This International Women’s Day, it’s important to celebrate the many achievements of women across all fields throughout the world and recognise how far we’ve come in terms of this years theme of “An equal world is an enabled world.”
From our point of view here at Pulsion, we continue to promote equality in terms of STEM subjects and demonstrating that these subjects and careers are very much a career choice open to women as they are for men. Gender doesn’t come into it.
At Pulsion, we don’t just talk about it, we demonstrate this every day with our staff being almost 30% female and the vast majority of those in technical roles. This International Women’s Day – I think that’s something to celebrate.
One way of breaking down barriers to girls studying these subjects is to show that the subject itself isn’t the end goal but that the subject choices can lead to careers working on some really exciting things that have an impact on daily life. For example, one of our Senior Software Engineers, Helen, studied Mathematics at university, followed by a Masters in IT. Helen said:
The most enjoyable parts for me were using logic and problem solving
The key there being problem solving, taking the logic of mathematics and applying that to an every-day problem to find the solution. So, someone might think mathematics is dull but would be excited by the thought of finding solutions to problems.
A fantastic example of the power of mathematics can be seen in the examples of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Three amazing mathematicians who worked for NASA many years ago. Their knowledge, expertise and application of maths to problem solving enabled some of the most important and historical space missions of our time, including the moon landing. Given that this happened in a very different era to the one we live in today, these women were not recognised for that work until very recently, depicted in the book and subsequent film, Hidden Figures. They are the epitome of “an equal world is an enabled world”. Gender has never held anyone back – historically, the issue was more in the recognition – everyone knew the astronauts, no one knew the women behind the mission.
Of that era, Katherine Johnson is quoted as saying:
We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be. In the early days of NASA women were not allowed to put their names on the reports – no woman in my division had had her name on a report. I was working with Ted Skopinski and he wanted to leave and go to Houston … but Henry Pearson, our supervisor – he was not a fan of women – kept pushing him to finish the report we were working on. Finally, Ted told him, “Katherine should finish the report, she’s done most of the work anyway.” So Ted left Pearson with no choice; I finished the report and my name went on it, and that was the first time a woman in our division had her name on something
It is hard to comprehend an era where someone has done all the work but a male counterpart has to be the name on the work but we have moved on and women are no longer the hidden figures. We are at the forefront, celebrating achievements and following routes that were traditionally male careers. Gender should never hold anyone back.
The forerunner for International Women’s day was the first National Women’s Day held in 1909. That first event was held against the backdrop of women fighting for equal suffrage and with each generation, we have learned more and made valuable steps each decade towards equality.
I do always place a small note of caution in the drive towards equality and that’s – don’t ever go too far the other way. Don’t hire or promote women just to meet a statistic, that’s even more damaging. Hire and promote based on talent, regardless of gender – only then will we have true equality.