Across Asia Pacific, women are chronically under-represented in careers based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Emerson has set out to change this with its global Women in STEM Program that’s aimed at helping more women to not only pursue a STEM education but also have successful careers afterwards.
While some countries boast high proportions of women graduating in STEM subjects, their progress into the workforce is challenged. In Japan and Korea, for example, as few as 5% and 10% respectively of engineering jobs are held by women. In a region where technology and innovation are the key drivers of prosperity, the lack of women in STEM is a missed opportunity at best, and at worst, an appalling waste of the region’s talent.
As one of the world’s pre-eminent technology and engineering companies, Emerson recognizes that education and careers for women in STEM will have a long-term benefit for the competitiveness of its business, and for the societies in which it operates.
This is why the Women in STEM Program aims to attract, develop, and retain the best women
in STEM-related roles to enhance diversity of ideas and approaches for the benefit of our customers and to fully deliver on our “Consider it Solved” promise. The program supports generations of women at all stages of their careers, from the most senior executives to the youngest schoolchildren just beginning to think of their futures.
“There should be no limits to the aspirations of young women leaders in Emerson,” said Vidya Ramnath, President of Middle East and Africa, who’s also a sponsor for the Women in STEM initiative in Asia.
“We need to be there as a unit to show women that there are no walls to advancing and achieving.”
Moving the needle
At Emerson, the Women in STEM Program is guided by three main prongs:
- Attract: To inspire girls to pursue STEM subjects and careers, and to attract the best women in STEM to Emerson.
- Develop: To provide an environment and opportunities to develop leadership skills as well as to elevate visibility for women in STEM-related roles
- Retain: To create an inclusive connected community where women in STEM feel supported and a sense of belonging throughout Emerson, and to provide a platform to highlight women in STEM as role models across One Emerson
Ultimately, the main goals are to recruit new female employees into STEM-related roles, increase the percentage of women in leadership and to reduce the attrition of women.
In Asia, the program was rolled out towards the last quarter of 2017, which cut across two main business units, dozens of lines of business, and more than 45 individual facilities in 15 countries. To enable effective implementation, Emerson formed a regional board comprising members across the region and business units, then recruited members organized into location-specific chapters, which are consolidated into 12 regions.
As the initiative gained steam across the continent, it also added to the global momentum. The number of members and local chapters last year almost doubled from 2017, with membership going from 1,733 to 3,135 and the number of local chapters increasing from 25 to 47. Similarly, the number of regional events more than doubled from 292 to 670.
Meanwhile, Emerson was making waves externally too. Some 150 Emerson employees attended WE18, the world’s largest conference for women engineers, where we received five Society of Women Engineers awards. We also went up 26 places to be named the Top 15 Employer for Women in STEM by Woman Engineer 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards.
Advancing the cause
Around the world, the Women in STEM group runs a wide gamut of activities to attract, develop and retain female talent. They range from professional development and networking socials to youth and university outreach. In Asia, the group touched the lives of more than 7,200 women and men through 3,000 events last year.
These are mainly live events and webinars aimed at sharing management and development skills for women in STEM-related positions throughout the company. Widad Haddad, vice president and general manager, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen & Lebanon, Emerson Automation Solutions, sees her role in the Diversity and Inclusion Council as not only to bring knowledge to women at Emerson but also to ensure there’s a balance in the program.
“For example, if we hold a seminar on how to say ‘No’ and if we invite only women, are we implying that only women don’t know how to say ‘No’?” said the only executive woman among 1,100 employees in her region. “Where topics are relevant to both genders, we actually open the events to the men too.”
More than 740 professional development events were conducted in Asia last year including:
A debate competition in Suzhou, CHINA attracted more than 100 participants to discuss project communication, career development and work-life balance. Developed women engineers in their leadership journey but also advocated for inclusion by discussing topics that are sometimes considered taboo.
A professional development and networking day was held in conjunction with the Society of Women Engineers in Pune, INDIA. Forty participants drawn from inside and outside Emerson met to share a day of professional development and networking with fellow STEM professionals, hosted at Emerson’s location in Pune.
Some 75 Emerson employees in THAILAND across Bangkok and Rayong had clearer insights on career growth from a series of talks given by a vice president.
A regional Leadership Talk Series leverages Emerson female executives’ work travel schedules to give talks to local Women in STEM groups whenever they travel. This is especially important in offices that may not have a senior female leader as a role model. Topics range from career experience, personal branding to managing conflict, and these meetings have so far attracted more than 800 participants.
These social events enable women at Emerson to make connections across functions and business units. For Jacqueline Stidolph, Lifecycle Services Engineer, Western Australia, Emerson Automation Solutions, this is especially important as she largely works on Prelude, the world’s largest floating liquefied natural gas platform.
“I work offshore most of the time, so joining networking events is definitely beneficial,” she explained.
More than 250 networking/social activities were held in Asia last year. Examples included:
Emerson partnered with Women in Energy Asia to host a digital transformation event at the Emerson Solutions Center in SINGAPORE. The event attracted 80 participants and showed how women and technology impact the energy industry.
Physical fitness events around the region empower women to take hold of their physical and mental health with activities like yoga to boxing. Feedback has been extremely positive with women saying they would never have tried some of the activities if not for Women in STEM.
To counter traditional preconceptions and prejudices, the group identifies opportunities to inspire younger girls about STEM, to seed future generations of women engineers. These could be outreach activities at schools or “We Love STEM” events held at Emerson offices for employees’ children.
Last year, almost a thousand events were held, such as:
Women in STEM organized an outreach event to secondary school students in HONG KONG, enabling children to see firsthand the digital transformation in the control room, and experience how engineers are trained using virtual reality.
Emerson partnered with Girl Scouts of the Philippines to run the Cebu National Encampment event for 600 girls nationwide aged 9-14. Seven in 10 of the children indicated they are likely to consider a STEM course after the event.
At a We Love STEM event for employees’ families held by Emerson KOREA at the newly opened Korea Solutions Center, more than 70 children learned how assemble robots and spinning tops, sparking an early-age interest in STEM.
These efforts focus on engagement with faculty, students and alumni at key universities across the region to present and promote career options in STEM. The Women in STEM group held almost 1,200 events last year, including partnering with over 20 universities to give tours of our facilities/technology centers, recruit female STEM majors, participate in “Day with Industry” events, and share the experience of being an engineer.
Con Alcoriza, an Emerson scholar studying mechanical engineering at Bulacan State University in the Philippines, has been inspired by her interactions with women engineers at the company.
“Having an Emerson scholarship is not just about financial help, but my mentors at Emerson support us and guide us,” said the fifth-year student. “I see these very successful women engineers at Emerson and I wish to be one someday.
“What boys can do, I can do too. Not because I’m a girl but because I am me. I see myself pursuing my career in Emerson and I know I have to work hard and strive hard for what I want.”