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CIGRE Women In Engineering Forum

05/11/2015

Following the  ‘CIGRE Women In Engineering Forum’ which was held in Paris as part of the 2014 session, I am very pleased that some of our national committees have taken the initiative further by establishing working bodies and organising events.

In China a women in engineering event was held in conjunction with the SC B5 colloquium. The event was successful in bringing together inspirational stories and shared experiences from successful women in the field of electric power systems, both from China and from further afield.

The UKNC has established the Women’s Network CIGRE (WNUK) under the leadership of Dr. Biljana STOJKOVSKA which will be exploring practical ways to ensure that CIGRE plays its part in encouraging and supporting women to achieve their full potential within the world of power engineering. 

CIGRE is an organisation where success is directly related to technical and professional contribution regardless of aspects such as age, race or gender. We are making major advances in engaging with younger engineers. To further reinforce these advances I would encourage all CIGRE members to think about what we can do to raise the profile of women in Engineering within CIGRE. CIGRE's governing bodies are keen to support such initiatives and we welcome your proposals and ideas.

Mark Waldron

CIGRE Technical Committee Chairman

The Report of CIGRE Women Engineers Forum 24/Sep/2015, Nanjing

By Dr. Ruomei LI, CNC, 26/Oct /2015

1.   The Event Organization

Following the CIGRE Women in Engineering Launch, during the Paris Session in 2014, the Chinese National Committee of CIGRE proposed that the second CIGRE women’s event be held in Nanjing, China on September 24th 2015.  The proposal had the support and guidance from CIGRE Headquarters. Miss Rachel Mahon, Secretary, joined in with the organization work and was the convener of the event.

The title was settled as“CIGRE Women Engineers Forum”.It was organized by CIGRE and CIGRE Chinese National Committee, supported by China Women’s Association for Science and Technology (CWAST), with assistance of NR Electric and State Grid Yingda Media.

The theme of the Forum was “We can do it better”. Meaning that women engineers can do better than they expect and should raise their expectations. There were 8 oral presentations with 7 being from female speakers. An absent speaker from South Africa submitted the presentation file which was introduced by the convener. Dr. Ruomei LI made a summary. The discussions were followed with comments.

There were in total 117 participants, including 54 undergraduate students and 9 university teachers. Others were mainly engineers from power and manufacture companies. Most of them were females.

The Forum took 4 hours in total: 10h00-14h00, including lunch and break.

 

2. The main issues in presentations

Mr. Mark Waldron, Technical Committee Chairman of CIGRE, made the first speech “Women in CIGRE”. He pointed out that we are to create opportunities for women engineers, to access and retain “the best talent” for the organization and companies. In the UK statistic data, the percentage in Bachelor degrees of women has been around 20% from 1991-2010, although the funding of STEM kept increasing. The share of females in engineers cannot exceed the education intake. Other factors may be due to cultural reasons/perceptions, family structures and maternity/paternity arrangements. Mark Waldron gave suggestions for actions to be taken: mentoring, networks, case studies...

Ms. Donghong, vice President of CAST & CWAST, China, introduced the progress of Chinese women’s participation in science & technology. She noted that in the development of science & technology, especially IT, employment should depend on intelligence and related capability. It helps to increase the competition capability of women: In China, the women’s retirement age used to be 5 years younger than males, which resulted in lower professional prospects for women. From this year, the females with title of a senior professional post can retire at 60, the same age as males. In other S&T funding qualifications, the preferential policies made for women.

Professor Tianshu BI, from North China Electrical Power University, delivered a presentation titled “The Status and Analysis of Chinese Women Engineers”. In China, 25% of sci-tech researchers are women, while only 5% at the top level. In her university, female postgraduates for Master and Doctor Degrees take respectively 42% and 27%. The higher level it is, the fewer females there are. In the pursuit of ideals, men's goal gets higher with age while women's gets lower. The suggestions are 1) Enhancing the support to young women; 2) Creating a. communication platform for women; 3) Mitigating the conflict of women’s social role and professional identity.

Prof. Xingying-Chen from Hohai University of China, shared her career experience in her presentation ‘we can do better”. Family education was important in her earlier years. The success from the very beginning gave her self-confidence. Being promoted to a higher level helped to explore her capability of leadership. Participation in social activities helped broaden her view. Her mentor and supervisors had given her the guidance and valuable support from the very beginning. To concentrate on work with a full sense of responsibility is a basic requirement especially for women.

Ms. Manyong ZHAO, from Chinese South Grid (utility company), is an outstanding expert in power system protection and control. She made great efforts in her career to balance work and family. She encouraged women to focus all their attention on their work while at work, to achieve the highest efficiency, giving them more time outside of work to look after family obligations and at the same time reducing engineering mistakes. Women have to set high standards for themselves especially in an industry that is dominated by men. Sharing knowledge and experiences with others helped her team work. Her life path proved that women can be successful in both work and family life.  

Ms. Ye XUE is from Xi’an High Voltage Apparatus Research Institute, which is the top in its field in China. She started work as an engineer in high power laboratory which require strong handwork ability. The test work also needs a strict following of logic and rules, step by step. As a successful female, her strong sense of responsibility and continuous endeavor have supported her achievement.

