Celebrating women who are bridging the STEM gap -- International Women's Day 8 March 2015 -- IEC

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Worldwide women account for 41% of the workforce(1), however when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers, they hold less than 25% of positions in the US(2) and only 13% in the UK(3), with similar trends around the world.

L to R top row: Marie-Elisabeth d'Ornano, Melanie Nadeau, Elaina M. Finger. L to R front row: Hebbale Narasimhaiah Nagamani, Bronwyn Evans, Manyphay Viengkham.

On International Women’s Day, the IEC highlights the outstanding leadership shown by key women in electrotechnical standardization and conformity assessment, and calls for moves to encourage more women in the STEM fields.

On International Women’s Day, the IEC highlights the outstanding leadership shown by some key women in electrotechnical standardization and conformity assessment, and calls for moves to encourage more women in the STEM fields.

Marie-Elisabeth d'Ornano
Marie-Elisabeth d'Ornano, from France, has been Chairman of IECQ (the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components) since 1 January 2014.

How did you start working in conformity assessment?
My first real experience with conformity assessment was when I started working in LCIE, a subsidiary of BUREAU VERITAS in 2005. The core activity of LCIE is the assessment and certification of electrical products and electronics. This experience was so interesting that I'm still working in LCIE and as Certification Director completely involved within the field of CA.

What advice would you give to other women wanting to work in electrotechnical standardization?
My advice is to be flexible and open minded and as the innovation in this field is permanent, they will have to be able to make the link between very mature field and new technology.

What can be done to encourage more women and girls to work in this area?
Yes it's a "man’s" world but it's up to women to enter this field. The opportunities are real and the possibilities are wide. Women have their place within this field and can bring a lot. So don't be shy and try it – I'm pretty sure that you'll find it interesting and challenging enough to make a career in this field.

Melanie Nadeau
Melanie Nadeau, Senior Manager, Sustainability, Emera, Canada, is one of the pioneers in marine energy.

How did you start working in standardization or conformity assessment?
In 2006, I was involved in discussions with several other countries around the need to develop standards for marine energy technologies. Standards were seen as necessary to ensure that technologies would be able to enter the global market. Later that year, I became Chair of the newly formed IEC Technical Committee 114. In 2010, I then led a CAB Working Group for conformity assessment of marine energy.

What advice would you give to other women wanting to work in electrotechnical standardization?
In the committees that I have been with, there was under representation from women. Often I was the only woman in the room. This does need to change and we do need to start seeing more women getting involved. I believe diversity better informs conversations and leads to better decisions. My advice to any woman considering working in standardization would be to get involved, be confident, ensure your voice is heard and don’t be afraid to raise your hand.

What can be done to encourage more women and girls to work in this area?
I think there needs to be dedicated effort to attract more women to work in the field of standardization. It probably starts with having conversations in universities to inform women of the work that the IEC does and what opportunities working on standards can provide. Women-specific programs could help to encourage more involvement. The use of female champions who can serve as role models could help to demonstrate that there is a culture of openness and diversity in the world of standardization.

Elaina M. Finger
Elaina M. Finger holds the position of Global Standards Process Coordinator, Corning Incorporated; and Assistant Secretary of IEC SC 86C: Fibre optic systems and active devices, since 2002 and Assistant Secretary of IEC TC 86: Fibre optics, since 2003. She received the 2014 Thomas A. Edison Award in recognition of her support of IEC standardization work, actions in collaboration, knowledge sharing, training, teaching and proactive work across many fronts.

How did you start working in standardization or conformity assessment?
Almost 18 years ago, I accepted a position in Corning Incorporated’s Standards Engineering Department. Like many who find themselves working in the standards arena, this was a mid-career change for me. The job encompassed many of the skills I had acquired in variety of industries – finance, education and international trade – and offered the opportunity to gain others.

What advice would you give to other women wanting to work in electrotechnical standardization?
Historically, standardization has been a male-dominated field, but I see more women getting involved at each meeting I attend. Yes, worldwide attitudes have changed, but it is more than that. Without generalizing too much, I think women are well-suited to standardization work because they tend to be good collaborators with the ability to transcend cultural differences and the drive to bring projects to successful completion.

My advice is to become involved and take on high level positions within technical committees where they will have an opportunity to make powerful contributions to industry.

What can be done to encourage more women and girls to work in this area?
Electrotechnical standardization is a rapidly expanding field that offers women the opportunity to employ not only their technical expertise, but to acquire the skills necessary for advancement in the business world. As participants in the standards process, women become talented negotiators, striving to achieve consensus in a multi-cultural environment. At standards meetings, they will meet with many other experts in their particular field, who offer unique perspectives and collaborate to find good solutions that affect global industry as well as everyday consumers. The networking opportunities are endless! In addition to career enhancement, working in standards gives women a chance to travel the world, experience a multitude of cultures and form life-long friendships.

Dr. Bronwyn Evans
Dr. Bronwyn Evans, an electrical engineer, is Chief Executive Officer of Standards Australia.

How did you start working in standardization or conformity assessment?
My career in standardization started in 1997 as a Project Manager in the Electrotechnology Division at Standards Australia. I had just completed a PhD in Electrical Engineering and the role seemed to be (and indeed, it was) an excellent transition from a research role to (later) commercial roles.

What advice would you give to other women wanting to work in electrotechnical standardization?
The electrotechnology sector is our future. Whether it is sustainable energy systems, smart grids/ meters/ cities, sensor technology or electric vehicles, electrotechnology is critical for making our cities liveable in the future. Having standards that enable this transformation is vital.

