International Women's Day 2022

March 2022

According to a gender study conducted by IRENA, renewable energy employs approximately 32% of women, compared to 22% in the energy sector overall. Female participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs is far lower than in most other sectors.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, at Ampyx Power, we want to raise attention to break the bias against gender, race, or belief and make a significant difference in the energy transition of the world, and for the world. We had a chance to enjoy a steamy cup of coffee with Charmy Shah (C), Electronics Verification Engineer, and Jean Huang (J), Design Engineer, and listened to their intriguing insights on the topics of gender and diversity. Learn how these two women embrace their feminism to challenge the bias and stereotypes attached to women in STEM.

 

Q: Can you please tell me a bit about your current role at Ampyx Power? And what do you like most about it?

C:  Currently I am working as an Electronics Verification Engineer, I am in charge of the avionics enclosures testing, building test setups, writing test procedures, and validation of these setups. Along with that, I also debug, test, and inspect harnesses as I am IPC-certified. I  also support other electronic engineer colleagues with testing activities.

What I like most about my role are the challenges that encounter during the testing.

J: I am a design engineer, more on the mechanical side. In the past few years, I have been working on landing gear systems. I designed, procured, and tested the uplock system, and the emergency release.

In my role I like most the designing part, even though it can be hard sometimes, I have to admit, as you can get lost in the sea of options. But it is fun and challenging in its own way because it comes with a bit of experience to know which route to go down. And also it is the creative realm of the engineering side, as I enjoy using CAD software to draw models. I absolutely adore the artistic part of it.

 

Q: What does the word ‘bias’ mean to you?

C: For me, bias equates to passing judgmental opinions on something, and this influences how I deal with it. For instance, when it comes to a compound noun with gender-related terms, people tend to think that the female part of the noun is more of a soft thing. I think when we mention ourselves as mechanical engineers, for instance, they have a certain image of hard, sturdy guys. So, when I introduce myself as an electronics engineer, their first mental image is me sitting behind the computer doing coding, but no, I work and play with the real hardware.

J: From my perspective, the word bias means that a person would judge another person, or a group of people without looking into what an individual can do. At one point, you would develop an idea or a stereotype. And you just impose your imagination on that person. It is more of a “first image” kind of thing.

It is tough to realize that sometimes I also have biases against my gender. As Charmy said, sometimes we would assume that a certain profession comes with a certain gender. I have to make myself aware of my biases against people, and for me, it is very important to alter my mindset about it.

 

Q: The theme for International Day in 2022 is #BreakTheBias, what does it mean to you in your work life?

C: I used to be more doubtful of myself than my coworkers, which was stressful. As a result of time and experience, I’ve developed confidence and have ceased limiting myself in any way. I enjoy both being a woman and working as a verification engineer. It is all about what I know and what I am good at, and I just have to prove it to myself and not to anyone else. Maybe I am the only woman working with 10-15 men. I am capable so it is the reason why I am here. If they can do it, why I can’t do it?! So for me, breaking the bias starts with breaking myself free from my own doubts first.

J: Breaking the bias for myself is to break the bias that attached to male engineers as well, where their portraits are often tainted with toxic masculinity terms, being “very stubborn”, “bad communicators”, “very focused” and don’t care about your opinions. In reality, I have worked with very soft-spoken, 20-year-of-experience engineers and they were very nurturing and constructive in discussions. Therefore, breaking the bias is to see a person as who they are, what they want and prefer, not related to their gender or other “boxes”.

 

Q: Why did you choose your career as an engineer?

C: Initially, there was a curiosity to understand how things worked, such as why the ceiling fan switch can be turned on and off when the switch was so far away. But, eventually, this curiosity evolved into sleepless nights that kept me awake at night, questioning myself about various elements, that’s how it turned into my passion. It is important to constantly pose questions for yourself such as “how does this work?’, “why is this happening after I do A or B” to keep your curiosity for the world growing.

J: For me, I chose engineering because that is what came naturally for me, as I have an aptitude for both Math and Physics. I think it is also stemmed from curiosity as well like Charmy. For people who are good at physics, before solving a problem you usually anticipate the next phenomenon such as, if I push this a little bit, would it topple this way or that way, so I enjoy Mechanical Engineering a lot. When you have the skills, it makes things even more interesting.

 

Q: Do you think there’s are certain existing stereotypes when it comes to “female engineers”? If yes, how did you or would you break it?

C: Yes, I believe that there is still a tomboy stereotype associated with women working in engineering; that you need to look masculine or have traditionally masculine hobbies. That seems completely antiquated to me because part of your worth as an engineer is being able to provide a unique set of empathy and insights to the process. How your presence would benefit the field of engineering, I would say.

