International Women in Engineering Day – June 23rd #INWED

International Women in Engineering Day – June 23rd #INWED

June 23rd, we celebrate diversity and all women in engineering roles around the world. Diversity and inclusion are essential to our culture and have an immediate impact on all aspects of our business. Just as we value the different strengths of our people, we seek to promote this same recognition for all industry professionals who, with their varied experiences and perspectives, contribute to finding the best solutions for our global society.

Today is the International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) and in this, its eighth year, individuals and organizations from all over the world come together to raise awareness on how female engineers should tie in with the challenges of an uncertain future.

But, why women in engineering? Traditionally, there have always been sectors and industries comprised of individuals with very similar characteristics. Although there is more than one reason for this, many patterns have remained while global society evolves by leaps and bounds. In the engineering sector, one of the most striking patterns has always been low female participation.

Many industries are recognizing the need to diversify workplaces as a matter of fairness. This is a very strong argument and it means goes further. In a multidimensional and complex society like the current one, focusing on maximizing of a diverse workforce –meaning varied and heterogeneous in terms of origin, gender, ages, or abilities– has almost become a business imperative. Diversity brings better financial results to organizations; they are more creative and more effective in fostering strong business relationships. Why? Because of the greater the diversification in experiences and perspectives, the greater the enrichment in the working teams. Good business solutions can come from many work environments, but the best solutions come from wider points of view. However, there is a part of the equation that is often missed: promoting an inclusive culture in the workplace.

Inclusivity implies an environment in which respect, fairness, and positive recognition of differences are cultivated. Therefore, organizations must boost values such as representation, responsiveness, and equal opportunities for everyone. After all, the most important thing is what people can contribute to the work environment and not what sets them apart from the rest.

About #INWED

Initially known only as Women in Engineering Day (WED), this awareness campaign was launched for the first time in the UK in 2014 by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), with the main objective of raising the profile of women in the engineering sector. Thus, in addition to rendering a minoritarian group visible in the sector, it would improve young women’s knowledge, perceptions and desirability of engineering. Since then, WED has been acquiring more and more recognition in the following years. In 2016, UNESCO offered its patronage and, a year later, WED became INWED: an international event held in the interest and enthusiasm of a growing worldwide audience. In each new edition, the campaign seeks to achieve a greater global reach, already having participants from Canada, Ecuador, Australia, Rwanda, Hong Kong, among many other countries.

INWED encourages all governmental, educational, institutional, and corporate engineering organizations to coordinate and execute their own activities to raise awareness and link them together for maximum impact through its website and supporting resources. Fostering great opportunities for women in engineering is essential to make the sector entirely inclusive, which beyond the fairness and creation of new opportunities for differentiation and growth, is also increasingly tied to improve the workforce (Sobhani & de Jongh, 2017). Everyone can help to raise the profile of women engineers and encourage more people to consider engineering as a profession for all.

In 2020, the event was focused on enhancing the opportunities and recognizing achievements of women engineers, within the framework of the ‘Shape the World’ theme. What does it mean? The topic referred to how engineers advocate ‘shaping’ solutions to current issues that threaten our quality of life. Problems stemming from climate change or the rapid population growth, for example, are some of the challenges that they must tackle. INWED aims to receive and share the stories of those solutions and the minds behind them, who contribute to make our planet a better, safer, more innovative, and exciting place to be.

This year we’ll be celebrating the amazing work that women engineers around the world are doing, and not just to respond to the pandemic but also to support lives and livelihoods every day. We’re profiling the best, brightest and bravest women in engineering, who recognize a problem, then dare to be part of the solution; who undertake everyday ‘heroics’ as much as emergency ones.

A call for action

Increasingly, governments and the private sector are trying to bridge the engineering employment gap. This problem is being tackled in some cases from elementary school, where more and more children are encouraged, regardless of their environment or gender, to increase their interest in science, math, and technology; which will eventually lead them to consider a career in these fields.

An OEDC report (2017) revealed that, on average, only 5.3% of 15-year-old girls from their member countries in contrast to 12.2% of their male peers, have expectations of a career as an engineer. This implies that the latter are about 2.4 times more likely than girls to eventually belong to the engineering sector, the US being the country in which this probability is higher since boys are 3.3 more likely than girls of having these expectations. In fact, recent statistical data (2019) on people employed in that country shows that of the total number of people with occupations related to architecture or engineering, only 15.7% are women. However, this reality does not differ so much from that of other countries. In the UK (2019), for example, only 12% of workers in engineering occupations were women, more women having an engineering role outside the engineering sector than within.

According to some surveyed women, succeeding in engineering can be a challenge for them because it tends to be a sector traditionally dominated by men, and that does not evolve at a rate equal to society. Although low gender representation is only one part of the problem, the magnitude of this imbalance in the sector requires immediate action. Henceforth, institutions and companies need to further diversify their work environments. This goes beyond new revenue and growth, but to improve competencies as organizations and, more importantly, to respond to a societal call for greater transparency and responsibility, in order to build a more sustainable, equitable, and inclusive future.
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