One Simple way to attract more Women into Photonics

Posted 24/3/2022 by Benet Hanley

Enigma People Solutions actively works with clients in the Photonics industry in the UK and internationally. Our Director Ben Hanley sits on the steering committee for EPSRC & SFI CDT in Photonic Integration & Advanced Data Storage = http://www.cdt-piads.ac.uk/.

We recently interviewed Nicola Parry one of the PIADs students about her views and experiences on the course, the photonics industry and being a woman in STEM.

 

So were talking a little bit about the opportunity to increase the number of girls and women in the tech industry in general, but especially in things like Electronics and Photonics and such sectors. Any thoughts or advice to the industry in terms of how you can attract more girls and women into the industry?

I think possibly, the most important thing would be representation. Just having visible, successful [ML1] women in STEM that are taking up space and holding high level positions in companies, in a male dominated field is crucial. Just to show young women and girls that there is room for them in this industry, not to mention people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, and every other minority group that are commonly under-represented in positions of power. Throughout my education, on more than one occasion I have been the only girl in the room, and making your voice heard is even harder than normal, because you fear that you’re going to be judged because of your gender. Had it not been for me having a female physics teacher in high school, and her actively encouraging me and putting the effort into me, I never would have even considered pursuing science. I think translating that more widely to the entire industry, this could look like encouraging female employees to be involved in more public engagement work, or inviting them to networking events. If your company is required to do a talk, put a female employee forward to conduct these talks. Consider them for high level positions because it’s possible they might have just had to work a little bit harder to get there than their male counterparts. And while all of this is important, it is equally important that this work is not purely performative. So, these activities also need to be carried out alongside actively listening to and seeking out the opinions of minority groups within the company then acting on any suggestions and not just ignoring them.

That’s a good point. It seems that every time I ask somebody that question about who’s inspired them or what got them to science, it’s actually the school level, a teacher has made a difference, made them think about, “actually, this could be a career for me”.

So we’re talking about events, and you were kind enough to join us at the Technology Scotland annual dinner? I’m keen hear your thoughts about the event, and what if anything you got from attending the event.

This is my first in person experience at any kind of industry or networking event. So before I was quite… maybe not apprehensive, but nervous that it was going to be daunting experience. But I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly and welcoming everybody was, and there was a good variety of talks. One from government, one from industry, other sponsors, and the main speaker was amazing and has an inspiring life story. This wasn’t the sort of thing that you would typically hear at this sort of event, so it was nice to have that variety. The one thing I would say, which is reflective of the whole industry, as we have just spoken about, not a criticism of the organizers, was that there was a lack of diversity in the room. Whilst having a discussion with some other attendees, someone suggested a practical idea on how to address this, such as requiring each company to have at least one or two graduates or junior employees at their table, just to get some new faces and offer opportunities for people at early stages of their career. I thought that was a really good idea.

I like that. It is a simple idea, often these events end up being high level treats for executive teams. Why not bring a couple of your most junior employees, so it gives a different feel to the room. I really like that.

Was there anything, in terms of your view of the photonics industry, anything – hopes or dreams or opinions you want to share with us?

I guess, I think the one thing that we keep getting told by people involved in the CDT is the amount of growth that’s currently being seen in the photonics industry. During the pandemic, a lot of industries and companies have been having to lay people off and are really struggling. But from what we have been hearing, a lot of companies that are involved with the CDT, have been expanding or hiring more people since the start of the pandemic, which is really fortunate, and I think a good indication of what an innovative and successful industry Photonics is at the moment.

 

Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. We find technical leaders for the emerging and enabling technology industries. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in photonics, electronics, semiconductor, software and IoT in Scotland and the UK. Check out our blog page for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us hello@enigmapeople.com or call us on + 44 131 510 8150

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