Despite the efforts in recent years to bring more women into tech, women still only make up less than a third of the STEM workforce, according to data from MIT.
According to MIT, some of the actions that can be taken to increase these numbers include encouraging girls to pursue an education in STEM from a young age, creating inclusive workplaces, promoting female role models, providing professional development opportunities, and addressing structural barriers, like the gender pay gap and lack of family-friendly policies.
Crystal Nguyen, a research engineer at E Ink, which develops the technology found in Kindle screens, shared some of her perspective in a Q&A on being a woman in engineering and how she hopes companies change policies to be more inclusive and supportive of women.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a woman in engineering?
A: Being a woman brings a certain cultural expectation that goes beyond any single industry or vertical, so it is important to consider the intersectionality of being a working woman in a male-dominated field like engineering. Despite that, it is apparent to many organizations that diversity of thought can develop solutions that are more efficient and create new opportunities. It empowers the creative problem-solvers with technology skillsets that can transform the industry.
Q: Are there any particular experiences you’d like to share?
A: Companies that can look intrinsically and build a culture that’s driven by continuous learning, innovation, and inclusive participation of employees will see like-minded talent look their way. During my time at E Ink, I have observed a positive shift towards fostering more inclusive environments, with a higher representation of women in leadership positions such as directors and vice presidents. Our VP of Research, Karen Du, serves as an excellent example of a strong female leader, and I am personally inspired by her accomplishments and the challenges she faces in her high-level role.
Q: What progress have you seen throughout your career?
A: While there are still numerous challenges to overcome, one notable change I have witnessed across the industry over the years is a greater emphasis on building diverse and inclusive teams. The most significant progress I have experienced personally is finding and honing my voice. As an Asian woman, our culture often tends to be more conservative, and this is a learned behavior. However, developing and expressing my own voice has been critical to my success.
Q: How can companies and leaders better support women?
A: Companies should provide more opportunities for women to advance to higher levels, whether through promotion cycles or professional development initiatives. Gaining exposure to the roles and responsibilities at the next level is essential for acquiring the skills necessary to reach those positions. This includes fostering a culture of empowerment. Additionally, having leaders in place who can offer guidance and support for improvement is crucial at every level.
Q: What advice would you give to women looking to progress their careers in tech?
A: Be proactive in asking questions and actively engage with your work. Choose an industry that truly ignites your passion and supports your career progression. When you align your internal aspirations with your external goals, your colleagues and superiors will recognize your enthusiasm, leading to greater engagement and receptiveness.