Women in STEM UK - Q2 2020

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Q2 / 2020 An independent supplement from Mediaplanet who take sole responsibility for its content

Read more at www.womeninstem.co.uk

Women in



Helen Wollaston

Chief Executive, WISE

“Never before have STEM professionals been more in the public eye.”



Jacqueline de Rojas President, techUK

“Those who invent the future, shape the future.”

I AM AN ENGINEER IET Young Woman Engineer Apply by 5 July 2020 of the Year Awards

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04 Debbie Forster CEO, Tech Talent Charter “Companies seeking to access that untapped talent pool can’t simply cross their fingers and hope women show up.”

Women are needed to solve society’s greatest challenges WISE, the campaign for gender balance in STEM, looks at why diversity and inclusion are more important than ever.

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Elizabeth Donnelly CEO, Women’s Engineering Society “Engineers are innovative problem-solvers, they’re the ones devising solutions to the challenges the world is facing, be it climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic.”

10 Anne-Marie Imafidon CEO, Stemettes “Getting female STEM role models into schools is an important way to inspire children and challenge industry stereotypes.”




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

he 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.

Read more at wisecampaign.org.uk


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This article is sponsored by Raytheon UK

Tackling gender diversity in cyber security 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.

W James Gray Managing Director, Cyber & Intelligence

Read more at raytheon.com/uk

omen 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.

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Be a part of the one million (and counting)

women in STEM There are now one million women working in the UK STEM sector. The good news is that the work we are doing to increase diversity in the sectors has been successful. The better news is that we have a greater chance to inspire even more women to enter and thrive in the industry.


e need more women and more diverse thinking in STEM roles to make scientific inventions innovative, useful and, more importantly, safe. If technology is to benefit society, the teams creating it must reflect the society it seeks to serve. It is no surprise that the first smart watches did not have female health tracking features – it simply did not occur to the all-male design team how useful such a function could be to approximately half of the population. The world has primarily been designed by men for men. The industry is changing for the better Tech companies recognise the positive impact of a diverse workforce and STEM sectors are flourishing. It is now clear that a skilled and diverse workforce is required in order to sustain it. In recent years, workplace attitudes and (mis)conceptions about gender have been reshaped and there has been a push for positive progress. As a consequence, there are more women and diverse people being employed with engineering and technology qualifications. But entrenched biases and gender stereotypes can drive some away from pursuing a career in STEM. Working together to shift the balance and look at every stage of the pipeline is now critical – as is the imperative to attract girls into tech. We must strive to retain them and support the progression of women and diverse representatives throughout their tech careers – while not forgetting to bring men into that conversation too. With greater awareness and the rise of organisations such as The Tech Talent Charter, WISE, and Tech She Can, working towards better access and promotion of STEM to girls and women, we can change this. Our opportunity as a nation is for companies to increase

Jacqueline de Rojas President, techUK

their commitment to diversity. A continued focus on making women aware of the opportunities available to them and creating an environment where women and diverse groups feel encouraged to pursue careers in STEM is much needed. By ensuring that women in senior positions are supported in their roles, and by creating diverse succession plans, we can make this a sustainable pipeline of talent that promotes inclusion and builds a strong digital future. STEM needs everyone The more influential the role of technology becomes in our lives, the more we need to ensure it works for all of us. Otherwise, machine learning will perpetuate the same biases and discriminatory attitudes that are present today. Tech now has the capacity to learn, adapt and make decisions at lightning speed and the consequences could be catastrophic. Without the inclusion of women and other diverse voices when these decisions are made, STEM innovations, progressions and discoveries will be limited. Those who invent the future, shape the future. Those who ignore diversity as a way to create competitive advantage will be at a disadvantage. A career in STEM is exciting because it can be anything you want it to be, from AI or health tech, to environmental science or cyber security. In difficult times, we witness the heavy reliance on our scientists, technologists and engineers to come up with solutions, fast, in order to support society. We cannot do this successfully without diversity across the board.

