#BalanceforBetter: How Gender Equality Is Evolving in 2019
Friday, March 8, 2019
How is it like working as a woman engineer in a male-dominated team? How do you thread the fine line between stakeholder management and delivering results? Can modern women have a successful career and an equally successful family life? How do women balance these conflicting aspects to thrive in their roles?
Indeed, balance is the theme of 2019’s International Women’s Day on March 8, and the hashtag #BalanceforBetter sums up the challenge in a nutshell. Gender balance must become more than a vague target or a fight to produce impressive-looking statistics that mask unresolved gender inequality issues.
TÜV SÜD kickstarted a new #WomenatTUVSUD interview series, showcasing a few of the innumerable ways female employees are transforming the company, helping it meet the challenges of 2019 and beyond.
Join us as we speak to three women at TÜV SÜD who are taking giant – and decidedly balanced – strides.
Andrea Blair, a senior risk consultant at TÜV SÜD Global Risk Consultants in Americas, knows what it is like to face the dual challenge of simultaneously building a successful career and a happy home. Blair says that she “loves being an engineer and working for TÜV SÜD.” However, she is also a mother of three. Balance is key to everything she does.
How do you balance work and family life?
It’s been what I have to do. I had three children in four years. For me, it was not just a challenge of supporting my children as a mom, but it was also supporting my husband’s career, which included relocating our family every few years. These moves presented challenges on both fronts. Some nights I just didn’t sleep to get it all done. But I enjoyed working. I love being an engineer. But I was a mom as well and I took that responsibility. It was just as important as anything else. I feel that my experience and challenges as both a mother and consultant have complimented each other and made me better at both. I remember I wanted to get my Professional Engineering Accreditation which required many references, essay submissions and passing two eight hour exams. My children were in elementary school at that time. We turned the dining room into a homework “mom study” area for several months and we all studied together. My daughters still remember those times and were more excited than me when I passed both exams and achieved the accreditation. This instilled in them that they can do the same.
What advice would you give to women in similar situations?
Be resourceful. Tasks that didn’t require interaction with my children, I would have someone come and do those. I always also had nannies I trusted. When I hired them, I didn’t try to micromanage them. That is something many working moms struggle with. Find someone you trust so that when you go home, you can spend quality time with your family and when you are working you can focus on that and not what’s going on at home.
What would be the one defining success of your career?
I would say what really kind of set me apart was when I jumped at an opportunity nobody wanted to take on. The role was out of our comfort zones as risk control engineers. But I raised my hand and said, “You know, this is interesting to me. I feel like I could do these things.” That’s where I really got into supply chain analysis, business interruption and continuity. Right now, that is my specialty. I really enjoy it. I find that very exciting. There was a need. I went for it. Now, I’ve grown that into my thing.
Some glass ceilings have proven thicker than others. The STEM gender gap is notoriously large, a discrepancy that TÜV SÜD is looking to actively address. Women are still underrepresented in most STEM industries.
Mandy Zhao, a senior safety compliance engineer based in Americas, explains that her passion for engineering has helped her to overcome the challenges in a male-dominated environment.
Did you always know that you wanted a career in engineering?
It was quite natural for me because both my parents are engineers so I grew up in an engineering environment. Even in school, I mastered maths very quickly and I enjoyed engineering subjects like science, physics and maths. To me, it’s nature. I just chose what I liked and studied in that area.
What advice would you give to women interested in engineering but daunted by the male-dominated industry?
Choose what you like, believe in yourself, and continue to work at it. I believe that if you really want to accomplish something, you will find ways to make it happen. Again, continuously improving yourself will eventually make you outstanding.
How do you balance being an engineer and a mum?
In current society, professional women tend to face more challenges than men. In most families, men have more time to focus on their job, travel more etc. Women usually have more responsibilities in the family. My personal experience, however, is to have individuals in the family to work together as partners; each have different roles and contributions to the family as the system operates well this way.
Driving company-wide change is often a struggle. The challenge is to influence and get stakeholder buy-in, while keeping the project on track.
Franziska Köhler, based in Germany, is the director of Digital Customer Experience at TÜV SÜD’s digital services division. She shares her advice on how to manage people, processes and project deadlines.
How do you drive change in a complex environment?
Many of the projects I lead involve changing the organisation or introducing new processes or solutions, that need a range of projects to deliver simultaneously for success. I try to focus on the two or three things which really matter while keeping the rest running. The key is to listen. Keep your ears open with a network across the organisation and understand what’s going on to determine what’s strategically important, and deliver. The hardest part is not in developing the technical solution but in getting people to be and stay part of it.
What advice would you give women aspiring to move up the ranks?
Be interested in everything that is going on and connect the dots: Topics, market trends and people. Don’t just focus on management or hierarchies, but leaders – they stand out as they gain followers not by title but by actions. Identify the people that make a difference to your projects, build networks and make things happen with those who want to be part of it and convince the others on the way. Plan for the bigger picture, but also deliver on small pieces to keep the engagement and show success.
Does having a family change the way you work?
Since I had my son, I’m more open to compromise and more flexible. It puts things into perspective – when you get worked up over nitty-gritty things at work and then you come home to your family, it grounds you again to what really matters and you restart with a fresh mind in the morning.
These three women’s stories are an inspiration to female employees who refuse to compromise on their health, happiness, ambitions or family life.
Diversity at TÜV SÜD has always been an important factor as we consider the success of our people and the business. TÜV SÜD is committed to creating a safe and welcoming work space that supports the varied interests of our female employees.
Companies who want to promote balance-powered gender equality must help by providing support networks that allow for employee growth in all directions – both in the office and beyond.
To learn more about what your organisation can do to promote gender diversity in the workplace, visit www.internationalwomensday.com/Theme