Imagining the Future of Engineering: Insights from top women in tech

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Imagining the Future of Engineering: Insights from top women in tech

This International Women in Engineering Day, the theme is #imaginethefuture. Supporting women in engineering, now and in the future, is vital as it allows us to develop inclusive, innovative solutions for complex issues that can benefit everyone.

We have collated the thoughts and opinions of the specific challenges that a number of females across the tech industry have faced, as well as, providing advice for other women looking to break into the industry. 

Peggy de Lange, VP of International Expansion at Fiverr

"Championing diversity across all teams will help diminish the stereotype that STEM careers are more suited to one gender. Women need to find belief in themselves that they can pursue a career in any industry that they desire.

However, by creating a culture that is genuinely inclusive and diverse, businesses can encourage people from different backgrounds to consider careers which perhaps, at first, didn't seem accessible. By eliminating bias, we're opening the door to new demographics and businesses can benefit from a truly collaborative and inclusive team.

A great way to do this is to reward people based on their talent. The freelance community is a good example of this. We've already started seeing more females being championed as we dilute bias by focusing on the quality of work, over people's gender identities. Platforms such as Fiverr encourage people to focus on credentials and reviews when forming their teams, so gender, sexual orientation, race or religion do not affect the hiring process."

Karni Wolf, Engineering Team Lead, Snyk

"It's not always easy being different from most of your colleagues, which women in engineering roles often are. A simple way to change this is to improve hiring. Employers need to understand they're not just doing women a favour - they should wantto hire more females for the different perspectives they can bring to a team. After all, creating a diverse workforce helps boost productivity and creates a company that people genuinely want to be part of. 

But hiring more women is not enough, and the onus shouldn't be on the individual to create better environments for themselves. Women are stereotypically thought of as less "go-getters" in their careers and are encouraged to "lean in". I say to managers and leaders: stop transferring responsibility to women, take initiative yourselves, and create opportunities for your employees. 

Building inclusive cultures that celebrate differences and encourage individuals to make mistakes is everyone's responsibility. Making belonging and job satisfaction a priority has to become a focus to retain diverse talent. The ones less represented have it harder and it is harder to become what you don't see. Let's end this cycle. Hire and create a prosperous environment for everyone, no matter their background."

Francesca Manso, Managing Director of BayWa r.e. Power Solutions S.r.l.

"When I was one of only a minority of women in my university class, and early in my engineering career, I often felt challenged and the need to show myself as capable as my male peers. I'm encouraged to see this changing for female engineers, particularly in the renewable industry, where we value employees for the skills and experience they bring no matter their background. There is certainly an increasing recognition of the strength of diverse teams and how they can contribute to our shared goal of building the future of energy in a differentiated, fair and inclusive way. 

Businesses within the renewable sector and beyond must continue to commit to creating these inclusive and supportive working environments for female engineers and those from other underrepresented groups. It's also hugely important to see women in leadership positions so those starting out have positive role models. My advice to these women beginning their engineering careers is to always be motivated by your passion and stay true to your goals. No role is out of reach if you have the right skills and are prepared in the right way." 

Michele Romanow, Founder and CEO, Clearco 

"My parents told me I could study anything, as long as it was engineering, which was unusual as women only make up 16.5% of all engineers. Despite figuring out fairly early in my career that I was better at building businesses than I was at building bridges, I've always been grateful to have the support to pursue any career path, especially one considered traditionally male. 

Equal opportunities don't come easy in every industry. In 2021, just 1.8% of all funding went to female-led startups. This day not only encourages us to champion women but also break the status quo of gendered industries and job roles. By using data-informed decisions, we'll see more diversity as people are judged based on their performance, not their gender. 

At Clearco, we use AI to make decisions on financing businesses. As it's powered by data, it removes bias from investment decisions and has funded 8x more female founders than traditional VCs. As a result, 50% of Clearco's current global portfolio represents businesses led by women."

Sowmya Modugula, VP of Engineering, DoubleVerify

"There are simple, yet meaningful actions we can take to encourage more women to step into engineering roles in our industry. Often, people default to IT or computer science when they think of technical roles, so we must educate them on all the available career paths and growth opportunities engineering has to offer. We must showcase the benefits and rewards of working in engineering in the modern corporate world. We should also start the conversation earlier and leverage partnerships with educational institutions to drive interest from high school and university students to help build a strong pipeline of talent. 