Read more at www.womeninstem.co.uk

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

Debbie Forster CEO, Tech Talent Charter

Women of any age should consider a career in tech – and companies can and should help make this a reality.


p to 70% of young women would be interested in a tech career; according to 2019 research by HP and the Fawcett Society. This is wonderful news and reflects the efforts made in recent years to inspire school and college age girls to embrace a passion for technology. Addressing the tech gender gap 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. Attracting mid-career women into tech Many companies know the value of championing women in tech

roles, and the benefits this brings to their products, their teams and their businesses. At the Tech Talent Charter, we work with some of these progressive organisations, across multiple sectors. We recently asked these organisations 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. From teacher to techie 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 muchneeded healthcare supplies – such as ventilator parts, adjustable mask straps and face shields.” The more companies that 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, it’s never too late to start a career in tech.

INFO 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 www.techtalentcharter.co.uk for best practice advice on how to do this.


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

“It’s amazing to use innovative technology to make dramatic changes in real life” 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 questions through different approaches and am attracted by how models can resolve complicated real-life scenarios.


studied Mathematics and Statistical Science for my Bachelor’s degree and Risk Management and Financial Engineering for my Master’s. Except the hard skills – like theoretical models and coding – 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 insights into the latest technologies and innovations. They make sure you can adapt the rapid change and revolution of technology, and also help you to be more rational to deal with many problems in real life. 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 have 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 and R. They are very useful tools to conduct analysis on large data sets and improve the efficiency of analysis. The application of skills is also very important. Instead of focusing on more theoretical knowledge, I recommend learning from practice. 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!

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


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 with each other it’s what makes the difference. 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 role that suits your skills and interests and don’t be afraid to apply

This article is sponsored by Bloomsberg




for it. Go the extra mile, speak to a friend of a friend 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, problemsolving 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 careers opportunities and it’s the perfect starting point to follow almost any career that you may want to pursue.



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Arm’s technology touches 70% of the world’s population and, together with thousands of partners, we are bringing AI to processor technology in trillions of devices to make them smarter and more trustworthy. We believe the technology sector has a responsibility to ensure AI development follows certain principles for public trust.

Why AI needs female developers

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

Read more at arm.com/careers

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


ew 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 nondiverse 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 decisionmaking 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.

This article is sponsored by ARM


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This article is sponsored by ARM

Q&A Katie Worton Graduate Engineer, Cambridge Q1 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! Q2 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. Q3 Would you recommend a career in engineering and technology?

Arm as a global technology company creates intellectual property, whether it’s a silicon chip or a processor unit, writing the software for our partners to use in their products. 70% of the world’s population uses Arm technology. By 2035 we’re expecting there to be one trillion Arm powered devices – do you want to join the fifth wave of computing? @LifeAtArm


#LifeAtArm #WeAreArm

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! Q4 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 Q1 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. Q2 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.

Q3 Is it a challenge to be a woman in science, technology, engineering? 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. Q4 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 Q1 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.

Q3 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!

Q2 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.

Q4 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!

Read more at arm.com/careers

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Ways to forge a fascinating career in engineering 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.

Elizabeth Donnelly CEO, Women’s Engineering Society

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.” 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,”

© R E T H A F ER G U S O N / P E X ELS


t 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.”

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

The truth is that women’s talents are needed now more than ever... 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.” Written by: Tony Greenway

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What it really means to be a female engineer

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.”

I have a responsibility to promote women in the industry

Valentina Cerruty Villalba Quality Engineer

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.


This article is sponsored by Cummins

Read more at europeancareers. cummins.jobs/

awn Whiting believes that she says. “After college, the idea of she has the best job in the earning while I was learning really world. As an engineer, she’s worked for me.” travelled the globe to work on projects in China, India, Brazil Taking a lead from female role models and the US, among other countries. Back then, Whiting admits she “I don’t think people understand wanted “to fit in and be one of the that this is where an engineering guys” in what was (and still is) a career can take you,” says Whiting. male-dominated industry. “The stereotype is that engineers “But a few years later, I realised are car mechanics, or someone there was so much support among who fixes your washing machine. my colleagues for who I was and Actually, we may have to work in what I was doing. That led me to similar high pressure environments find out more about the company’s and I’ve diversity and certainly been inclusion involved in initiatives. some serious “Now I In today’s society, things are and challenging understand engineering changing for women,” she says. I have a issues. But I love responsibility to “It’s happening in STEM, too, that I’m always promote women doing different in the industry slowly and steadily - but it is projects and no because female happening. two problems role models are are the same.” so important.” There’s never a dull day in Whiting now regularly talks engineering, says Whiting. Plus, in schools about what it’s like to she admits, it’s a good feeling to be a woman in engineering and know that what she does can make is a highly visible member of the a meaningful impact on the world. company’s Leading Inclusion for As Global Project Leader – Technical group, which champions Engineering at Cummins Inc, different cultures, backgrounds, Whiting is currently leading a religions, genders and sexualities. team investigating new design “Going into schools is a chance innovations. to educate children, parents and Yet she started her career at teachers about what we do, and the company as an apprentice, 22 showcase some of the cool stuff,” years ago. “I knew I wanted to do she says. something in science and had an Of course, in a cutting-edge interest in vintage transportation,” engineering role, you have to keep