Ms. Rebecca Stewart is a young female engineer of Mitton ElectroNet in New Zealand. Six years in engineering practice provided her with good capabilities in modelling, design and project management. She is also active in various volunteer work. Her titles include: chairperson of Next Generation Network, chair of New Zealand National Committee of CIGRE and Administrative Council member of CIGRE. The advice she gave to other females is 1) To be open to opportunities; 2) To be open to make inquiries or requests; 3) To be bright and brave.

Ms. Rannveig S. J. Løken, is an engineer in power protection from Norway, also secretary of CIGRE SC B5. Her speach title was ”Experience in CIGRE SC B5, Protection and Automation, in WG and as Secretary of SC B5”. As one of the main organizers of a study committee of CIGRE, she has been involved in almost every CIGRE activity, Working Group work, committee meetings, Colloquium, Symposium and Sessions. In Paris Sessions, there are many events that need to be organized and the balance to be made between subjects and presenters. She explained the content and format of CIGRE events. Her experience proves that women engineers can be successful organizers, as communication ability is one of their advantages.

Ms. Khayakazi Dioka, invited speaker from Eskom, South Africa, contributed her presentation File titled “Opportunities and Challenges of Female Engineers in a South African Workspace’ however she was unable to attend. She works as an Eskom Transformer Chief Engineer. In South Africa, the registered female engineers account for 4.93% only. In ESKOM, the female figures are 29% of engineers and 33% of technicians. While in manufacturing, women professionals are less than 1%. She pointed out that the challenges to females include the balancing of family life with work demands. The “male dominated” working environment affect women’s upward mobility. Mentorship is an effective issue with opportunities for young females, who need to be guided from the beginning. Female support programs are helpful. Her presentation included positive actions that ESKOM takes to increase and support women in engineering.

In the discussions, Ms. Meliha Selak from Canada, Prof. Peter Crossley from UK, and Mr. Xicai ZHAO from China, delivered their views successively on the career development of women engineers. A young student attending gave a very impressive comment: Before coming, she was wondering whether to take a master degree, as she worried about the marriage age. The speakers’ presentations gave her courage and confidence, to allow for family and work in her future.

The forum was completed successfully. All the presentation files, photos and attendee list were to be sent to every participant.

Dr. Ruomei LI

3. The summary of the event

It was a positive introduction to CIGRE for many young (women) engineers.

The presentations delivered mainly 6 points:

The female occupation in electrical engineering professions is around 20%, higher in utilities and less in manufacturers. 

1) There is a close link between the university education status.

2) The distribution of females in different levels (including technological level and business leadership level) presents a pyramid structure. The higher the position, the fewer females.

3) The influence factors of women engineers career:

  • Family structures, career breaks due to paternity arrangements
  • Human factors, regional cultures
  • Government policies (different retirement age), social services
  • Advantages/disadvantages of women in certain technical fields

4) Mentorship is helpful to women. A fine example has boundless power.

5) Female work rights are to be protected. The career length gap between males and females should be the same.

6) Supporting programs especially for women by government/companies are required.

A challenge to a woman engineer (professional) is the balance of family and the career.

 

CIGRE Women Engineers Forum, Nanjing

CIGRE Women Engineers Forum, Nanjing

Women’s Network in Cigre UK

Dr. Biljana STOJKOVSKA, Chair of the Women’s Network in Cigre UK.

System Operability Planning Lead, Network Strategy, System Operator

I am passionate and enthusiastic about engineering, this is the profession I love. It was my great pleasure to be appointed as Chair of the Women’s Network in Cigre UK. 

The first inaugural meeting took place on 2nd September in National Grid House. The members present on the meeting were Beatrice Chong, Stefie Cray, Supipi Weerasinghe, Adam Middleton, Colin Ray, Kiana Ahmadi, Sade Onajobi and our special guest Dr. Ruomei the lead for Women’s Network in China.

The Women’s Network in Cigre UK position will give an opportunity to show that female engineers are an untapped resource and the key to a golden future in the energy sector, to prove that the energy sector is a place where female engineers can be inspired and engaged. By establishing the Women’s Network in Cigre UK we are looking to find new and better ways to build a link with other National Committees for more inclusive and diverse workforce, building the best teams with multiple and fresh perspectives.

 

We will be sharing the experience and best knowledge with female engineers in other National Committees, influencing how, as an engineering industry, we can tackle the challenges of encouraging girls to become engineers and help female engineers to step up to the top or their organisations.

Our vision is “Every female engineer to have an equal opportunity to make it to the top of engineering organisations and to meet full potential in their career”. While living our vision we are actively working on our Mission to:

1) Create a pathway for female engineers to have a valued career with in the Energy sector.

2) Support female engineers in their careers to thrive within their preferred environment.

3) Actively work as an organisation to address the negative bias against female engineers, providing equal opportunity.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by a wonderfully inspiring group of female engineers and I hope we will live up to high standards for us and for successive generations of female engineers.

We need to make sure that our female engineers have access to all the exciting opportunities that are emerging in the energy industry, and support them to be strong enough to stand up and grab the momentum.

For more information regarding CIGRE Women Engineers, visit CSEE website: http://www.csee.org.cn/data/zt_women2015/index.html