Working in electronics – four female engineers share their career experiences
In the early years female engineers working in the semiconductor and electronics sector had to deal with quite a lot of challenges, but what is it like now? Gillian Ewers VP Product Management at Pragmatic asked a few of her colleagues to join her in sharing their career experiences and insights.
The early challenges
Gillian Ewers – VP Product Management
I loved science and maths at secondary school, and it was my physics teacher who suggested I might find an engineering degree interesting. After university I worked in the semiconductor industry, over time migrating from the technical side to senior marketing roles for global organisations such as Texas Instruments, Toshiba and CSR. Being in a male dominated environment was challenging in the early days, for example in the 1980s there was only a handful of female electronics engineering undergrads in a class of over a hundred. Then, when I began working, I did experience discrimination. There was also a clear expectation that women would not work after having children, and part-time working was seen as not being committed. There has been a lot of progress made in employee rights since I started, but it has taken a long time, in my opinion, to get to where it is today.
So, how do my colleagues feel?
The tide is turning
Melanie Winter – Senior Technical Engagement Manager
When I left school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I began working as an operator on a manufacturing line in a local factory. I was promoted to team leader, but then realised I found the technical aspects of the job more interesting, so I went back to college to study electronics at night classes. Not easy when you are a full-time working parent. Over the last 20 years, I have held various positions including process technician, process engineer, operations and engineering manager. I have worked for large multinationals across the UK such as Siemens. Engineering in general is thought of as a male dominated environment. It may well still be the case in some heavy engineering industries, but personally I don’t find it’s the case in this area of electronics now. It’s an extremely rewarding career for anyone, male or female, but I would really love to see more young women being encouraged at school to view engineering as a career option.
Dr Catherine Ramsdale – SVP Technology
When I was studying for my degree in physics with German in London it was a heavily male dominated environment. However, when I embarked on my PhD in organic electronics in Cambridge it was much more diverse, not just in terms of gender, but also culture and ethnicity too. I have been working in the flexible electronics industry for over 15 years and I have had the opportunity to be involved in some exciting projects. I am fortunate that my employers have been flexible, and I have a good work / family life balance. I don’t think I have really faced any major challenges because I am a woman, but there are still things to do in science to make it more diverse. We need to be repositioning how we portray sciences at school.
Ebony Birmingham – Failure Analysis Engineer
Electronics and semiconductors were a big part of my university degree. I was lucky as my lecturer was extremely passionate about the subject which resonated well with myself and, I believe, the other students. He made us very aware of the careers and opportunities within the semiconductor industry. Around only 20% of the people on my course at university were women, which was initially slightly intimidating, but I knew I deserved to be there just as much as anyone else. It’s sad that there were so many girls I went to school and 6th form with who were extremely talented when it came to maths and science, physics in particular, who chose a different route because they thought it might be too difficult or might not be for them. This is something that really needs to change.
It’s clear that there have been challenges for female engineers in the electronics industry over the years. There is still a lot more to be done to promote science as a career for all in school, but it’s great to see things are changing. There are now many exciting opportunities for women to work in forward thinking companies like Pragmatic, helping our customers to create more extraordinary solutions that will improve everyday life.