- 08 March 2023
- Jo Jones
International Women's Day (Wednesday 8th March 2023) is about women all around the world. It is a day to take a step back and celebrate the accomplishments of women in society and our industry and look forward to what still needs to happen to improve equality.
It’s a reality that we still live in a world that is not gender equal and where bias, stereotyping and discrimination are present so must all continue to take action to drive the change needed. This year’s theme for IWD is #EmbraceEquity and so I thought it would be the ideal time to catch up with some of the team that makes up our Women in Tech group and get their thoughts on the topic.
I spoke with software engineer Rachel Gibbs to drill down into the definition of equity, and what it means in relation to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“Equity is the idea that different people face different barriers and need different support to get the same outcomes and opportunities. There are many very talented women in STEM, but they are still underrepresented in STEM jobs, especially at higher levels, because they have to deal with challenges that their male colleagues do not. We will never have the diverse workforce we need unless we work to challenge bias, break down barriers and support women.”
We then discussed what some of these challenges are and how they are being overcome. Unconscious biases, a lack of workplace flexibility and culture were common examples that cropped up, either based on past experiences or general awareness.
Our brains are wired to make snap judgements as a survival tool. Sometimes these judgements can be positive or negative in terms of how they influence our behaviour. Unconscious biases are often related to gender, race, age, or other identity characteristics that have absolutely nothing to do with how capable someone is at their job.
One example that I often hear from female engineers, particularly those that studied during the 1970s and 1980s, is that women were believed to be less technically competent than men and were often discouraged from studying STEM topics and pushed towards other subjects and careers. I am pleased to say that what I am hearing now is very different and I think this has a lot to do with a change in mindset when it comes to education.
This was echoed by software engineer Gunjan Sharma who observed that “at school, I chose maths and physics to pursue my passion for solving problems. I was often told that a profession such as engineering was not easy for women in comparison to medicine or teaching. Fortunately, my family encouraged me to pursue engineering. I worked harder to prove my potential and change the mindsets around me. I'm thankful to have joined Imagination's Women in Tech group to connect with other women and listen to their stories, that’s how I found my mentor.”
We also need to remember that the workplace hasn’t always been as flexible as it is today. We’re not just talking about the adoption of hybrid working following the pandemic but rather policies such as parental leave, bereavement leave and job shares which have all contributed to making it possible for people, particularly women, to consider certain careers they might not have before.
While I think we’re still lacking women in senior roles within STEM, I do think things are slowly changing, especially as we see more women entering the relevant industries and climbing the ranks, and also returning if they have taken a career break, but it takes time. Trina Watt, our vice president of product marketing, agrees.
“When I started my career, there were very few women in engineering or management roles and none in the exec space. Today, I see women in roles across Imagination, from senior leaders to all aspects of engineering. This gives me great hope, but we’re not there yet.”
One thing that is probably playing a key role in helping women progress are bespoke company development initiatives, such as Imagination’s Accelerate program. Accelerate is a pathway for high-performing employees to move into senior leadership roles. Rachel Gibbs commented, “Imagination has made a real effort to invite women to join this programme which will help give them the skills, knowledge and support needed to progress in their careers and make positive change in the company.”
One thing that we all agreed on is that working in STEM is a fascinating and challenging place with many exciting innovations happening. However, we all need to continue to champion equity because it makes our industry a fairer and better place.
Senior marketing supervisor Miao Tian summarised things perfectly. “At Imagination, we pride ourselves on being a diverse, inclusive, and equitable company. We understand the benefits this brings in terms of innovation – we don’t want our people to all think, look and talk the same. We like to celebrate difference – we value it.”