Working as equals
Maria and Shiyao both feel that gender is not a limitation to their careers and they have had excellent cooperation from their male colleagues. Maria goes further, “Whether you are a man or a woman you have to gain the trust of people and prove yourself. Make other people understand that you can do the job you have been asked to do. If you do that, whatever gender you are, you will be accepted. I have never met anyone who is against me for being a woman, but women have to prove themselves just like men do.” Helen Tracey has been a production technician for 14 years and is responsible for every step in the production process from wafer probing to production test and tape and reel of the chips. Having been in electronics since she left school, she feels at home in an engineering environment. “There are no drawbacks to being a woman…and women are accepted by men on the test floor,” says Helen. She thinks that women are very adaptable and good at putting people at ease, and that their patience and empathy makes them a perfect fit for training.
Why curiosity helps
Shiyao was the first female graduate engineer at the company in 2007 and has progressed from engineer to design engineer and to senior design engineer, in charge of all digital parts from RTL design to physical implementation and verification. Shiyao believes that women’s natural curiosity, patience and ability to stay focussed are assets in design engineering. “Curiosity helps you understand how and why something works. Being focussed helps you with problem solving and you have to be patient and systematic when verifying a design,” she says. Working in a forward thinking company is obviously a big advantage and both Maria and Shiyao acknowledge that the company’s ethos and training programme has helped them enormously with their careers. Both started when the company was quite small and have seen their opportunities grow as the company has got bigger and bigger. Maria looks back fondly, “When I joined the company it was very small compared to what it is now – only 30 employees,” says Maria. “It felt like working within a large family. No matter what the difficulties, there was always the will and availability to help to try and solve problems together. The company has grown and is different, with more projects and more people coming in – perfect for development.”
A structured career path
Shiyao pays tribute to the company’s graduate training programme and how it helped her make important decisions about her career development.
“When you are a graduate you are not 100% sure what you would really like to do in engineering. The technical training programme included work experience in all departments so that I had a thorough overview of the company’s operation, gained valuable knowledge and it helped me focus on what I really wanted to do, which was digital design. The additional leadership and management training made me feel my future with the company would be very bright,” says Shiyao.
Designing tyre pressure management systems for global markets means that both Maria, Shiyao and their colleagues can see the fruits of their labour being driven around the world in millions of cars. This brings additional personal rewards and job satisfaction.
“I’m proud to know that lots of things I have designed are spread worldwide,” says Maria. It is really nice to know that the world is full of a lot of little things that we have done. We want to make the world a better place.”
Helen also takes pride in the output from the production department. “Looking at cars on six or seven lane highways in the States on holiday brought home to me the contribution we are making to cars around the world. I realise now why I’m so busy!”
So why are there so few women in engineering? Shiyao provides a possible explanation, and at the same time inspiration for the future:
“Conventional wisdom says that girls are good at literature and boys are good at physics and maths. Even girls who are good at these subjects can be put off by their family who may prefer them to be a lawyer or accountant,” says Shiyao. “But I do think there are lots of opportunities in the Industry and we should encourage women to major in engineering because they will have a bright future.
Gender should not limit your aspirations – if you love physics and maths you should follow your heart – life is what you make it.”
Given the right encouragement at an early age, and an open progressive ethos within companies, there is no real reason why the percentage of female engineers in the world should not increase.
Maria, Shiyao and Helen have all shown that they have the ability and aptitude to make great engineers. Now all we have to do is spread the word.