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Advancing Women in Engineering is a Team Sport

Margaret International womens day

Today is International Women’s Day, and across ANSYS, our employees are standing up together to support the call to #PressforProgress in alignment with our Women in Technology program. From San Jose and San Diego to Austin to Pittsburgh and all the way around the world to Shanghai and India, teams gathered to show support.

For those that are not aware, International Women's Day is celebrated in many countries and is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

Every day, women across the globe struggle with balancing the demands of their studies, career and their family. There are some unique barriers that women must overcome to pursue and grow their careers in technology. These barriers may start early and can include social stigma, societal norms and harassment, all while pursuing engineering as a career.

In the workplace, the lucky ones will a find few female role-models. Some women will become frustrated and leave the tech industry altogether, which in my opinion is a tremendous loss of much-needed tech talent.

Shanghai International womens day

But women need not face the trials alone. We can all stand together as a tribe to push for our fellow engineers to, at the very least, recognize that there is a problem that needs to be solved. Of course, there is no gender difference in this basic need. In 1978, American journalist Jane Howard, wrote a book called “Families”, in which she wrote:

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

I think we all want that sense of community, and it is just as important in our professional lives as it is in our personal lives.

Why should you care?

When I relocated to Pittsburgh, I quickly learned that it is quite a sports fan kind of city, so using sports as a example, let me ask you this. How often have you seen a goalie kick the ball all the way to the other end of the field and score a goal by themselves? How often does the receiver run the ball all the way across the field, alone, and score a touchdown? The answer is — it does happen, but not often. The more ‘repeatable’ way to success is to have a team (tribe) who supports you in your goal and who works with you to bring that ball over the goal line.

SD International womens day

There is no gender difference in this basic need. But there is a gender difference for women in tech. I’m not going to rehash all the statistics you have probably already seen or heard. Instead I’d like to share some ideas on what you, whether man or woman, can do to help a woman in technology stay in technology.

Be a Coach:Advise

Amy Chambo International womens day

Early in one’s student and professional career, it’s easy to feel like we are on a trajectory where we need to go as fast as we can and do everything, or else we are running out of time and we won’t be as good as everyone else. While this can be an exciting time, it can also lead to burn-out and frustration, even self-doubt making us wonder if we are on the right path.

You may know someone who is juggling work, studies and/or family and you can take an active role to help coach and advise them. Think about what advice you could give someone on that path (maybe it was even you just a few years ago). Encourage people to be strategic about their career planning. Advice that you give them can help influence their early career decisions and help them accomplish their personal and professional goals without losing focus on their long-term career goals.

Be an Ally: Advocate

No one’s career is a straight path — it’s a journey of ups and downs, of obstacles and hurdles, and certainly as women, we have additional challenges — caring for our families while pursuing our career goals. How can we actively prepare ourselves for those hurdles?

Whether taking a break from your career to care for family or moving from the industry to academia (or vice versa), what actions can you take to improve your chances of achieving your career goals, when making a big work/life balance decision?

Pune International womens day

A good preparation means starting early. We can all advocate for each other and the key is building and maintaining strong networks. Building and having networks are critical for “finding allies” and getting the help we need to help balance our work and professional life —opening up opportunities for us, while we in turn help others. Build your brand so that people know your skills, your strengths and the value which you bring to the table. Go to events, attend conferences nationally and network with people at different levels in your industry. Publish your work and present your work publicly. These steps will help you build strong networks and provide you the contact you need to stay relevant professionally while making work/life balance transitions.

Be a Mentor: Assist

San Diego International womens day

Mentors are those people who can show us the way. At ANSYS, we launched a mentor program in 2017. We’re already hearing great feedback from the mentors and mentees. There is a saying that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, so it is critical for women seeking leadership roles to receive effective mentoring. Think of a time when you proactively reached out to a mentor and they helped you. Think about how they helped, and what guidance and advice you can share to help someone navigate a path to their career success. If you are searching for mentors, think about identifying several really good mentors. Realize their strengths, identify what they are best at, and choose different mentors for different topics.

As we celebrate this IWD 2018, your support for women in technology is more critical than ever before. With the ever-changing technology landscape and new disruptions across multiple industries and the rise of Industry 4.0, encouraging women to pursue a career in engineering is essential for building strong businesses, strong economies, and remaining competitive. We need women in technology to help solve the toughest engineering challenges of our age, in new and creative ways.

We are on a journey and women need our help and the support of our community. From encouraging girls to take an interest in engineering and computer science, to mentoring women in their early careers, to welcoming them back into the workplace, we can support and encourage them as they balance the demands of growing a career and growing a family. Helping women advance their careers in technology is a team sport.

On this IWD2018, I hope you will not be a spectator in the stands, but be out there on the field helping to coach, support, and help your team get that ball over the goal-line.