, software engineer at labs, VMware Tanzu.

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