Do lists of 100 influencers make a difference?


Katalytik CEO and lead consultant Dr Jan Peters was the host for the Women in Engineering Leadership Conference at the Institute of Directors in October 2019. Here’s a round-up of thoughts and highlights.

Finding yourself in a room talking about the need to fill the pipeline to address the underrepresentation of women again can feel depressing. Creative problem-solving demands that we look farther afield and raise our eyes towards leadership. This was certainly an invirograting day,

Do lists of women work?

I was delighted and honoured to be asked by Inclusive Boards to host the panel discussions at their Women in Engineering Leadership conference this week. I have to say I absolutely love this role. Having conversations with amazing people and letting them stimulate great questions from the audience. And I wasn’t let down.

The event came hot on the heels of the 100 most influential women in engineering report (click to download the report and profiles of the 100 most influential women in engineering here). It made me wonder.

I haven’t always been a fan of such lists. But I now firmly believe it’s the best way to locate and profile senior women. The other factor that makes this an important approach, is it helps redress the imbalance in search engines when we search for engineers. It overcomes the embedded bias in the systems we all rely on.

“Women make up only 13% of Board and Executive positions within the engineering sector. This lags behind FTSE 100 companies where 24% of such roles are held by women.” Inclusive Boards Women In #Engineering Report 2019

An event with soundbites and insights

The event was a balanced format of three fabulous keynotes and three-panel sessions. Making this an interactive and insightful event. All held together by the talented engineer and enthusiastic advocate for inclusion, Yewande Akinola.

Some take away points are:

  • We often talk about the diversity of thought as a benefit of having a mix of people on a team or board. Think of it as the diversity of life experience.
  • Why is enginering struggling with diversity? Maybe engineers are not finding the point of failure to fix. It’s just another wicked problem.
  • We need to be brave, be a disrupter, work it and hustle.
  • Counting and culture are core to including minority groups. Be relentless across the pipeline. 
  • It’s not about fixing women, it’s about fixing the ladder
  • Each piece of outreach, each celebration or shortlist each plays a vital role in shifting the profile and expectation of finding a woman on your board.

The challenges

One of the biggest challenges women face in their engineering careers is when they don’t fit into the gender role that people expect. It causes confusion. People (men and women) don’t know how to respond and immediately awkward situations arise and people trip over their words. If we want to reap the benefit of a more diverse boardroom then employers and managers must work on a collective agenda to:

  • Change the language to be inclusive and value and respect each person we work with
  • Set targets, because what gets measured gets one
  • Revamp, revise and reconsider our whole recruitment and promotion pipeline.