Dawn Whiting Global Project Leader - Engineering, Cummins Generator Technologies

Devna Devang Chauhan Applied Controls Technical Leader, Cummins Engine

“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 is happening. 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.” Written by: Tony Greenway

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This article is sponsored by Tideway



I’m cleaning up the Thames for future generations 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.


’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. 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 Bianca Wheeler to overcome,” Construction Engineer she adds.

Discover more about the inspirational women building the Super Sewer. Follow Tideway on social media: @TidewayLondon and visit www.tideway.london/ womeninconstruction Young people can chat online directly with women working on the project at I’m a Scientist’s Summer Zone on June 23.

Inspiring girls to see STEM as ‘the gift that keeps on giving’ Girls can be inspired to study science, technology and maths if female STEM role models are made more visible. It may even set school children on the path to a rewarding STEM career.

Anne-Marie Imafidon CEO, Stemettes


raditionally, STEM subjects aren’t thought of as ‘creative’. Yet they are, of course – and this was why they fascinated Anne-Marie Imafidon when she was a girl. “I realised that I could learn about a principle and then apply it in lots of different ways,” she says. “That’s so creative! Applying knowledge is something I love about STEM, and computer science in particular, which I always thought was so clean, logical and repeatable. As far as I’m concerned, STEM is the gift that keeps on giving.” It helped that Imafidon was something of a STEM child prodigy. At 11, she passed A-level computing – the youngest girl ever to do so – and was just 20 when she received her master’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from The University of Oxford. Now she is CEO of Stemettes, a social enterprise working to inspire and support young women into science, technology, engineering and maths careers. Increasing the visibility of female role models It’s not rocket science, but one way of getting girls and young women interested in STEM subjects is to increase the visibility of female STEM role models. “No-one ever needs to say to a girl: ‘Did you know you could become a police officer?’,” says Imafidon. “That’s because we see female police officers in TV and film dramas all the time and they’re part of the culture. “Women in STEM need the same profile. But it’s not enough to make young people more aware of, say, female engineers. We have to make their parents, guardians, teachers and influencers more aware of them, too.” Getting female STEM role models into schools is an important way to inspire children and challenge industry stereotypes; but,

because of the coronavirus pandemic, that won’t be possible for the foreseeable future. However, Imafidon has been using online workshops to fill the gap. Recently, as part of the STEM Mode In series of online events, she invited structural engineer, author and women in engineering champion, Roma Agrawal, to talk to children via a Zoom meeting. “They got to see Roma, hear from her, ask her questions and carry out some activities themed around her work,” says Imafidon. “It’s important to make women like Roma visible, create an awareness of who they are and what they do, and then give girls a connected activity that they can remember, understand and be inspired by. “Young women need to be aware of the breadth of career opportunities that STEM offers. More knowledge will help them make better, more informed decisions.” Understanding the breadth of STEM career opportunities The STEM industries can play their part by broadening routes to entry. “The routes to a career in engineering need to be broad as they are for IT, for example,” says Imafidon. It is crucial companies are ensuring that women can move up the career ladder – and around in their careers – as easily as their male counterparts. Imafidon’s advice to anyone thinking about a career in STEM is to find a community and tap into it, whether that’s online or in person. “Interact with each other and compare and contrast your experiences,” she says. “Don’t do it alone. Find a tribe – like our Stemette Society – that will carry you along, and together you’ll learn new things and create brilliant ideas.”

