For many female engineers, workplace culture can be a barrier to their job satisfaction. In fact, recent data indicates that more than half of women who work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics ultimately leave their jobs because they feel unsupported and marginalized.
But for Mona Rafiee, an Industrial Engineer for Hydrogenics, both her career choice, and her workplace, has have a galvanizing effect on her.
“Believe it or not, since I (started) working as an engineer, I’m much more confident as a woman,” she says. “I can see in my social interactions – that I’m not comparable with the (shy) girl that I used to be.”
Creating an environment that inspires
Mona’s experience didn’t happen by accident. Hydrogenics prioritizes having a diverse and inclusive work environment for their female employees where they are given equal responsibility, autonomy, and pay.
“I like it when there’s always something to do that makes you think,” Rafiee says.
She’s not alone. Studies indicate that women who are successful in engineering fields enjoy encountering obstacles and tackling challenging problems. The engineering firms that do the best job of retaining their female employees are often the ones that underscore their commitment to workplace equality by assigning their most challenging projects to diverse groups.
Rafiee enjoys the kind of complex assignments where “you have to be creative and you’re always (trying) to find a better way,” she says.
Allowing for femininity
While workplace inclusivity might be perceived to only include measurable outcomes like employee salary, advancement, and work distribution, there is an equally important, frequently overlooked element in diverse workplaces.
They tend to let their employees be themselves. All of their employees.
A recent survey confirms that appearance often affects career judgments/advancement opportunities for female scientists but has no corresponding effect on judgments of male scientists. Companies that foster this disparity ultimately create environments that undervalue and damage the self-esteem of their female employees.
But Hydrogenics’ workplace culture is committedly different than the ‘buttoned-down’ companies that discourage expressions of feminity among their female engineers. For Rafiee this is an extremely important factor.
“I can be ‘feminine’ and still be very smart and be a great problem solver,” Rafiee says.