Groundbreakers and Glass Ceiling Breakers. Trendsetters and Boundary Pushers. The Advancing Women Engineers initiative aims to feature programs, events, and people that are constantly pushing the envelope and encouraging the development of women in both engineering and STEM careers as a whole. In order to further this mission, item America and AWE’s own Rebecca Waddell traveled to Leon, Mexico.
An AWEsome Guest Speaker
As a speaker at Industrial Transformation Mexico, put on by Hannover Messe, Ms. Waddell delivered a keynote accompanied by UFA, Inc. Project Manager Amy Parish. Parish, having been featured on AWE in the program’s infancy, enthralled the crowd with descriptions of her work creating training simulators for the air traffic control industry. Her background as a self-described ‘aeronautics nerd’ won over the audience, particularly those who also identified with that descriptor.
Rise to the Opportunity
With Amy Parish’s experience providing an example to the 200-member audience of what kind of individuals AWE aims to feature, Rebecca Waddell moved on to explain why AWE was established. “[item America’s] teams recognized that a majority of the engineers they worked with were men,” she continued, “item takes its reputation as a ‘creator’ in the industry and puts it to another use. Our products can be used almost every which way to create a custom solution for clients’ needs – and the thought process was that [item America] could create a solution, or at the very least a stepping stone, to help narrow the gender gap in engineering.”
Dare to Do More Than Dream
Citing the inspirational, influential women of AWE features past, Waddell drew attention to AWE’s feature of women across the engineering and STEM spectrum. From an Industrial Designer at NASA to a Sales Engineer with Nexon in Mexico, from a STEM event for children in South Carolina to a female-led group advocating for women in the Automotive Industry. The broad scope of women who are making moves in the engineering industry proved poignant when compared with statistics that bluntly capture the gender gap in the field. As Ms. Waddell stated:
“Since the early 1980s there’s been a 141% increase in female engineers in the United States. While this statistic is great news and signals that demographics are beginning to shift in the direction we’d like them to, the number of female engineers is actually just 14% today. In the 1980s, that number was a sparse 5.8%.”
In a male-dominated industry, female role models for aspiring or beginning engineers can be difficult to find. That is where AWE comes in. This goal, echoed by Amy Parish’s emphasis on the importance of finding reliable mentor figures, was further reflected in the recommendations Ms. Waddell provided for the audience.
“How can you get involved?” Ms. Waddell asked the audience. “Get hands-on.” She provided the following list of takeaways:
– Get Introspective: evaluate your own organizational culture and climate to ensure it’s female-friendly
– Develop your current workforce: Your employees can be your greatest assets, so put the investment into your employees and they will become advocates on your behalf to help draw in valuable talent
– Volunteer: Get involved in your community. Doing so will not only get your company’s name and mission out to a new audience, but will also provide an opportunity to develop your employees as people outside of the office
– Address It: If there is an outstanding issue in your office environment, operations, or decision-making process, address the issue and ask for input on what you can do to change it
– Empower: Open a dialogue with your female employees and ask their opinions on topics Ensuring there is a female opinion in the decision-making process will go far in creating an environment that can recruit and retain top female talent
– Nominate: Nominating an outstanding female engineer, a pioneering program, or a stellar event to AWE for feature provides outlets for exposure as well as personal development for employees
A pioneer in the machine building kit industry, item prides itself on its prominence as a creator and problem-solving company. “The item America team didn’t want to just dream of a world where there‘s an equal chance of working with a female engineer as a male engineer,” said Rebecca Waddell. “We wanted to create that world.”