Women and the 4th Industrial Revolution

Thursday 18th May 2017 saw LJMU host the Women and the 4th Industrial Revolution event in Liverpool, where guests including Girl Geeks, Energy Fairies, Vauxhall Motors and Women in Engineering came together to discuss the barriers and opportunities for women in the industry.

Prof Ahmed Al-Shamma’a of LJMU welcomed guests and introduced the event as Lesley Lambert of LCR 4.0 discussed the nine pillars of manufacturing that represents the 4th Industrial Revolution and explained how these are being utilised already by a number of manufacturing and engineering companies today.

Impact of Women on 4IR

Nandini Chakravorti (Technology Manager, Data & Information Systems – MTC)

Touching up on the 4th Industrial Revolution, Nandini explained how companies are all focusing on digitising their processes, including manufacturing. This empowers workers through a greater amount of data and knowledge, de-risks working environments to make them safer whilst also requiring a more skilled workforce to manage new machinery and equipment.

Reasons for adopting 4.0 technologies include changing market trends, customer demands and production improvements. However some of the barriers which many businesses may face include challenges with network infrastructures along with SME’s culture which may prevent them from adopting new ways of working.

Nandini did highlight some of the great initiatives which are out there to help women in engineering and manufacturing such as The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN),  Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), Digital Catapult, Innovate UK, STEM and of course, LCR 4.0.

Nandini also went on to explain how only 9% of engineering and tech staff are female and yet they can play such a great role in leadership offering diverse opinions, social and collaborative skills. Some of the difficulties in recruiting may lie in skill sets, lack of interest in the sector itself, requests for additional support and training and a lack of incentives for women within industry.

Inspirational Panel – challenges & opportunities

The diverse panel of women included host, Sara Rioux, Operations Director of FET, Nandini Chakravorti of MTC, Aine McGuire Co-founder of The Sensible Code Company, Lesley Lambert of LCR 4.0 Project, Nadine Griffin of Energy Fairies, Abbie Romano who is a LJMU Civil Engineering student, Lorna Green, Commercial Director f Innovation Agency, Diane Miller, Paint Unit Manager, Vauxhall Motors and Doctor Annabel Latham Vice Chair of IEEE UK&I Women in Engineering.

Here are some of the key take-aways from their insightful discussions:

Identify Challenges for Women in Industry

  • From primary school age, children experience gender stereotypes such as which toys they are given to play with. This can help to increase their interest and development within certain sectors, for example playing with Lego to build and construct larger items.
  • Companies should not only identify and nurture skilled women but also showcase role models which can in turn highlight to younger women the opportunities for them.
  • A lack of female middle managers – there appears to be few yet these could offer fellow females within the workplace additional support.
  • Companies set barriers themselves by not ensuring that they could appeal to women as well as men and perhaps even job descriptions could put women off applying for future positions.
  • Lack of understanding what some jobs entail. They may not be as scary as you think and some qualifications can be used in all types of jobs – you don’t have to go onto a construction site if you don’t want to!
  • Concerns with stereotypes – women may not feel confident enough to enter a field which is known to typically be much more popular with men. They may feel insecure and that they do not necessarily deserve to be there as much as a man (imposter syndrome)

If you could offer advice to your younger self, what would it be?

  • Grab any opportunities that come your way
  • Try and get some exposure to the field as soon as you can
  • Explore what is out there and if it makes you happy then go for it.
  • Do what you’re passionate about, not what your stereotype says.
  • Ignore society’s expectations
  • You do not need to make a decision straight away and you can always change your mind, it is never too late
  • There are more opportunities out there than ever so make the most of them

What opportunities would you like to see out there in five years’ time?

  • The health sector offers many opportunities including bringing new technology to the NHS for example.
  • Maths students at certain schools tend to be quite fairly split between male and female and yet computer science appears to be more male dominated which may highlight there is an opportunity for women to gain a greater understanding about what jobs and roles they can undertake through courses they enjoy.
  • The panel also suggested they would like to see greater support from teachers and parents who can spot potential within young children and help nurture their careers from an earlier age.

 

Sensible Code Company

Looking into the skills gap, The Sensible Code Company explained that universities need to start offering qualifications which will be more suited to industries today for the short and long term. For example a marketing qualification will only get you so far if this does not include digital marketing experience as this is what employees will be looking for. Data Scientist are much sort after and very hard to find – we should be focusing on developing the qualifications available to women and highlighting the opportunities that exist.

Some companies could also consider improving their policies to include better education and lifelong learning which allows employees to continuously improve and grow in their own careers and adapt to industry changes.

Equal pay, engagement with schools, support for students, and lower tax wages for apprentices would all help businesses to better engage with women.

Many skills from engineering to science and technology are completely transferable to not only other companies and geographical locations, but different careers and job sectors too. The demand is out there and a lot of these type of jobs are very well paid so the incentive is also there.

The outcome of the event is to create a women’s cluster group/support network in the Liverpool City Region which highlights the role of women working in these areas, encouraging innovation, identifying the challenges faced when entering and working in these sectors and to highlight the opportunities created by LCR 4.0 Project.

For more information, please contact Lesley Lambert on:

0151 231 2389

l.j.lambert@ljmu.ac.uk