Advice For Women Engineers Working In Gender Imbalanced Teams

Engineering teams worldwide are becoming more diverse but there is still an imbalance. This article focuses on advice for women engineers working in an all-male or substantially male team.

Advice for Women Engineers Working in Gender Imbalanced Teams with pictures of Yaa Amoakoa, Alison Turnbull, Ruth Otieno, and Maria Cristina Perez Leon Sosa.

What advice would you give a woman working in an all-male or substantially male team?

Maria Cristina Perez Leon Sosa, ZEISS Group, Spain

Maria Cristina Perez Leon Sosa is an Electronics Engineer with training and experience as field service and customer service engineer in different fields. She is based in Bilbao in Spain and works for ZEISS Group.

Maria Cristina Perez Leon Sosa ZEISS Group

What advice would you give for women engineers working in an all-male or substantially male team?

Be fearless. For me the “difference” between males and females is perhaps the physical strength to work. However, just look around and think of smart techniques with tools. This is how you can keep in the game.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Others also need help and ask for help.
Also, always give your point of view. Most of the time we have different perspective about the problems, and therefore the solutions.

Can you give an example of a technique you have used?

There are many examples, but the shortest one is when I have to move something heavy from one place to another and there is no one to help around.
In these situations, I lift the piece from one side, slide a piece of cardboard underneath, and then slide the piece easily. I get it as close as possible before I need to carry it.
Regarding decision problems, I always think about the long-term consequences, and propose solutions to solve the problem or reduce the consequences.

How do you support other women?

Interchanging experiences, giving advice if they are having bad experiences, and encouraging them not to give up because of bad experiences.

Empowering others is my passion.

Resources

Are there any resources you would recommend?
As a field service engineer the resources are the training sessions, service and user manuals, schematics, application articles, journals, and networking.

Who else can help?

Experienced colleagues. The ones that have worked with older equipment. They know a lot!

How do you personally prepare yourself before an important meeting or presentation?

I review the history of the equipment, and why the customer acquired the equipment. This is important to see the priority of the system to them. In addition, it gives you an idea of what their budget is for repair or maintenance.

How do you encourage your company to hire more women?
By being the best I can be to let them know that women engineers are also capable.

Alison Turnbull, Custom Controls Ltd, New Zealand

Alison Turnbull is a Marketing Specialist at Custom Controls Ltd and works with process and automation industries across New Zealand. She is based in Auckland.

Alison Turnbull, Custom Controls Ltd contributor to advice for women engineers

What advice would you give for women engineers working in an all-male or substantially male team?

Be confident and speak up, even if you are not feeling comfortable. I found Toastmasters very beneficial.

How do you support other women?

I recommend asking questions and putting oneself forward.
For my own daughters, my philosophy was – you can do anything. If they said they wanted to be a nurse, we suggested they also consider being a doctor.
Dream and dream a step higher.
One of my daughters recently graduated with a conjoint degree in Engineering – 1st class honours – major Engineering Science, with Commerce- majoring in Finance.

Are there any resources you would recommend? Who else can help?

Toastmasters, keep learning, and keep upskilling, so that you gain confidence.
An excellent book to read is:

Everything Is Figureoutable” by Maria Forleo which is also available as an audio book and for the kindle. (paid links. Product price unchanged)

How do you personally prepare yourself before an important meeting or presentation?

I like to be organised and think of questions people might ask so that I can be prepared.

How do you encourage your company to hire more women?

Promoting Women in Engineering is an organisation that can be approached to spread the news of a vacancy. They also encourage girls in secondary school to consider a career in engineering. Another group is Robogals. My son has volunteered for this group tutoring school children in computers during the school holidays. The aim of the group is to encourage students into computer related careers.

Yaa Amoakoa Frempong, LifeCare Technology, Ghana

Yaa Amoakoa Frempong works as a Biomedical Engineer for LifeCare Technology in Ghana. She is a passionate STEM advocate.

Yaa Amoakoa, LifeCare Technology

What advice would you give for women engineers working in an all-male or substantially male team?

I’ll say being the only woman has made me develop a tough skin as well as a sense of self-motivation and resilience to push harder. 
I always make it a point to encourage my other female colleagues to exude confidence and boldness.
No one knows it all; however, it is how you show confidence in what you know that matters. I push them to go forward and take on tasks be it training sessions, installations, servicing of equipment etc.
As well, I make them understand that sometimes mistakes are bound to happen. Of course, not at the expense of the patient’s health, but it is how quickly you recover from it and get it right that makes you learn and understand even more. 

How do you personally prepare yourself before an important meeting or presentation?

I make sure to first of all know who it is I am to meet or what it is I am to present on. Then, I research about the person or subject to have a better understanding.
This helps me to be prepared for any questions that will be asked to help direct interactions. It also helps me have confidence and not be too surprised with new and advancing technologies. 

Ruth Otieno, Philips, Kenya

Ruth Otieno works as a Field Service Engineer for Philips and is the Technical Operations lead for Philips’ Women Lead Network. She is based in Kenya.

Ruth Otieno, Philips contributor to advice for women engineers

What advice would you give for women engineers working in an all-male or substantially male team?

Be yourself. Be authentically yourself.
Being in gender imbalanced teams there is that temptation to fit in or blend in. However, what I have learnt over the years in male dominated teams is being authentically yourself, embracing also the strengths and nuances of being a woman makes your showing up valuable to the customers you serve, your teammates, the organisation as a whole and more importantly you.

Can you give an example of a technique you have used?

My technique is simple. I view myself as an organisation first before I present myself to the world. I have a Finance department, I have my Marketing department, my Operations and Customer Service, My Sales and Strategy department, even my CSR department?
After I viewed myself as a whole organisation, I found myself making better decisions, and being true to myself while showing up authentically as myself every single time.

How do you support other women?

The most basic way I think is to always be an open book and sharing my journey. As well as being very receptive to any woman that requires pointers for the journey which I always ensure to do.

Resources

Are there any resources you would recommend? Who else can help?

My number one piece of advice to any woman I find is to always tell them to find societies made for women. As women in STEM over the years have been few, people have realised that peer to peer mentorship is as effective as mentor-mentee relationships. Societies help to exchange information and to learn growth areas.

How do you personally prepare yourself before an important meeting or presentation?

I first understand my audience to understand what content matters, technical, numbers or just personality? I do my research and finally I try not to prepare so much, so that I leave a little room for authenticity and for the conversation/presentation to feel naturally flowing.

Further reading on advice for women engineers

The positivity of the rise of women in engineering

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