Written by: Tony Greenway


Read more at womeninstem.co.uk | 11

THE MORE OPEN WE BECOME, the more threats we shut down. At GCHQ, our mission is to protect Britain from ever-evolving threats. It’s incredibly varied work, which relies on us having a diverse workforce. By employing a variety of people, we come up with lots of different solutions, which means we keep the UK safe. But you don’t need to be a certain sort of person to work here. In fact, as long as you’re willing to learn, you’re exactly what we’re after. So no matter your gender, we’ll support your development, value your skills and offer you a flexible way of working. To find out more about our variety of roles, please visit www.gchq-careers.co.uk



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This spread is sponsored by SYNOPSYS


Diversity is the key to future success

Exciting initiatives have been rolled out to promote women in engineering

D Sonia GonCalves ASIC Digital Design Manager, based in Portugal

Mari Puhakka Software Engineering Manager, based in Finland

iversity 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. 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.”

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.

Read more at www.synopsys.com @Synopsys @Synopsys @Synopsys @Synopsys


Read more at womeninstem.co.uk | 13

STEM employers tackle the career break penalty Over the last five years, there has been increasing recognition among STEM employers that they have been missing out on a wealth of female talent.


Julianne Miles CEO and Co-Founder, Women Returners

The career break penalty Despite longstanding initiatives to attract more female graduates into STEM, if these women step out of their roles in mid-career for an extended period – for childcare, eldercare, health or other reasons – they tend to fall off the corporate radar. When these women do decide to resume their careers, they face the ‘career break penalty’, labelled as risky candidates by recruiters biased against a lack of recent experience. Women returners struggle to find roles at a suitable level, and are told they are over-qualified for more junior positions. Widespread rejection further erodes the low professional confidence that many returners suffer from, causing these highly skilled women to give up any hope of getting back into their previous careers and exacerbating the STEM gender imbalance. Stemming the leak Encouragingly, this leakage of female talent has started to be addressed. In 2015, Tideway – the infrastructure project building the London Super Sewer – partnered with Women Returners to pioneer the first UK STEM returner programme, supporting seven professionals back into experienced roles. Targeted returner programmes provide women (and men, although they are the minority at this stage) with support back into a suitable level role. Participants take on work using their skills and experience while receiving support in the form of training, mentoring and/ or coaching, to smooth their transition back. Following the success of Tideway’s programme, there has been rapid take-up, with over 30 leading organisations in the construction, tech, telecoms, transport and engineering sectors launching similar initiatives.


he growth of returner programmes has enabled hundreds of experienced women with science, technology and engineering skills to get their careers back on track after multi-year career breaks.

Three to six month returnships proven successful in mid-senior roles The most popular format is a returnship – a professional placement of three to six months with a high possibility of an ongoing role at the end of the programme. Employers typically bring in cohorts of four to ten to offer peer support as well as a personalised experience. Returnships tackle the ‘perceived risk’ barrier, providing a trial period for both sides. As typical conversion rates to ongoing roles are 75-95%, returnships have proved to be a successful on-ramp to permanent positions at mid to senior levels. Some employers with high levels of internal support prefer a ‘supported hiring’ format, bringing returners directly into permanent roles. This enables returners’ skills to more easily be matched with existing open roles. This format may become increasingly popular if recruitment tightens. Sustainability of returner programmes There is strong evidence of the business case for returner

programmes. Bringing in a cohort of experienced STEM returners can rapidly improve gender diversity at managerial levels and create diverse role models for junior women. Line managers consistently report that returners bring maturity, enthusiasm, depth of experience and a fresh perspective to a team. There are positive signs that returner programmes are here to stay. Many leading STEM employers including AWS, AECOM, Balfour Beatty, BAE Systems, Mott MacDonald, O2 and Sky have already evolved their pilot programmes to make returner hiring a regular part of annual recruitment. As the economy heads into recession, it’s important that organisations avoid reverting to risk-averse hiring, to sustain this progress and to continue to harness the much-needed skills and experience of women returners to STEM.

Read more at womenreturners. com

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Innovation is transforming consumer choices for the better Thriving companies must reflect the world they operate in. Women in STEM are crucial to the creation of a new way of doing things.


