Graphic based on cover of E&T magazine July 2018 issue
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Women In Engineering, put down your pencils on this INWED

Image credit: E&T

International Women in Engineering Day is on 23 June. Things have to change because it’s vital for business that it gets more diversity, if for no other reason.

Not only do women do more than their fair share of housework in the home, they do more in the office too. They are much more likely to supply the drinks for meetings or take the notes than their male colleagues in similar positions.

“When you relegate yourself to the scribe you’re not in the conversation,” Dr Irene Petrick, director of Industrial Innovation in Intel’s Internet of Things Group, warned the Women in Leadership Forum at NI Week in Austin, Texas, last month.

That might be just one reason why there are more CEOs called James than there are women CEOs in corporate America. “Ladies, put down your pencils,” she asked.

Gender stereotypes survive in the high-tech modern world. Ever noticed how all the AI home assistants have female names and/or voices – Alexa, Cortana, Siri and others? “For the first time, technology has a gender,” said Roberto LoCascio, CEO and founder of LivePerson at CeBit’s Women in Digital Business session last week. He explained Alexa was modelled on the SS Enterprise computer imagined half a century ago because Jeff Bezos was a ‘Star Trek’ fan.

“It’s a little sexist,” he said. Here is a robot in the home that we give orders to, so the male techies end up putting the gender stereotypes of previous generations into millions of homes, many with impressionable young children. It’s not the only problem women may have with AI in the home.

Women in engineering is a growing movement and it seems it’s discussed now at every major event. I’ve noticed the discussion turning more towards wider diversity and inclusion.

Franziska Divis, Germany retail sales director, Intel Deutschland, said at the CeBit forum that diversity is not just about gender or race, it’s about experience, new blood, introverts and extroverts, even different departments. “Just look for diversity in your team because only then do you get the best outcome.”

Diversity is not enough though. People have to be included too. If diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.

This is not what some call ‘political correctness’ (or what I call ‘doing the right thing’) – it’s about gearing the industry for the future. There is a growing body of management research that shows that more diverse teams do better. Companies with women on the board perform 54 per cent better than those without, for example. More diverse teams perform better even than the less diverse teams made up of the high-performing elites. Less diverse groups as a whole open up more with a sprinkling of diversity too. More diverse teams are more creative and innovative and adding more diversity makes everyone do better. In short, diversity is good business, apart from anything else.

Our latest issue has a wide range of features concerning the issues surrounding women in engineering.

Graphic showing statistics of Women in STEM

Image credit: E&T

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