The other way we can encourage more women to step into these roles is to highlight leaders who are women in engineering so they can share their stories and experiences. Representation matters. And finally, active allyship — men in leadership positions encouraging and advocating for women to pursue or make the transition into technical roles. This support made a difference for me throughout my career, including when I transitioned into management."

Catarina Figueiredo, Engineering Manager, Healx

"Every year, International Women in Engineering Day acts as an opportunity to encourage more young women and girls to take up careers within STEM and related fields. This year's theme, Inventors & Innovators, echoes that message, by allowing us to showcase the wealth of intelligent and inspiring women throughout the sector - to both those looking to enter the industry and those who have never even considered STEM subjects.

In order to achieve this, we, as women in the industry, must feel empowered to put ourselves forward as role models to inspire the next generation of women engineers. That's why I have been involved in the 'Meet a Mentor' programme since 2020. Mentorship initiatives like this offer us an opportunity to break down the barriers that girls and young women face by offering our experience, expertise and counsel. It's also a great confidence booster as an industry professional to know that you are pushing bright young women to achieve greatness.

It's well documented that more diverse workforces accelerate levels of innovation, which after all, is what this year's INWED is all about. So, it's up to us to make sure that we are doing our level best to encourage diversity within our industry, or innovation in the space will stagnate."

Eva Lond, Senior data engineer, Pipedrive

"According to research, only around 12% of UK engineers are women, and they hold only 5% of engineering leadership roles in the tech space. The engineering industry is, without a doubt, far more "traditional", and there's likely an unconscious bias in how we listen to men and women in the workplace. This International Women in Engineering Day allows us to shine a light on the importance of developing an authentic listening culture at work. 

Engineering leaders must ensure that all employees, regardless of gender identity, should be given a voice. Creating an environment where you can be heard and it is okay to fail is crucial in helping individuals grow. Not only that, but an effective listening culture will help leaders make informed and evidence-based decisions that will positively impact the workplace and produce the best results. 

Everyone benefits from diversity, from the people who work in the company to the customers who represent employees with different backgrounds. Organizations need to ensure that they are optimizing their company culture in a way that enables employees to receive sufficient credit for their contributions and allows people of all genders and backgrounds to work together and succeed in complex, challenging and rewarding projects that make a difference to the world."

Paula Flannery, Strategic product consultant, EMEA, Procore

"International Women in Engineering Day is a great opportunity to not only celebrate the inspiring work that women engineers do around the world but to encourage women to join the industry. This is vital as although women make up 51 per cent of the working population, only 12 per cent are part of the engineering workforce according to Engineering UK

It is no secret that construction is one industry with a labour shortage problem. In fact, CITB predicts 216,800 construction workers will be needed by 2025 to meet the UK industry's demands. This opens up an opportunity to source candidates of all genders and backgrounds to not only meet the demand for workers and in particular, engineers, but create a workforce which thinks differently and offers creative solutions to solve problems. In addition, the country's built environment can become more representative of its customer base, and society as a whole - leading to a long-overdue perception change of the kind of person who works in construction. 

One way of bringing more women into engineering is showcasing it as an accessible industry with many roles for women early on. For instance this could be reaching out to schools and higher education to discuss the options and availability of engineering roles for women so from a young age, women in engineering are seen as a norm. After all, what people see around them has an effect on how they see themselves. Creating a more inclusive industry will encourage women to join and remain in the workforce, helping to build a brighter future for all."

V Brennan, Regional Lead Engineering EMEA at Slack

"International Women in Engineering Day serves as a reminder as to why diversity in STEM is so important. Technology companies are building solutions for people of all walks of life - so everyone needs a hand in how these tools are designed and developed. Diversity helps us see challenges and arrive at solutions in different ways. 

To create this diversity, we need to collectively ensure that there are pathways for women to join–and then stay–in engineering. We should be supporting programs that are working to provide opportunities for those who aren't traditionally exposed to STEM roles. I personally work with Code Your Future and 50 in Tech, for example. Another way the industry can begin to level the playing field is by listening to what female employees want and by offering increased flexibility. Our Future Forum survey found that the number of working mothers who say they want at least some location flexibility rose to an all-time high (82%) this year. The current shift towards a digital-first world offers a great opportunity for the engineering industry to collectively redesign work in a way that's more inclusive for everyone." 

