Steady growth in the proportion of women in some engineering disciplines

SVIN Swiss Association of Women Engineers

Cornelia Malecki, Member of the Board

We have seen a steady increase in the proportion of women in some engineering disciplines for some years now, at least in the degree programs. But the proportion of well-trained female engineers is still small. We should therefore strengthen our image in this respect.

Answers from Cornelia Malecki on Engineers' Day.

When and in what context did you first hear about Engineers' Day? 
The SVIN (Swiss Association of Women Engineers) was already allowed to participate in the second "Engineers' Day" event. We were made aware of the "Engineers' Day" during its second execution through our former executive director Brigitte Manz-Brunner. We are very pleased to be part of this special event. 

Your association is now participating in Engineers' Day for the 3rd time. Why are you involved in this event?
Participating in Engineers' Day gives us the opportunity to present our program and become more visible as women engineers. After all, our association has been committed to the promotion and recognition of women in various STEM professions for 30 years. With the "KidsInfo" program, we are also committed to promoting young talent and represent the interests of female engineers who are already established in the profession. Here, we cover a whole range of topics; for example, the compatibility of career and family, equal pay and opportunities for advancement. We also offer our members special training and events on topics such as salary negotiations, pension plans or in the area of networking, sometimes together with different partners of ours. 

What goal or goals would you highlight as the most important priority in terms of your involvement in Engineers' Day or in everyday life?
For SVIN, the well-known goals of Engieers' Day, especially Unesco's Sustainable Development Goal 5 Gender Equality is very important. Among them, the promotion of young talent and the promotion of girls in STEM professions are definitely part of it. For some years now, we have seen a steady increase in the proportion of women in some engineering disciplines, at least in the degree courses.
But where are these well-trained female engineers? Why are management positions still so male-dominated? How do women actually fare once they enter the profession? Why do some of the very well-educated women even change professions? 
SVIN has been working for years now to understand why many women leave the profession. One of these projects is the impulse program Kultur-Wegweiser, which, thanks to the financial support of the Federal Office for Gender Equality (EBG), has already been carried out five times in a row. In this program, we go directly into the companies to demonstrate culture and make a contribution to equal opportunities. Together with the employees of the participating companies, we work out relevant topics in various workshops and pass on impulses for cultural change to the management. We hope that by changing the culture of individual companies, we can make a small contribution to ensuring that fewer women leave the profession.

Why do you think female and male engineers and their achievements are not perceived enough in everyday life and what can female and male engineers do about it?  
We engineers like to solve problems, tinker and calculate, optimize and improve. Preferably in a quiet room. However, we are not salespeople. Only a few of us have mastered the science of marketing. We have a hard time with it and are hardly ever confronted with marketing questions during our studies. Even in our profession, we rarely have the opportunity to sell our products at a young age.
Furthermore, the profession enjoys high social status or is associated with positive stereotypes such as: intelligent, precise, good at mathematics... However, there are also not so positive prejudices associated with it: e.g. weak in communication or technical nerds... It is clear, I think for each and every one of us, that our profession is more than just what the stereotype represents; we work primarily in a team and must therefore present high communication competence and good social skills in order to understand the problems of other project participants. Therefore, we should strengthen our image in this regard.

If you had one wish to be able to influence the promotion of young talent even more, to whom would it go and what would that wish be?
I would like to make this wish to society. Especially to parents and teachers. Girls are often good at math, but are much less often encouraged in this area. I would therefore wish that this disadvantage for girls would finally disappear. The more girls get into STEM professions and become interested in science, the bigger the courses of study will be and ultimately the choice of candidates in business will be bigger and better. For me, promoting young talent and gender equality therefore go hand in hand, because the competition with other professions is high. We have to make sure that our profession remains attractive, also for young girls and boys.

Do you have any other wishes in connection with Engineers' Day?
I wish for a successful event, with lots of inspiration and more visibility for our great professions, which can be so diverse. I am looking forward to this diversity and to good conversations at this event, gladly also over a beer or white wine.

Further information: svin.ch

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