Mechanical engineer at Automata
“Don’t settle for a non-inclusive environment and always negotiate”
What do you enjoy about working in robotics?
Robotics is an established industry with a rich history that goes back a millennia and is still evolving, with lots of potential to grow and bring about massive change. It’s so exciting to see the diverse application of robots across industries, from Alexander McQueen’s ‘99 fashion show, to Patrick Tressets’ installations, to a 25-ton Gundam robot, to medical training, to bomb disposal, to optimising production lines – infinite applications ranging from the whimsical to the life saving. Robots are very cool!
What are the challenges of being a woman in the robotics/tech industry?
This is my first role in robotics, so I can’t speak for this specific industry. But I’ve worked in the tech world, and, speaking more broadly, there are still a lot of challenges. This mostly takes the form of subtle sexism that is pervasive, persistent and exhausting over time. For example, I’ve been hit on in interviews, low balled on salary compared to my male counterparts, ignored in meetings and had assumptions made about my skills based on my gender. And, of course, a good dose of mansplaining about things I’ve known since university!
One of the subtle reminders that makes you feel like an outsider to the group is also the widespread use of non-inclusive, unnecessary gendered language. It’s not used with any ill will, but it does reflect the inequality in the tech industry (and society more broadly) that’s coded into our language.
Unfortunately, studies show that it backfires when women advocate for gender equality, so the progress is still not fully in our control! As with any minority, we have to rely on the group ‘in power’ (men) to advocate equality.
What advice would you give women who want to get into the robotics/tech industry?
- Anything you are interested in you can be good at, your gender is unrelated to your technical skill or potential.
- Search out higher education institutions with a diverse and inclusive environment. Certain engineering sectors can be especially archaic in their thinking and often this is reflected in education in a way that’s really demoralising. Being in the right environment can drastically increase your learning and drive to keep learning.
- Join women tech networks for career advice, networking and – importantly – venting
- Don’t settle for a non-inclusive work environment. Do your research in advance to weed out the ‘superficially diverse’ companies that are hiring mostly white women across lower levels. Pay attention how the women are distributed vertically across levels. Ask D&I questions in your interview, their response will be very insightful.
- Always negotiate.