One way to do it is to put more representation of female engineer role models in the picture, by sharing their stories and teaching people what engineering is and what it entails. The goal is to inspire people.

J: For me, I have a bit more of a positive “stereotype” for female engineers. From my personal experience, when you put a female engineer in a very masculine team, the team tends to act more rounded. They are usually more perceptive, on average. And they are open to both the discussion and to other’s people points of view on a specific topic. Let’s not put it as we only hire female engineers for their soft skills, these examples are about the additional values that they can bring to the table; whether they are good or not it is a different story, just like how you would judge a candidate based on their technical knowledge and sets of skills when they apply for a job.

The best way to break any negative stereotypes and to maximize the positive image of female engineers is to stop painting their male counterparts as being intimidating. Because there might be a good chance that they also have a bias amongst themselves on how they have to be, and this is killing both sides. Let’s encourage both sides to act and feel what they want to be and stop labeling it as masculine and feminine traits; be whoever you want and therefore everyone can be whoever they want.

 

Q: On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

C: Be self-assured when it comes to your existence. Never second-guess your worth, also. Especially when starting your profession, it is important to remain a confident self and remember that your ability to think is your greatest asset on this path. If you do not understand something, do not be scared to ask questions and seek guidance. Keep hunting until you are proud of yourself because life is full of surprises.

J: The message I would like to send out is that you should try to prevent yourself from thinking you are in a lower or higher position than anybody else. You are just as equal to other engineers and other roles. Even if you just embark on your career and talk with somebody with 30 years of experience, you are on equal ground and just develop respect for each other. In the worst-case scenario, do try to stand up. If you have any troubles, you can also seek out other female engineers for advice, and you will be very amazed by the guidance they can give you.

 

Q: How important is it for women to support each other in the fight against bias?

C: It is very important to lift each other up by boosting each other’s confidence. If you are lifting up someone, just make sure you are positive, so that your positivity goes through that person. Don’t just play with the words. If you can do that, we are lifting each other up, irrespective of gender. We just need to make a woman believe in herself that she can do wonders out of her comfort zone, too.

J: For me as well, basically supporting anybody, regardless of any gender. I also double my role as a confidential advisor at Ampyx Power. When introducing my role via a presentation to the team about unwanted behaviors in the workplace (power abuse, intimidation, sexual harassment), I wanted to make sure the team understands that the victim could also be men, not only women. It is important to care for everyone. Whoever is hurt, we lift them up, support them, regardless of stereotypes or gender roles.

 

Q: If you could have dinner with 3 female figures, dead or alive? Who would they be? Why?

C:

1. Kalpana Chawla – She was an astronaut as well as an engineer. She was the first Indian woman to travel into space. She was one of the reasons why I chose to be an Engineer.

2. Kiran Bedi – She is the first woman in India to join the Indian Police Services’ officer ranks (IPS). She disproved the stereotype that my country solely had male IPS officers. She volunteered to retire after 35 years of service.

3. My Mother – She is the only lady to whom I turn for help when I am faced with an issue or a dilemma. Even if she doesn’t have answers, her statement “Everything will be OK" boosts my confidence. She has always been a constant source of motivation and support for me.

J:
I think this question is very difficult because we don’t hear a lot of female role models, so I cannot answer anyone specific in mind. In the US, there is an association called Women in Aviation International (WAI) where most of them are female engineers and technological heads of engineer companies. It would be very interesting to hear their approaches to a management role, where women have to become stricter and acquire masculine traits to progress in their careers. I am curious to learn if they have to make any compromises or what is the balance that they have found to grow into the role.

I would think that I want to have dinner with male engineers as well, not necessarily only females. I have a lot of great male engineer mentors, who are very helpful and very open to teaching you, who help me realize what kind of manager I would be in the future: nurturing, helpful, and always up for a good discussion. I would love to have dinner with them to learn how to lead in their way.

 

Q: How women-friendly would you rate the working environment and company culture of Ampyx Power?

C: In the outside world I have felt at times that I am not taken as seriously as my male peers. At Ampyx power, however, this was not the case. I was handled in the same manner as my male coworkers. With them, I was always motivated. They never questioned the existence of a woman in this sector because they valued my abilities over my gender.

J: Same experience. The guys are very gentle and respectful, regardless of any gender. Maybe this is something deeply embedded in the Dutch culture, they do think of each as equal, they expect the same thing from you as from another male engineer, which I find is the biggest non-discrimination. Therefore, when they ask you to do a task, it is based on your skills, your time, and your role, instead of anything else. So far it has been very welcoming. We respect them as much as they respect us.

We are very happy that we are fostering this kind of safe space for everyone.