Cindi Howson, Chief Data Strategy Officer, ThoughtSpot

"In a world ruled by those who can dominate with data, society needs diversity of experience and talent so that we can all enjoy the most successful outcomes. Women are obviously half the population yet make up a mere 16.5% of engineering talent, according to EngineeringUK. Across all STEM fields and physical and software engineering, such proportions mean that how we design and build simply cannot account for the distinct needs of half the population - nor take advantage of their skills. We need inventors and innovators who can #ImagineTheFuture from all angles.

From creating cars with child safety in mind to creating data and AI products that do not accidentally discriminate between male and female job applicants, diversity of thought minimises bias at scale. Businesses must push for greater diversity to design better products, and more diverse teams also contribute to higher financial performance.

As someone who began her career in tech assembling computers, administering a local area network, and coding reports on a mainframe, I'd like to see more women in tech overall, but also more in leadership positions deciding the future of tech for a better world."

Bella Kazwell, Engineering Manager, Asana
"This year, the theme of International Women in Engineering Day focuses on "inventors and innovators." Without invention and innovation, engineering teams aren't able to evolve the way we work through new ideas and products. This is something we need to consciously work on together as our recent Anatomy of Work data pointed out two threats that could stand in the way, particularly for women.

49% of all workers, and over half (52%) of women said they've experienced imposter syndrome at work over the past 12 months. The feeling that you don't belong somewhere can be really damaging for self belief and development at work, particularly in a role like engineering where women only represent 16.5% of the workforce. In addition, 63% of workers experienced burnout last year – a worrying trend that is rife particularly amongst younger workers.

The combination of imposter syndrome and burnout is a real threat to innovation and invention, but also to morale and retention. As an engineer myself, I'm grateful for the opportunity to be part of a team that is creating technology to mitigate these issues at work, by giving people more ownership of tasks and showing how work ladders up to goals and mission. But technology isn't the only answer, leaders must strive to create spaces for women working in STEM roles to feel heard on these topics and actively encourage upskilling and growth to help them thrive."

Jill Brennan, Vice President of Sales in EMEA, PagerDuty
"In October 2019, Kristina Koch and Jessica Meir became the first women to participate in an all female space walk. It wasn't just their skills as engineers and astronauts that literally got them walking above the clouds. Nor was it their hard work and talent. It's the working cultures that have changed so much since NASA pioneer Dorothy Vaughn famously made a dent in the glass ceiling in the 1960s, as portrayed in the film Hidden Figures.

Without diverse examples of talent we wouldn't be able to imagine a more inclusive and dynamic future to tackle global challenges. The skills and insights from a diversity of professionals opens up professions to a wider talent pool, and brings a range of perspectives to the workplace. Creativity and innovation drive the most profitable and effective organisations. The future of work is ours to make, to create more fulfilling experiences - like reducing the 'interrupt work' that plagues engineering. Women should not only open doors for women in engineering, but across the whole world of technology and business.

A broad inclusivity has worked well for PagerDuty. We have a diverse board, leadership team and employee base and we see the results of this creativity and collaboration in our continued success. With the constant and accelerating change to digital-first operations and the transition to flexible-first working, it's clear that the dated ways of working are over."

Beatriz Delgado Reimúndez, Engineering Director, Aircall

"As Engineering Director at Aircall, I am always keen to encourage more women to enter the field that I have known and loved for many years. The industry is still incredibly behind in achieving gender parity, and that is why it is so important that we use International Women in Engineering Day to reflect on what we can do better and how we can inspire and educate young women to pursue STEM careers.

For any business that is serious about achieving equality, it is crucial that leaders reform hiring processes, fashion more inclusive environments and elevate women to more management positions, so that change is implemented from the top down. 

Furthermore, we must reach out into the community to create clear career paths for women entering the industry, through mentoring initiatives and events that allow us to connect with younger generations of prospective engineers. Visibility has a major role to play in their perception of this industry as one they can see their future in. 

In the next few years, Aircall also hopes to work more closely with Node Girls, an organisation that provides coding workshops and events for women and gender minorities in the tech industry, so that roles such as mine can gain more visibility in the female development community."