Make room for growth: Women represent 12% of engineers

-June 23, 2016

According to a National Science Foundation Report, women currently represent roughly 12% of today’s electrical and mechanical engineers.  On one hand that is a scant percentage of engineers in these fields, but on the other, it means that there is massive upside potential for young women considering careers in STEM. Exploring both the challenges and opportunities for woman in engineering will be the topic of discussion for the first annual Women in Sensor Engineering (WISE) Breakfast at the 2016 Sensors Expo & Conference.

Representing senior women executives and top researchers in MEMS and sensors from the U.S., Europe, and Africa, breakfast speakers will share their reasons for entering the MEMS and sensors arena, explore the unique elements women bring to engineering-driven professions, and discuss the current gender disparity.  

Speaker Susana Cardoso de Freitas, PhD, senior researcher at INESC Microsystems & Nanotechnologies, says that, “The multidisciplinary approaches of engineering projects in MEMS and sensors, and the never-ending challenges use an excellent combination of many of a woman’s strengths: decision-making skills, multi-tasking, organization, passionate decisions, determination, and social responsibility.”

Joining Dr. Freitas as speakers are Petrina Zaraszczak, director, Industrial Vertical Market, Sensor Solutions at TE Connectivity; Margit Harting, PhD, director at PST Sensors; and Mary Ann Maher, CEO and founder of SoftMEMS.

I’m thrilled to be among these accomplished women at the WISE Breakfast. I’m also looking forward to hearing more about their stories. As for my own, I have always been fascinated by MEMS technology, and early on, I wanted to understand microelectronics fabrication. I began my career working at a CMOS-compatible MEMS foundry while going to school. I founded Rogue Valley Microdevices at age 25 in an attempt to do what I love and to have greater control and job security.  Recently, I have noticed a concerted effort by educational institutions to encourage young women to consider engineering-related careers, and it has been exciting to see the result of those efforts. Over the past few years, I have begun to feel more optimistic about women in engineering as I see more gender diversity in college grads entering the workforce.

According to the Tech Crunch article Now Is The Perfect Time To Be A Female Entrepreneur, “Women-led firms are succeeding and in turn, attracting more venture capital investment, leading to even higher growth. During the height of the dot-com bubble, venture capital investments in women-led businesses lagged pathetically, receiving less than 6 percent of total funds invested in the U.S. between 1997 and 2000. But between 2000 and 2011, that number shot up to 41 percent.”

Bloomberg also reports that women that run tech startups are beginning to catch up, citing “Women in Technology: Evolving, Ready to Save the World,” which indicates that women-led private technology companies are more capital-efficient, have a 35% higher ROI and, when backed by venture capital, achieve 12% higher revenue than their tech industry male-counterparts. According to the report, the average age of women entrepreneurs that founded tech companies has dropped from 41 to 32 in a 2009 study and that graduate-level education rose from 40 to 56% during the same period.

Entrepreneurs and innovators in the MEMS and sensors space, no matter their gender, are important for the continued success of the technology. It is also important, however, to bond with trailblazers that have gone through the same challenges and victories that you have.

If you’re at the conference, come and see us at the Rogue Valley Microdevices booth 324.

Jessica Gomez is the founder and CEO of Rogue Valley Microdevices, Inc.

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