The world’s girls and young women are part of a large and vibrant global generation. They have an equal part to play in the fourth industrial revolution, and developing emerging technologies.
Yet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals highlight the disadvantage young women face everywhere across the world. As a contribution to this agenda, Bournemouth Lab have organised a series of Women4.0 events, showcasing females and inviting discussion of how we want to shape the future and build careers in Industry 4.0.
In 2017 Eagle Labs brought together women across 10 sites as part of Koreo’s Good Women network for the UN International Day of the Girl. The evening had a big impact for me; I felt I had grown in self-understanding, was better prepared to overcome challenges at work and glowing because I had been able to offer practical assistance through connections rather than simply a sympathetic ear to those less fulfilled in their work. The past twelve months have connected me with many others interested in understanding that work does change lives and we can influence the workplace. We each have the opportunity to influence young people and help them achieve their ambitions. And from this event, with these connections, the Women4.0 event has grown.
The audience for the evening was diverse, bringing together students, lecturers, retired engineers, business owners and many more. After an opportunity to explore the lab, everyone settled down for the keynote speaker, Katy Ereira. A senior software engineer consultant, Katy presented ‘AI for All, Getting involved with revolutionary tech.’ Her wealth of experience as a computer science graduate with an artificial intelligence specialism and a decade working with Neuro Linguistic Programming, Machine Learning and Automation was evident, but the entertaining talk had tips for everyone and a wealth of resources to inspire experimentation and learning.
The next part of the evening was a panel, with Katy joined by Eve Tymon, a mechanical engineer working in mechatronics at Atlas Elektronik UK and Rose Sheret, a CGI artist at Agency Kilo. Discussion explored the importance and influence of role models, journeys into tech careers and any barriers experienced. It was a pleasure to hear about their varying routes into work, and the importance of both academic and employment based development and learning. Whilst the nature of their work was varied, each of the participants enthused about the opportunities for continued innovation, and the importance of paying forward advice and support to others.
With so much to discuss, the next part of the evening was a World Café, with groups exploring three questions and networking through their discussion. As anticipated, this sparked lively debate and offers of future collaboration. In response to the question ‘Is there a danger in describing tech areas as new?’ responses highlighted both the attractiveness of the latest developments for the curious, and importance of early adopters, and the danger of dismissing tried and tested technology and poorly describing tech areas. This is evident even in the term Industry 4.0, which relies on the incremental development and integration of current disciplines in cyber-physical systems and data exchange in manufacturing technologies.
Key recommendations for the next generation included study maths, be yourself and be confident, what you choose now doesn’t have to be forever and there are more options than university after school. The encouragement to be open-minded and to dream big are important for each of us. Whilst we know that the career paths available will be different to those 20 years ago, a recurring theme through the evening was the diversity of opportunities available and that it is possible to change direction and be successful and fulfilled.
The last question focused on the aim of Women4.0 events. With a rich heritage of engineering and manufacturing in the UK, it is important to be prepared and aware of the opportunities the fourth industrial revolution will bring. It is a personal ambition to support the work of Engineering UK in encouraging more young people into modern engineering and to fill the annual shortfall of up to 59,000 core engineering roles. (Engineering UK 2018) Therefore it was really interesting to hear the responses to the question ‘How can we expose school attendees to more female role models?’ The question itself was challenged; do role models need to be female? Is it only school attendees that need to know more about modern engineering?
It is the ambition to host similar quarterly events in Bournemouth and to continue to encourage more young women to consider robotics, additive manufacturing and machine learning among the things that interest them. This provides a vehicle to further understand the barriers for women to pursue pathways into and careers in engineering and should ensure young people have an understanding of the excitement and variety a career in engineering offers, and the potential contribution they can make as an engineer.