I’d like to think I entered TCT Towers today with a much more positive mind-set, ready to take on the world, power-pose in full force and managing to teach the office a new tip for getting out of a bad mood all before 9.30am.
As annoyingly chirpy as that may sound for a Wednesday morning, positive thinking is just one of the key traits I took home from the everywoman Academy 2015 event in Coventry yesterday.
There was a completely different vibe to yesterday’s conference in comparison to the many I have attended since staring out at TCT. Apart from the one guy I noticed in attendance, over 100 women from across the Transport and Logistics industry spent the day learning tips on how to manage their careers as women in industry and chatting away to fellow female delegates freely offering tips and tales of experience – yay for the sisterhood!
Opening the conference, we were told: “The technology revolution will open up thousands of jobs for women in industry”. That’s a promising statement and one that I feel particularly thankful for being a young woman in an industry that celebrates forward thinking and new technology but where women are still very much in the minority.
There are many problems that engineering, manufacturing and other STEM industries face in getting women engaged and they’re largely down to image and the types of roles available– as panellist Sabina Nizamuddin, Business Manager for High Speed Two, said: “How do you convince someone that trains are sexy?”. Yet, as technology, social media and Ecommerce become more apparent in our industry, tech and digital are set to play a key role in getting more women interested in these sectors.
Marianne Culver gives the keynote address.
Amongst the inspirational stories from the likes of Marianne Culver and Jo Salter, the realities of being a woman in a heavily male dominated industry were shared, shining some real perspective on how far (or in some cases, not so much) we’ve come.
I’m lucky, I work in an industry where yes there are a lot of great men, but there are also brilliant women like Deirdre MacCormack (Mcor Technologies), Jenny Lawton (former MakerBot CEO) and Alice Taylor (MakieLab) to name a few, who have been at the forefront of pioneering companies as role models during this manufacturing revolution.
However, like I said, I’m lucky. Having previously been a part of the in the gaming industry, I’ve heard my fair share of “No I’ll get one of the lads to do it”, “You can’t, you’re a girl” and worse “Don’t your *ahems* get in way of ...?" that I can empathise with the speakers at yesterday's event who spoke of male colleagues in the past believing it appropriate to say the words: “I’m not working with HER”. It’s all about how you overcome this and challenge perspectives bearing in mind that whilst this does continue to happen, it most certainly does not apply to the majority of men.
Resilience was a big focus at the event and whether you’re a man or a woman in a competitive industry, you need it by the bucket load. It’s about self-awareness, adapting to new developments, being able to bounce back and sometimes managing to find the funny in tough times. In an industry like 3D technologies where start ups come and go and the market is constantly changing, resilience is even more crucial.
Established in 1999 by Karen Gill MBE and Maxine Benson MBE, everywoman is about advancing women in business through a net of global events, 10,000 active community members and its online learning resource, the everywomanNetwork. Over the next few months, the Academy will host two events focussing on Advancing Women in Technology and Advancing Women in Engineering to help women become more influential, resilient and confident in the workplace.
The work everywoman is doing to highlight women in industry is fantastic however speaking with some delegates, some of which had been attending events like this for 15 years, there’s the fair question of whether the landscape is changing if events like this still need to happen in order to give women the platform to celebrate their achievements. Though it may be a slow transition, I think, from the many young faces in attendance, eager to learn how to move up in these challenging and traditionally male-dominated career ladders, we can safely say, yes it definitely is.