I Tip My Hat to Female Engineers
I am currently working at a company called TradeMachines, which is a start-up in Berlin. Our founders created a website where you can sell and buy used industrial machinery. When I first applied for the job, I was a bit nervous about entering a male-dominated field. “Industrial machinery” seemed like a topic I might not feel comfortable with, but as soon as I first arrived, I experienced the great atmosphere of the company: Our staff of 30 coworkers are energetic, optimistic, and very welcoming.
I would like to underline welcoming. We have a very international group of people working together; other than German, we have French, Italian, Mexican, British, and some from Ukraine and Uzbekistan. I am American. Looking at gender, the percentage of men vs. women is approximately 60/40. Our main company value is trust and honesty: We trust that no matter where you come from, what your family background is, we are all in the same boat, and we accept and respect each other fully.
However, in having a conversation with my coworkers, we realized that even within our “accepting” company, gender is distributed unequally. For example in our sales department, most of the employees are men; in marketing, where I work, the majority are women. We are keen on equality, but without noticing it, some departments were labeled by gender, like “the sales guys.” This caught our attention.
Many of our clients are engineers, given that working with industrial machinery can require a lot of engineering knowledge. We noticed that they are mostly men. So we started to look into the topic and realized that our observation regarding engineers is not irrational: In Germany, 17% of practicing engineers are female. In the United States, that number decreases to 13%, which is one of the greatest gender gaps in the world. We were stunned. Both countries are well developed and the education system is open to both girls and boys—and still, some jobs are considered “men’s jobs” while others are “women’s jobs.” Why?
As it turns out, regarding engineering, there are still a lot of obstacles women have to face when entering the field. Not obstacles they can’t tackle because of being less capable, but difficulties that make them lose motivation. Who would want to work in a macho workplace where women often have to provide more evidence of confidence than men?
As a company that is sensitive to equal treatment, we decided to draw attention to the issue. We designed an infographic for International Women’s Day that sums up the main reasons for female underrepresentation in engineering and tries to give an overview on where women are discouraged to join the field. We hope that with increasing awareness, the stereotypes that are still present can be tackled and proven wrong. We are aware that further initiatives have to be taken on other levels as well to make a change, but we hope that by acknowledging the hard work of determined female engineers as a company, we can show our support.