I spent most of my career working in technology and engineering firms. Many of my peers had asked me, why I choose to work in these “male-dominated environments”. The truth is: I didn’t choose to work in one nor did I think of it that way. But rather I was attracted to work in the companies I work for, simply because of my passion for innovation. I found meaning pursuing a career in this field, because I believe it improves and tranforms the lives of the people, as well as the places all around us.
There seems to be a pre-conceived notion that careers in engineering or computer science are only for geeks, who “camp” in quiet corners, typing furiously away at a computer. There is also the perception, that women are better suited for “nurturing” type careers such as in administration, teaching or creative arts. A career in STEM just did not seem to fit in.
What Makes Women Tick
Women can bring significant intrinsic value when it comes to team work (partly a result of their “nurturing” trait). They tend to perceive teamwork as an opportunity to collaborate and communicate with people than viewing it as a task and to gather to solve issues. Each approach offers advantages and disadvantages. Many organizations have found success achieving gender equality in their teams. In fact, we are doing the opposite in my team (marketing and communications), which has more female members. We balance that out by hiring marketers from both genders, who can provide diversity in ideas and not fall into the trap of group thinking.
Over time, I also find that, working women become more efficient and acquire new sets of skills as they progress in life. In only 24 hours they manage to completing projects, organizing client meetings, to getting the groceries, whipping a dish or two, cleaning the house and still getting sleep. At the end of the day, productivity is driven by motivation and passion, regardless of gender.
Confidence is Key
While there have been studies showing that men and women have different spatial abilities (which may impact their success in science or similar disciplines), the differences are in fact not biologically fixed. However, throughout my years in an all-girls ́school I have observed the Trend of self- imposed discrimination among my peers, which heavily affected one ́s confidence. I became confident in high school once I was encouraged by my teachers to pursue my interests in tech, despite the norms. I was given opportunities to work on industry projects with IT firms in those days and found my own little successes.
I always felt that performance, or the lack thereof, is closely tied to personal confidence levels and perception rather than personal capacities. Even if the biological differences are indeed true. I think we can take comfort in the fact, that we are advanced enough to overcome these differences and solve the most complex tasks using technology!
Is Sexism Real in the Workplace?
Probably yes. Only if we choose to believe it. I strongly believe, that if one has the conviction and passion for what he or she does, one will be able to overcome any stigma or obstacle in the way, regardless of gender.
Of course, this is not an easy matter especially in the Asian culture which somewhat still holds the view that women should find their success in raising a healthy family (woman-the-gather) than scaling the career ladder like their male counterparts (man-the-hunter). As a result, I observe women often unintentionally hold themselves back in their career pursuits or simply feel that they aren ́t competent enough. However, this perception is rapidly changing and many employers are advocating equal opportunities these days. Employers are now encouraging women to “sit at the table” and it is probably up to oneself to seek challenges and pursue her goals with gusto.
Achieving Work-Life Balance
Of course, the women (and the men too) still have to strike a balance between career and family. Having a family myself allows me to further appreciate the importance of work-life balance. In this digital age, working hours are getting prolonged and our attention at the workplace is demanded all the time.
I believe pursuing a career does not have to mean sacrificing one’s family and it is important to find an environment that allows one to balance both. Having the opportunity to be disconnected from work from time to time and knowing that you will not be perceived negatively is critical to achieve that balance. TÜV Rheinland is one of the very few employers to put this into real practise and I am glad I found my place in it.
Winnie graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Degree in Computing and a Minor in Technopreneurship. She assembled her first x86 personal computer when she was 8 growing up in her father’s garage who spent his free time repairing their neighbour’s household appliances. As a student, she enjoyed developing software for schools and funded her tuition fees as a freelance developer for small businesses in Singapore. After graduation, she experimented with online virtual reality and advertising technologies with a few start-ups. Today, Winnie is in love with digital marketing which she believes is one of the professions which best exemplify the marriage of art and science – creativity and technology.
For more Information about Winnie Soh – please take a look at her LinkedIn Account.