Marina Bellini Chief Information and Digital Officer, Director, Digital and Information, BAT

David O’Reilly Director, Scientific Research, BAT

This spread is sponsored by BAT

n industry transforming itself: moving from a single agricultural product to a multi-category consumer electronics field - BAT is leading the way. David O’Reilly is Director, Scientific Research at BAT and is at the forefront of this change. “Our ambition is to increasingly transition our revenues over time from a product that uses combustion, to ones that do not use combustion,” he says. “In the last 10 years this has become a reality and the technology is available. We want to offer consumers a range of enjoyable and responsibly marketed products, and aim to reduce the health and environmental impacts of our business while delivering good returns for our shareholders.” From student to the board David has seen many changes over the years: he started with the company as a student and now sits on the management board. “We’ve come a long way,” he says. “One of the transformations was that we started to refresh the talent. We changed 60-70% of Research & Development (R&D) staff and one of the key pillars was diversity. “We looked for different sectors, countries and nationalities; we continue to focus our efforts on recruiting a wide range of STEM skills, in particular women in STEM.” Indeed, David has made it a personal priority to support women with their careers within the company. “I almost exclusively mentor women because I want more women in senior positions here,” he says. “I show them how to unblock barriers and how to be visible to senior leaders including the CEO. “Diversity is in our ethos,” he says. “We have initiated a range of training and development programmes including women and leadership, a 30% mentoring club, ‘Parents at BAT’, how to guard against unconscious bias as well as career break re-integration.” Huge leaps made possible by digital technology The whole industry has made huge leaps forward. “The industry is transforming itself and STEM plays a huge role,” says David. “All functions, notably sales, marketing and operations, are being transformed by digital technology. This is one of the most exciting companies and exciting sectors just now. “We are transforming the company, the sector and consumers’ choices for the better.” Marina Bellini is Director, Digital

& Information at BAT. What drew her to the company? “I joined BAT in 2018 for the challenge and excitement of joining a company that is transforming at pace. “BAT is in the most dynamic period of change we have ever seen in our 118-year history – from a tobacco business making a single product from plants grown in the ground, to a company offering a diverse range of products driven by world-class innovation, technology and science. “We have a clear purpose to build a better tomorrow by reducing the health impacts of our business by providing our consumers with a greater choice of less risky products. These include vaping products, tobacco heating products and what we refer to as modern oral (oral nicotine pouches). It’s a very exciting time to be working at BAT.” Technology delivering commercial value “Digital, innovation and technology play a crucial role in fueling this transformation, allowing us to be a simpler, stronger and faster company. “We are applying state-of-the-art technologies across our entire value chain to drive results. Technology and digital is also connecting us to our customers, consumers and employees in a brand new way, giving us the capabilities and the insights to bring innovative products to market, changing our culture and ultimately, how we work as a company.” Strength through diversity “For a consumer company to really thrive, it must reflect the people, and world, outside of it. “BAT is a very diverse company. We are present in 180 markets worldwide, with more than 53,000 people, bringing together different cultures, nationalities, experiences and opinions. “We have eight different nationalities on the Management Board and two women,” says Marina, who is Italian/ Brazilian. “Technology and digital is traditionally a very male-dominated area. We’ve done a lot of work in the area of diversity, particularly at the recruitment stage and when we’re discussing how we support people’s career growth at BAT, to eliminate unconscious bias and to truly open up opportunities for women. “My leadership team comprises six women and 15 nationalities. While there is much more work to be done, I am proud of what we have achieved in this area to date.”

A good mix of experiences, skills and mindsets is what helps us to innovate and make better decisions and women in STEM is a key part of this pipeline.”


Read more at womeninstem.co.uk | 15

Women changing the world Mandara Shetty Human Studies Scientist How did you end up in your current role? I was a student at the University of Sheffield and did a year’s industrial placement here in research and development (R&D). It was a great introduction to what it is like to work in industry, and I was delighted to return as a full-time scientist after finishing my degree. What were your priorities when applying for placements? My main priority was to see as many different aspects of a business as possible, including running projects, working in a lab, writing reports and so on. I have always been curious about why people behave the way they do, but when I was studying, everything was theoretical. During my placement this got translated into implemental behavioural science, a powerful tool that influences consumer behaviour. Did you have any concerns about working for this industry? I was naturally cautious about the controversy of the industry, but what stood out to me when applying to BAT was the ground-breaking research on harm reduction and potentially safer alternatives for smokers.

