What are the most important factors in creating an equitable environment for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)?
Catherine Das Gupta: Women, like everyone, need to feel supported in the workplace. Different people may require additional support to ensure they are set up for success. Our work environment needs to be flexible and agile enough to consider different circumstances.
Kate Drews: I think one of the most important factors is removing barriers to participation. Women remain underrepresented in our industry and socioeconomic status influences girls studying STEM at secondary school. The second challenge is to increase retention through the creation of an inclusive and equitable workplace culture. Transparent practices for study, recruitment, remuneration and career development are key to achieving better outcomes and retain people longer term.
Left image; Catherine Das Gupta (far right) celebrating an IWD event with colleagues
Right image; Kate Drews (middle) joins an OZ Water panel to discuss the Brisbane Olympics
Mirella Verhoeven: Creating an equitable environment for women in STEM really falls to all of us to take time to understand why disparities exist and why there is lower participation for women generally. That includes recognising and understanding the biases in the workplace, both unconscious and conscious. When we appreciate the root causes, we are all far better placed to be able to identify inequity and to advocate for change for both ourselves and others, thereby creating a supportive and attractive workplace for all.
Radeshni Moodley: I have noticed many women who doubt their abilities. It is crucial to provide a safe environment, where everyone’s input is heard and acknowledged. From a management perspective it is important to have the right tools and skills to deal with the human aspect of our jobs and help people grow.
At SMEC I have been fortunate to be a part of the Young Professional Programme which introduced me to business operations and offered insights into the daily challenges our leaders are faced with. I have also been fortunate to attend the management development programme which focussed on team building and communication as a leader.
Hajar Saaid: It is essential to promote an environment that is respectful and accepting of differences, without prejudice. Trusting in the persons capability, regardless of whether they are male or female and allowing everyone the opportunity to take on leadership roles and influence decision making. The work environment should also provide flexibility for reconciling work and personal life.
Left image; Radeshni Moodley Zimbali Lakes Site, Ballito KZN
Right image; Hajar Saaid (left) undertaking field work at the Mano river in Sierra Leone
Momi Jeinow: SMEC invests in personal development and encourages & support Individuals in building leadership capabilities. It was a great opportunity to attend the ‘Management Development Program (MDP)’ workshops, which encouraged me to focus on key core areas – Leading Self and Leading Teams. The workshops were very interactive in nature, whereby shared a common platform with our Leaders and their insights on mentorship & expectations from us to meet business goals.
Mary Joy Triño: The most important factor in creating an equitable environment for women in engineering is to understand our aspirations and provide targeted and tailor-made support. It is critical to have access to equal opportunities, mentorship, and a work environment where women can thrive while raising a family.
Mary Joy Triño (far right) with her team and some colleagues in Manila
What advice would you offer to a female who is having doubts about a career in STEM?
Catherine Das Gupta: A career in STEM does not need to be restrictive, it opens a whole world of opportunities across many different fields. Many people I know have transferred between STEM industries as their lives and passions change. STEM is a requirement in many industries including medical, education and engineering, so your career can evolve as you do.
Mirella Verhoeven: The STEM field has exciting and dynamic undertakings. To be a female engineer or scientist is an asset. Women bring their own unique perspectives which can help the team better respond to the project requirements and the needs of communities. Women and girls interested in this field should not hesitate to pursue a career in this sector and help our industry drive sustainable change.
Left image; Following maternity leave, Catherine returned to SMEC to take on the role of Area Manager Tasmania
Right image; Hajar Saaid (centre) at a social event with colleagues in Ghana (2019)
Radeshni Moodley: Starting out in STEM is a great steppingstone to a diverse and fulfilling career. As engineers we tend to be very analytical, which helps us resolve complex solutions for our clients. But there is so much more to my role and so many different opportunities to learn new skills and add value to different areas of the business, whether it is in a management role, talking to clients or liaising with government stakeholders or members of the community.
Mary Joy Triño: It is normal to have doubts especially when joining a male-dominated field of work. As cliché as it may sound, you must conquer your fears. I notice that women engineers are known for their attention to detail, perseverance, and persistence, so they should use this advantage. Do not be afraid to speak up when you have ideas.
Hajar Saaid: The STEM field has exciting and dynamic undertakings. To be a female engineer or scientist is an asset. Women bring our own unique perspectives which can help the team better respond to the project requirements and the needs of communities. Women and girls interested in this field should not hesitate to pursue a career in this sector and help our industry drive sustainable change.
Kate Drews: There is a great diversity of roles across our industry, so investigate the breadth of options before making any decisions. My daughter recently borrowed a novella from our local library which had stories of girls in STEM careers, which was a fantastic way to educate her about the possibilities of a STEM career. This type of positive interaction can help girls better understand the benefits of a STEM career.
What is your vision to inspire the next generation of women to pursue STEM careers?
Mary Joy Triño: When I was taking up civil engineering, there were only 5 of us in a class of 45 students but looking at the current ratio, more women are now joining the engineering field. Women engineers can be up to the challenge and definitely can do the job. Find inspiration in women engineers who were able to succeed. I would like to see more women engineers who are unafraid to visit the site.
Momi Jeinow: Companies can act to actively pursue fair opportunities to all, especially to those with less access to resources and privileges. I would like to see more transparency around wages in relation to performance reviews and benchmarking. I also believe we should be empowering diversification by giving appropriate representation across all areas of the business.
Left image; Mary Joy Triño as a young engineer a multi-storey building in Manila
Right image; Momi Jeinow and colleagues in India, participating in a tree planting day
Mirella Verhoeven: My vision is a gender balance in STEM at Universities and in the workplace that is representative of society’s gender split. I look forward to the abolition of gender targets because they will no longer be required. I think we can achieve this over time as we have come a long way since I commenced my career in STEM. I continue to be inspired by the amazing female leaders and male champions who have supported my journey. The more we pay it forward, the faster we can expect change.
Radeshni Moodley: I’d like the next generation of women engineers to be confident and take charge of their careers. We have so many opportunities afforded to us and are on equal par with our male colleagues, I’d like them to embrace the opportunities and not feel threatened or intimidated by their male colleagues. In many occasions, they will likely be the only female in the room and I’d like them to own it and know they deserve the seat at that table.
Kate Drews: My vision is to inspire other women by showcasing the incredible talents and achievements of the women in our industry who serve as role models to others. Many of our colleagues have overcome disadvantage and challenges to get to where they are and I feel celebrating their achievements helps to remove bias and fosters understanding of what is possible. Women supporting and empowering women is what inspires me and sharing our experiences is key.
Left image; Radeshni Moodley KZN Urban Development Team Site Visit at SIbaya Pumpstation
Right image; Kate Drews visiting the Harpley development southwest of Melbourne, Victoria
Catherine Das Gupta: The next generation of engineers are extremely talented and the school-aged STEM students are taking on bigger challenges then previous generations ever have. It’s an exciting time to be a part of a STEM career and the participation of females within these groups is hugely encouraging. I hope to support this generation as they come through into our industry by working with them to support their career and allow them the space to achieve success. It’s our responsibility as the current generation to improve the work environment for all those entering the industry and I hope by practicing role model behaviour and working with senior management I can make the workplace an even better place for those coming through.
Hajar Saaid: My vision is to “Make positive change through every action and connection”. I really enjoy working in the water and environment sector because it is a field that has a direct impact on communities and the environment. Through projects I have contributed, I have seen that our work can significantly affect the lives of millions of women and girls; our contribution can be a cause to empower women and girls to achieve their aspirations and dreams.
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