Laura BrewisRachel Brown
It’s no secret that gender bias in the workplace needs to be continually addressed. Research has shown that the underrepresentation of women in the tech industry is down to factors like lack of awareness, support, and role models.
So, for International Women’s Day, and Women’s History Month, we’re having open discussions with some of our engineering team to understand this bias, and the steps that individuals and businesses can take to address it.
In our last Q&A of the series, we sat down with backend software engineer, Laura Brewis, who has been part of the xDesign team for five months, to learn more about her journey into the profession and her views on gender bias in the workplace.
Firstly, what interested you about a career in engineering?
Growing up, I never knew what programming or software engineering was, but because I enjoyed maths at school I decided to study it at university. In my first year, we were able to choose an extra module from another subject, so I looked at the available options and saw Computer Science. I had no idea what it was but I was interested to learn more, and from the very first lecture I was hooked! I realised that programming was a great way to apply the logic that I love from maths but in a more practical way where I can build something useful and interesting. By the time I got to my third year at university, I was enjoying programming much more than maths (which got far too abstract for me!) so I decided to switch degrees and I haven’t regretted it once.
Why is it important to break gender bias in the industry?
I’ve met some very smart women who are engineers and every one that I’ve spoken to about gender biases has had similar stories. Some were interested in engineering but weren’t encouraged to study it (and some were even actively discouraged!), which meant they had to fight to be taken seriously by their schools when applying to universities. Then some, like me, hadn’t even considered it and fell into it from another area, where they quickly realised they loved it.
I hate to think how many women could have thrived in the industry if only there was more awareness and encouragement at schools, or more role models in mainstream media. If we break these biases, women have more chances of discovering their passion for technology and pursuing a career in the field.
How can workplaces support balancing the scales?
Having a workplace environment where everyone is heard and valued is so important. At xDesign, I feel like I can always bring up any issue and people will listen to me and respond well. Unfortunately, not all places I’ve worked have been like that. I also think it’s so important to encourage others into programming, especially those at a young age. There are lots of outreach programs that companies can get involved with to help do that, and I’ve heard great things about them.
What advice would you give to women considering careers in engineering?
There’s a variety of different careers within engineering and I’d encourage you to have a look around at what’s out there. LinkedIn can be a good resource for looking at companies and what roles they are hiring for, and the job descriptions will help you to know what skills you might need to get to that role. Remember that you don’t always need to hit all the requirements for a job specification, as a lot of value is put on potential. So if you’re on the fence about applying to a role, I’d say just try it and see how it goes!
We have a fantastic and diverse team working together at xDesign. Find out how you can join the team by viewing our open roles.