The female factor

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THE scarcity of women in the engineering workforce is a well-recognised problem.Describing it as a “global problem”, INTI International University pro vice chancellor Prof Dr Leong Wai Yie said only by creating a truly inclusive and diverse engineering sector can the world enjoy the creativity and innovation that comes from different lenses and perspectives, and subsequently achieve sustainable economies that work for all and leave no one behind.

“While it may not apply to all, women generally tend to drop out of the engineering workforce, sacrificing their careers, earnings potential, and retirement savings to take up their caregivers’ mantles,” she opined.

The first Malaysian woman elected a council member at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), United Kingdom, Prof Leong said she chose the engineering profession because it looked like a lot of fun to her.

“Engineering is the field that solves the most impactful of our problems in the world, like creating clean energy and detecting cancer.

As engineers, we are constantly changing the world with inventions and solutions that affect everyone’s lives,” she enthused.

Weighing in on the female factor in a male-dominated field, engineering consultancy ohr director Yasotha Chetty said gender is not a restriction in this day and age.

“I am the sole owner and lead of my firm, and have held various office positions with engineering bodies.

The trajectory of my professional growth has never really been hindered because I am a woman,” she shared.

That said, she recommended certain things be introduced that would help both genders such as flexible working hours, reduced hours for new parents regardless of gender, longer maternity leave, paternity leave, and access to good, affordable well-regulated childcare.

Chiming in, engineering firm Web Structures director Ng Pek Har said opportunities in the built environment industry are level with regard to gender.

“I lead the Malaysian operations alongside counterparts who are also women.

There are significantly more women engineers in the construction field now, compared to when I started work in the late 1980s.

“I’ve met women engineers working on-site with contractors, in design, in manufacturing such as fabrication, and in project management and consultancy.

“As such, based on my personal experience, there has been no difficulty due to gender during studies or at work,” she said.

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