Simona Santoro and Marina Weber, both Sales Engineers at Victualic, look at the changing landscape of women in engineering – and discuss some personal experiences from their careers to date.
Engineering is constantly evolving, as well as becoming increasingly important in our world. There are so many great reasons for women to be involved in this exciting and diverse field of study, with an array of thriving career opportunities available.
While the industry’s gender gap is beginning to close, there is a big discrepancy between the number of men versus women in engineering professions. With the benefits of diversity recognised more than ever, many are looking to rectify this imbalance.
Engineering is quite possibly one of the most fascinating industries to be working in right now. The rise in 3D printing technology, driverless cars, robots in the subterranean and trips to Mars all point to an exciting era ahead. Yet despite lots of work being done to encourage more women into engineering roles, women still only make up a small percentage of the workforce.
Awareness initiatives, such as International Women in Engineering Day and female-specific STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programmes, for example, are all helping to promote women into an industry presenting a huge diversity of interesting, exciting and rewarding roles.
According to research cited by WISE, in the UK, there are more than 50,000 women in engineering positions which is double that of the statistics from 2009. The report also points to an increase over the past 10 years in the number of female science, engineering and technology managers. However, despite women making up for half of the population, the ratio of women to men working in engineering roles is radically different, at just 12%.
Despite commanding a relatively small percentage of engineering roles, the number of women in the industry is rising and for good reason. At Victaulic, we are proud to have some of the brightest talent in the construction industry on our team today. Women who are passionate about the construction industry and who are inspiring the next generation of strong leaders for our company and the industry.
Simona Santoro, Sales Engineer at Victaulic, has been working at the company for over 14 years and takes pride in sharing her commitment to shape the future of the construction industry. Joining in 2008, Simona fell in love with her role. “Every day is different, every hour is different and that’s why I have stayed in the industry and, in particular, at Victaulic. The role keeps me on my toes and without it I couldn’t have achieved all I have done over the past 14 years. It’s a very rewarding career but also demands a strong focus and precise action planning.”
Marina Weber, Sales Engineer at Victaulic, began her career at LG before moving to Hitachi and then joining Victaulic in 2019. Marina is driven by a passion for learning, development and inclusivity and believes her new role gives her the opportunities she desires. “At Victaulic, you are surrounded by innovators; there is always opportunity to grow and challenge your way of thinking. There is an emphasis on continuous learning which is an aspect of my career I have always valued.”
Creativity and innovation
If women aren’t attracted to the engineering and construction sectors, it means employers will have a smaller pool of potential recruits. This is to the detriment of the overall industry. A multiplicity of perspectives can spark creativity and innovation, and help organisations spot and seize new opportunities. It can also encourage organisations to challenge gender stereotypes. Creating a more diverse workforce is likely to help break down any lingering barriers to progress.
As a sales engineer, Simona works closely with colleagues across Europe and is well-versed on adapting to different cultures and ways of working. “The industry is ever changing, and what motivates me each day is the diversity of the individuals I get to work with, and the perspectives they bring to the office. I have worked with people on a plethora of different projects, from piping systems in tunnels and stations for Bologna’s high-speed railway, to chemical plants in Belgium and beyond. It’s this growth and expansion that makes it all worthwhile.”
Marina, also a sales engineer, demonstrates, supports and technically sells Victaulic’s solutions to current customers and prospects. A day’s work can be in any number of time zones or settings. “It’s a challenge every day and not just because of the work. We also have to take care of our houses and families. However, we’re supported by a developing workstyle; we don’t have ‘office time’, we are flexible. With greater flexibility and cultural shifts, seeing a woman on a jobsite is not so uncommon. Perhaps 10 years ago it would have been, but inclusivity and the professional environment has improved and continues to. Working for a company that offers flexibility and a collaborative culture makes it manageable and enjoyable.”
It’s important to establish a positive culture from the start and young girls must be encouraged to feel like they belong in this sector. Gone are the days where images of men predominantly show up in engineering textbooks.
Fortunately, there are many signs of progression. Alongside an upsurge of female STEM programmes, we’re seeing more and more females joining the engineering progression and, more importantly, staying in the field. Now more than ever, we need to be able to inspire the next generation of female engineers as without young women, there will be no one to teach the next generation of girls.
Simona is grateful to be surrounded by professionals in the STEM fields and no one more so than her sister who works as a professor in Neuroelectronic Interfaces: “My sister is extremely talented, a risk taker who I look up to for inspiration, even if she is younger than me! It is so important for young girls to find inspiration and having more female engineers can spark interest for many.”
Marina says that culture at work and education is another critical factor, especially as engineering was once seen as a male profession. “Strong leadership throughout the industry can continue to drive a culture that will allow every engineer, regardless of gender, the same opportunities. I have never felt like there was a gender bias against me. I have always been offered the same opportunities as my male co-workers at Victaulic.”
Marina Weber is currently a Sales Engineer at Victaulic in Italy, with a strong background in HVAC sales consulting. She has a postgraduate diploma from the Association Union Casa in Planning and Construction of Ecological Buildings.
Simona Santoro has worked for Victaulic for 14 years and is currently holding the position of Sales Engineer in Italy. Previously, she attended The University of Naples Federico II.