An evening with women in engineering

Our CHANGE coordinator Anita Thaler (IFZ Graz, Austria) met and exchanged ideas with 75 women who work in electronics and software industries. Her talk followed the excellent presentations from successful engineers Heike Schwager (Senior Director Automotive Radar Development, Infineon AG), Jennifer Zhao (EVP and GM in Advanced Optical Sensors Division, ams AG) and Sabine Martinjak (Women in Tech Lead, Bulme Graz). The international online event, organised by the Graz Women in Engineering core team, took place on June 23rd 2021, the International Women in Engineering Day to celebrate women in technology jobs, but also to reflect on difficulties in the engineering working environment.

In quick surveys between the talks, the participants shared that 42% had no support whatsoever from schools to study technology (32% had support, 25 % did not answer). 49% answered they have a gender action plan in their organisation (comprising mentoring and coaching activities etc.; 21% answered no, 30% did not give an answer).

However, when Anita Thaler talked about "Why we need Gender Equality Plans in Industrial Research", it became clear that a strategic process to make gender mainstreaming a leading principle is missing in the most organisations. Thaler explained how technology and innovation are gendered, and a diverse work force and gender knowledge in research and development are so important (referring also to results from sister project GEECCO).

"While 70% research budgets in Austria and Germany are allocated in the business research sector, the share of women researchers in industry lies below 20%!", explained Thaler. This is why we are building a community of practice (CoP) here in Austria focussing on co-creating gender equality knowledge with technology research organisations. With the CHANGE approach of co-creating gender equality plans with top management (transfer agents) and employees of all genders, the aim of GEPs are first and foremost to make science and research a better working environment for everybody, including the business sector.