She was the FIRST female software engineer… why can’t you be NEXT?
Engineering is a gender diverse sector and the UK is reported to have the lowest number of female engineers in the EU. The lack of female role models may be why women limit their choice to study science, technology, maths, and engineering (STEM) subjects at school with only 6% of the UK engineering workforce women and 9.8% of STEM managers are women. Engineering is a creative career prospect associated with different working environments building and creating products used in everyday lives. Female participation in STEM subjects in school needs to improve for a more equal gender with males studying 97% engineering, 92% technology and 97% construction at GCSE level.
Brina Lee is an inspiring example to young women who want to work in this industry since becoming Instagram’s first female software engineer in 2013. With over 150million active profiles per month, Instagram’s growth continues to generate more interest since it evolved in 2010. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are the co-founders of this design with strong development help by male engineers.
‘It’s great now that Instagram is part of Facebook, so we can leverage all the women here! It’s so awesome seeing Jocelyn [Goldfein]. She’s one of the highest engineering directors here at Facebook, and because Sheryl’s at the top, I think all the male engineers here do look at women differently and allow us to go up the ladder’.
As a young adult Brina Lee intended to pursue a career in marketing after graduating with a communications degree. Through experience in the marketing sector she was told to learn HTML while developing a website for an organisation. Self-motivation and exploration into the world of technology led Brina to go back to part time studying. Building her career in engineering was not an easy road to take after being declined internships for not been enrolled in an undergraduate programme. An internship working with Yahoo! Was offered to Brina after she received the Grace Hopper Scholarship Award in 2010, ‘A place for technical women to collaborate and meet each other, it’s a place for all kinds of women from all over the world and from different industries/cultures/universities who have a passion for technology’.
Her passion about how the instant recognition of change that coding has on websites led Brina to get internships at companies like Facebook and Google. Those internships mapped out a career as Instagram’s first female software engineer. A software engineer is a flexible career choice through the development of internet access allowing engineers to work from different environments with the ability to 27/7 access.
Engineering is a construction of building things from mechanical to coding. It is recognised as a male centric career and Brina noticed how hard it is for women in this industry compared to men, explaining ‘you have to be more aware as a woman. You have to understand that you may not be listened to; you may not be respected as much as the male engineers’. Supporting and expanding the visibility of initiatives like Grace Hopper; women are encouraged to become engineers whether they are at secondary level studying or wanting a career change.
With the support of David Cameron, the Big Bang Fair is the largest celebration of STEM in the UK. This fair was designed to show young people (7-19) the endless opportunities STEM can have through speaking to experts in science and engineers. In 2013, 65,000 people attended the fair, 97.2% reported an enjoyable experience and 9 out of 10 people described it as very good or good.
It’s time to break the masculinity stereotyped with engineering careers and to encourage the industry, government and education system to work together to enhance the enthusiasm from females to consider STEM careers. The demand for engineers is rising and the next generation of engineers are just around the corner! Let’s show the youth of today how this profession is designed to make the world a better place. It is time for the rise of women in this sector to empower one another and show how they TOO have the same capabilities as men.
MAKE HISTORY TODAY! IT’S NEVER TOO LATE!
Images sources from; Pinterest
(2013), Elle, (2014), The Big Bang (2013).