I was recently interviewed by Apple Rubber for a blog post about the need for more women in manufacturing and it got me thinking of my own little girls and their engineering-like minds.
I think all children are creative, imaginative and love to build things, whether they are with blocks or building a beach out of blankets on our living room floor. But knowing the stories and worlds I fabricated in my own childhood and seeing my girls replicate that imagination, I see a huge spark of creativity that should be tapped into now for the future—and hopefully maintained through life.
I went to the storytelling side of things and became a journalist, but in my opinion, science and engineering needs creativity. If you’re not always looking outside the normal realms of everyday life, how can you invent and design new components, machines, and systems?
This is not to say men are not creative or imaginative. I think most people are. But having different perspectives in the design process is a good thing, from men and women, young and old, experienced and inexperienced.
When I visit technical conferences and trade shows, it is striking how few women are present. And many of those that do attend are often in marketing and sales, not as engineers. This may partly due to the fact that fewer women pursue engineering fields, but I do believe some of it might be a result of career path changes.
I know many women who have left the workforce to raise their families and once the youngest children were old enough to be in school, have struggled to regain employment in their fields. It’s difficult to get back to work in all fields, but in engineering and technical jobs, where things may have drastically changed in five or 10 years, I can imagine it’s a daunting task.
That’s why I was happy to learn about a new initiative from the Society of Women Engineers and iRelaunch designed to increase the number of technical women in the STEM sector. Called the STEM Re-entry Task Force, it will provide internships for women with technical degrees. The goal of the Task Force is to increase the pipeline of female STEM sector-talent by including women who are returning from a career break. It is also designed to produce structural change in the STEM sector by launching an internship as a vehicle for engaging with returning technical women.
Seven founding members from SWE’s Corporate Partnership Council form the Task Force, with each committing to pilot a re-entry internship program throughout 2016. The founding members include Booz Allen Hamilton, Caterpillar Inc., Cummins Inc., General Motors Company, IBM, Intel Cor. and Johnson Controls.
Participants from each of the pilot programs will be featured in a special session at the October 2016 SWE Annual Conference where they will discuss their return-to-work experiences. About 9,000 attendees are expected at WE16.
“Supporting women at all career stages aligns with our mission at SWE. We welcome the partnership with iRelaunch on an initiative that puts women back in the working world of STEM, where gender diversity is greatly needed. We are also looking forward with great anticipation to the new opportunities and relationships that will be created for women as a result of the Task Force,” said Karen Horting, executive director and CEO of SWE.
Re-entry internships are emerging as a special category of progressive action for employers re-integrating professionals back into the workforce at a later life stage, and a powerful return-to-work strategy for individuals. These programs create a formal pathway to employment for returning professionals. They give the employer the opportunity to connect with high caliber returning professionals at a moment when their childcare, eldercare or other career break responsibilities are reduced or over, and the candidate is ready to fully re-engage in the workforce. The programs also enable employers to increase the number of mid- to senior-level women in their ranks.
Visit reentry.swe.org to learn more.