Marianna Gaça Senior Scientific Engagement Manager, Government Affairs Tell us about your career path I recently moved from R&D to Government Affairs in global headquarters, as they were looking for someone who had a strong science background along with good connections in the science world. It’s very exciting that science and innovation are really at the heart of what we do and it’s exciting to be part of the transformation. How has a STEM degree translated into your role? I joined in 2004 from academia to develop shortterm ‘in vitro’ biological tests to assess the impact of our new products on consumers. To mimic human exposure to different aerosols meant a lot of new science for us, including inventing a special new aerosol chamber and ensuring the lab tests were as accurate and efficient as possible. Previously, clinical studies had taken up to six months, but with these new tests we could generate and analyse data very quickly, sometimes within 24 hours.


How are you able have an impact? Developing in vitro tests brought me into the middle of the ‘alternatives to animal testing’ community. I spent a lot of effort explaining how our emerging field of potentially less risky nicotine products needed a non-animal testing paradigm. This led to invitations to give keynote talks at mainstream scientific and specialist toxicology conferences, as well as representing our sector on scientific advisory panels around the world. How important is it to have a diversified work force? It is very important. We need to refresh ourselves with new skills and ideologies, and challenge ourselves internally to make sure nothing is overlooked. On a personal note, I have two teenage children, supported by the company’s flexibility – this has allowed me to have a dynamic and interesting career as well as a family.



Marina Trani Group Head of New Categories R&D What tempted to you leave your last company after 25 years? I worked on all sorts of innovation categories at P&G, from razors to detergents, drugs to cosmetics, holding roles across every aspect of the product innovation and R&D lifecycle. I loved my job and was not looking to change any time soon. A friend encouraged me to visit BAT and I was intrigued by how significant the business, consumer and technical challenges were in this sector. I saw a lot of room to make an impact through innovation and new-to-world products and this is something I love to do. I joined in 2013 to form an R&D organisation and a product pipeline solely aimed at creating viable alternatives to smoking and the harm reduction mission associated with these products strongly resonated with me. Seven years later and we now have a rather comprehensive product portfolio, a rapidly growing business in the new categories and, last but not least, a thriving R&D team with super bright and capable technical leaders – how time has flown! What challenges did you face? BAT had great expertise and depth within tobacco-based products but the new categories often required different technical and business capabilities. So, for the most part, it was like starting with a blank notebook. It was clear to me that we needed new thinking and new skills combined with our existing expertise. We needed to strengthen our understanding of what consumers wanted and we also needed access to new technologies. We looked externally and also within the company, for experts who could help us to create the required consumer experiences at much lower temperatures, hence controlling the chemistry and minimising the production of toxic substances. We brought into our teams technical leaders who could help us to create easy to use, affordable and scalable devices and this required a deep knowledge of electronics, mechanical engineering, power management, batteries, software systems. This was all new. Is diversity important? Absolutely. I have been very fortunate to help shape my organisation and drive the right level of diversity. I was able to bring in and develop great talent across genders, nationalities and experiences. In very technical functions, women are sometime under-represented. However, in my R&D team, we have some rather phenomenal women who show terrific leadership and drive their complex programmes forward with clarity and passion. Driving a strong diversity culture is much easier today, as there is now enough diversity and we can push together. So many aspects of my work life have changed, and in fact totally transformed in a positive way, in less than seven years. As Global Top Employer earlier this year, BAT received more recognition for employee best practices, scooping the National Undergraduate Employability’s main prize in the category ‘top medium-sized undergraduate scheme’. Each year, BAT recruit up to 15 undergraduate students for a oneyear industrial placement into R&D and Operations, as part of their degree. We seek out the most talented individuals from the UK’s top universities in disciplines such as life sciences, chemistry, materials science, engineering, electronics and product design.



16 | Read more at womeninstem.co.uk


42% of mothers

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


omen 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.

Read more at mothersinscience .com

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 lowerresponsibility 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’. 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?

Isabel Torres Co-founder, Mothers in Science

© L I D ER I N A

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.

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. 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 nonprofit 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.

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