So my advice for women wanting to work in electrotechnology standardization is to “just do it”. Be part of shaping and engineering a better tomorrow. If that means getting additional qualifications, again, I would say “just do it”.

What can be done to encourage more women and girls to work in this area?
To encourage and inspire more women/ girls to work in this fascinating and vital area we need to highlight successful role models, and increase the interest in and take-up of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects for all students but most especially girls. We also need to use social media for communications – be different, be relevant and be engaging.

Dr. Hebbale Narasimhaiah Nagamani
Dr. Hebbale Narasimhaiah Nagamani, is Chair of EC TC 33 Power capacitors and their applications. She is an electrical engineer from India with a long and varied career as a researcher and technical expert.

How did you start working in standardization or conformity assessment?
I joined Central Power Research Institute (CPRI), Bangalore, India, in the year 1981. Since the day I joined CPRI, I was associated with the laboratories for power cables and capacitors. The laboratories are endowed with excellent high voltage testing & research facilities. Testing of electrical equipment as per international and regional standards was a matter of great challenge and interest to me as it gave a wide exposure, in particular, to interpretation of standards. As the only lady in my lab and with traditional Indian attire (saree), it was a great challenge to work in a HV voltage laboratory complying with HV safety requirement. I enjoyed my profession as I received a great support my men colleagues.

My involvement in standardization began from the time I was a young researcher and test engineer in CPRI. I was appointed as the Chairperson of Indian National Committee for power capacitors in 2008 and as Chairperson to IEC TC 33 from April 2014. This I consider as recognition to my contribution, as a professional – of course gender was not a factor.

What advice would you give to other women wanting to work in electrotechnical standardization?
Standardization is a much focused and narrow area. It is not taught much in schools or universities. Exposure to standardization work happens mainly in testing and certification and calibration laboratories and in manufacturing companies. Various national and international standardization bodies like IEC, ISO, IEEE, ASTM, IS, NABL, ILAC, APLAC, etc., provide opportunities to work in standardization.    

According to me the basic quality required to succeed in the field of standardization is the skill to interpret standards. Therefore, my advice to other women wanting to work in electrotechnical standardization is to develop this skill at the early stage of your career.

What can be done to encourage more women and girls to work in this area?
More role models to encourage more women and girls in this area. Greater awareness of the importance and impact of standardization.

I just want to mention here that in Indian mythology, it is quoted that “Success prevails at places where women are respected.”

Manyphay Viengkham
Manyphay Viengkham has contributed significantly to global Smart Grid rollout and is now involved in Smart Cities as USNC representative to the IEC SEG1 – Smart Cities. From the United States, she holds the post of Client Implementation Manager at General Electric – Power & Water.

How did you start working in standardization or conformity assessment?
I started my journey working with standards as a consumer very early in my career as a system integrator where standards are critical in building interoperable systems, especially for complex systems. It was not until 2011 that I jumped over the fence and worked directly with IEC through the USNC on the Smart Grid initiatives, which was very exciting for me. Applying my systems engineering methodologies expertise I help build what is now the IEC Smart Grid Standards Map. I currently am the USNC representative to the IEC SEG1 - Smart Cities where I continue to provide my systems thinking expertise.

What advice would you give to other women wanting to work in electrotechnical standardization?
As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, would say “Lean In”, I too would give the same advice to ladies across the electrotechnical standardization community. ”Lean in” and sit at the table with your fellow male peers and voice your perspective and thoughts on matters to help drive IEC into the future. ”Lean in” and be bold to build the relationships and network with your fellow male peers and share with them the value you bring to the organization. ”Lean in” and pull in your fellow female peers to help build their confidence at the table too.

I can’t express how important it is for women leaders to “Lean in” at the table with confidence. Women hold only a small number of seats but don’t let the statistics scare you away. We have domain knowledge, industry experience, unique perspective that creates a tremendous amount of value to the electrotechnical standardization. Knowledge and inputs that can build a stronger organization and future for all things that standardization touches.

What can be done to encourage more women and girls to work in this area?
I believe this starts with being a role model ourselves to help pave the road for the next generation of girls who want to be more involved in standard organizations. It’s not an easy journey especially with an organization that has decades of old, outdated traditions. As trail blazers we need to grind the path and recruit other fellow female members to follow along in the journey. It’s a journey that requires us to be engaged in local educational communities that will encourage girls in the field of science and engineering and nourish their confidence; to be mentors and sponsors for young female professionals and find opportunities for them to practice and apply their potential; to knock down barriers within the organization and build a healthy culture to embrace diversity.

About International Women's Day
International Women's Day, celebrated on 8 March, is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality. Make It Happen is the International Women's Day 2015 theme, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women. http://www.internationalwomensday.com/ #makeithappen #womensday

Further Information
Gabriela Ehrlich
Mob: +41 79 600 56 72    | Skype: gabriela.ehrlich    |    Email: geh(at)iec(dot)ch

STEM resources
http://www.stemnet.org.uk/ UK
http://www.stemedcoalition.org/ US

1.    Mercer’s When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive research 2014 http://www.mercer.com/content/mercer/global/all/en/newsroom/mercer-study-reveals-well-intended-efforts-on-gender-diversity-not-improving-workforce-progression-of-women.html

2.    Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation D. Beede, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2011

3.    http://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/files/useruploads/files/wise_2012_stats_summary.pdf

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