Home » International Women's Day » Why STEAM companies are workplaces where women can really succeed

Niamh Barcoe

Lead Information Manager, Life Sciences, Ireland, UK & Nordic Operations, Jacobs

Harriet Hamilton

Strategic Growth Director, Buildings & Infrastructure, Ireland, Jacobs

Vineta Clegg

EMEA Architectural Discipline Manager, Advanced Facilities Electronics, Jacobs

Three women from the management team of a technical professional services firm say that the STEAM industry is changing to become more inclusive, diverse and female-friendly.

Why should women want a career in STEAM?

Harriet: STEAM gives you a passport to travel all over the world. As an engineer, I’ve worked on infrastructure projects in Australia, Africa, Asia and Europe. People from all walks of life must have an input into how that infrastructure is designed and utilised, otherwise, it’ll only work for a select demographic. So, STEAM careers must be diverse and inclusive.

Vineta: I agree. I come at this from an architectural perspective. If my team can offer a wide variety of perspectives to help influence a design, then the better that design will be. We’re creating inclusive spaces — which we can’t do successfully if we don’t have an inclusive team.

Niamh: The opportunities and incentives for women in STEAM are constantly growing. Take our company, Jacobs, which offers a great variety of career opportunities, a focus on work-life balance and plenty of female-friendly policies.

Have you faced potential barriers in the industry?

Niamh: Not within the industry or the company. I do think there are systemic issues within the education system that need to be addressed, however. Thankfully, there’s a great appetite to encourage females into the industry through various initiatives, such as iWish, which is committed to showcasing STEAM subjects to young women in their formative years.

Harriet: When I worked in Australia, the majority of the team was female, so we all had site gear that actually fit; but I’ve worked in other locations where women are expected to fit into the only sizes available. Plus, I’ve been in meetings where people in the room automatically gravitate towards a male colleague, even though I’m in the more senior role.

Vineta: I’ve been the only woman in the room on occasion, which can be hard. When I was younger and with another company in Texas, I worked with an older contractor and developer. They knew each other well and didn’t really want to hear my opinion — until they realised I was crucial to the job and knew my stuff. So, you have to be tough sometimes, but I hope that younger employees won’t have to cope with such situations these days.

The opportunities and incentives for
women in STEAM are constantly growing.

Niamh Barcoe

Which inclusivity strategies should STEAM employers implement?

Vineta: I’m relatively new to the company, but one of the big attractions for me was that inclusivity is a core value. It’s actively championed, discussed and nurtured by leadership, so it’s ingrained in the culture. It’s more than just ‘having strategies.’

Niamh: There’s plenty of on-the-job training, plus financially supported training outside of work. The other big positive is a focus on hybrid working for a better work-life balance. Women also want a good benefits package. For example, we’re offered fertility benefits, counselling, medical advice support and funding.

Harriet: There’s a range of initiatives to support female staff, including a women’s network. At a global level, our aspiration is to achieve 40% female talent, 40% male talent and 20% being a flexible measure — including any gender and those who choose not to identify or disclose. Our buildings and infrastructure management team in Ireland is over 50% female.

Where do you see inclusivity heading for women in STEAM?

Niamh: It’s on the right track, but there needs to be a stronger partnership between the industry and teachers of primary and secondary schools. Ultimately, students will benefit.

Harriet: We must ensure there are educational opportunities in STEAM for every child. We must also do more to change the unconscious bias that’s systemic in every walk of life.

Vineta: Attitudes in society are moving in the right direction, but more can be done to show young women that STEAM is a completely normal career path where differences are embraced. After all, wouldn’t the world be boring if we were all the same?

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