Gender diversity in workforce is much talked about topic these days. So much that in some companies they have very stringent goals and defined hiring process to bring in diversity in the workforce. So why is having more women in the workforce and especially more women in engineering so imperative? We are possibly looking at 50% of the potential workforce and that cannot be ignored. It is also a well-known fact that companies that have better diversity have better engagement rates and have higher profitability. There are several studies and surveys that prove this point. While I don’t want to delve deeper into those points, I want to touch upon factors that keep women from opting for engineering careers and even if they opt why they seem not to be aggressively pursuing their careers.
There are several social and cultural factors that go into creating the mindsets for women and men, which varies across the globe. However, pretty surprisingly there is a common pattern all over; women are really good at multitasking, and tend to be perfectionistic as well as prioritize family over career. Great qualities indeed and let me tell you, there is no need to change that. Also, there are phases where women tend to give up their engineering careers midway through, which are essentially life changing, like getting married, bearing kids etc. There is no need to escape these important and wonderful phases of life, it is just a matter of learning to work around them and still have a great engineering career.
Strive for excellence and not perfection!
I have seen many women around me, and in my own team, feeling guilty that they could not be a better mother, wife, daughter-in-law etc. Many women at this phase will give up their careers, where the guilt gets the better of them. Where is this feeling of guilt arising, it is predominantly due to the inherent quality for women to seek perfection in everything they do – perfect employee, perfect mother, perfect cook and the list goes on. It is also from the fact that we tend to do everything ourselves. Letting go of things that others can do and concentrating of chores/activities that only I must do, has been a constant lesson for me. But, once l learnt this art, it has been liberating experience. While, I try to be “as good as I can be” mother/engineer, I stopped beating myself up for not being a perfect one! Furthermore, I am able to make more time these days to spend with my kids since I delegated work to others!
Please note that I now only seek excellence and not perfection! The reason I tended to do everything myself earlier was because I thought I can do it perfectly and no one else could! I delegate better, have found bandwidth to do more exciting things at work. And behold! It is already bearing dividends! Suddenly my career seems to be blooming while I am able to take care of my family too!
Why try to fit in when we can stand out?
I have constantly thought of fitting in to the system around me both in office and at home. It has taken a lot of mentoring and coaching from my friends, colleagues, family and my managers to unlearn the constant urge to fit in. I learnt to celebrate the difference in my thought process whether in design discussions, meetings, everywhere! In fact, it took a while for me realize that the difference in my perspective is the real value I bring to table. Don’t feel isolated for thinking differently, instead that is our unique selling position ladies!
Look for role models – there might not many role models for women folk to look up to and get inspired in their immediate organizations. It will help to motivate other women if they have a role model around. In case there are none, look for ones in extended organizations. For example, I had the privilege to interact with our HR Vice President, Amy Cappellanti, and needless to say, that it was highly inspiring. I have heard similar thoughts from my female colleagues in Mountain View, who had the opportunity to interact with Roxane Divol, the Senior Vice President of our Trust Services BU. We must aim to become a role model ourselves. Help our friends to pursue relentlessly towards engineering excellence.
Finally, Sky is the limit! What say ladies!!