Why should women choose a career in Robotics?


Why is gender diversity in robotics important? It’s an issue that is very personal to me as a woman in STEM. I’m hoping to use this blog post to reach out to women to join me, layout some reasons why I think robotics could be a great career for you and highlight why the industry needs more women to join the robotics revolution.

My name is Siobhan Duncan and I am a first year student here in the centre. I studied Computing and Electronics engineering as my undergraduate, where I was the only female student, but I met lots of brilliant, intelligent and amazing women who were also studying in other male dominated courses.

I have been interested in robotics since I was a young girl and have been fortunate enough to have parents who have supported this career path since I first mentioned it almost two decades ago. I appreciate that most women aren’t encouraged to study STEM fields, not for lack of ability, but just because we are socialised from a young age to see these as male careers. I’ve decided to make it my goal in life to change this stereotype as much as I possibly can.

First let me introduce the most evident reasons why women should take up robotics engineering.

There are great careers in engineering in general, but specifically in robotics since it’s such a new and growing sector. Robotics can be found in industries like manufacturing, autonomous vehicles and space exploration. In addition, robotics graduates have developed skills that are coveted by many other industries, such as finance. Most people are in agreement that the future will be automated, so it follows that the number of jobs in robotics will only increase.

Once you have decided to join a STEM discipline, there is an amazing network of women and men to support you during your career. A good example is an organisation called Interconnect who provide social, academic and networking events for women studying STEM disciplines. There is a strong presence at both Heriot-Watt and the University of Edinburgh to get involved with if decided to join the CDT.

The University of Edinburgh has a women in Informatics club called the Hoppers and Heriot-Watt has a women in computer science club, both of which you can join whist you are here. There are always lots of female focused events throughout the year, and special events for things like Ada Lovelace day and international women’s day.

In addition, most major professional organisations have a women’s network. The new women in robotics network [6], The IET women’s network [2],  the iMechE women’s network [3] and the IEEE Women in Engineering [4] to name a few. The IEEE women in engineering group also hold an annual leadership conference for women [5] and the IET recently appointed its first ever female president.

Female STEM graduates are more likely to find work quicker than their male counterparts [1]. In my opinion, this is because we stand out from the crowd. Female engineers make up less than 10% of the sector [1] but this means that we are more easily remembered when networking or interviewing for a job.

In my opinion these are reason enough for women to choose a career in robotics.In addition to these however, I’d like to present a few more reasons why I’m so passionate in forging a career in robotics for myself and why I think the industry is in desperate need of you!

The robotics industry has the potential to make significant impacts on large parts of society, essential in creating new technologies to help groups of vulnerable people in our society, such as the disabled, the elderly and the young. Robotics has the potential to revolutionise industries such as; child care, health care, social care, the environment, tourism, retail, hospitality, agriculture, infrastructure, fashion manufacturing, etc… So if you are interested in making a positive impact on the world a career in robotics is the perfect place to be.

I strongly believe that robotics is going to completely shake up our society, in a similar way that the microprocessor and the internet have done in the past. As women we can either be part of this change or allow future technologies to be shaped mostly by men for male experiences.

A famous example of what happens when women’s experiences are left out of the technology sector is Apple’s health app. It was designed to track body fat percentages, micronutrients such as calcium and sodium, and blood alcohol levels amongst other more standard metrics such as heart rate, step counts and calories. The one large thing that was missing from this app was the ability to track female specific health metrics, such as fertility and menstruation. When women’s experiences are left out of the equation the products that industry will be generate will be geared solely towards men’s experiences.

However, although examples like these can go viral, and can also be hilarious, the world of robotics is full of many amazing women making an impact. In fact there is a cool a project to catalogue women working in robotics, in order to improve their visibility and celebrate their achievements [9].

As a student in the centre, I am very lucky because we have some fantastic female role models. One of which is Dr Patricia Vargas who was named as one of the 25 Women in Robotics you need to know about in 2016.

Hopefully I have managed to give you some good reasons to consider joining us here at the centre.

I’d like to invite all women to join me and ‘lean in’ to robotics. The robotics revolution belongs to all of us, not just the boys. Will you join me?

If you wish to contact me for more information, please contact enquiries@edinburgh-robotics.org or you can find me on my linkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/siobhanduncan/

[1] https://communities.theiet.org/files/7976

[2] http://www.theiet.org/womens-network/

[3] https://www.imeche.org/news/news-article/12-10-31/The_Institution_s_Women_s_Network.aspx

[4] http://www.ieee.org/membership_services/membership/women/index.html

[5] http://ieee-wie-ilc.org/

[6] https://svrobo.org/launching-the-women-in-robotics-network/

[7] http://www.theiet.org/membership/member-news/39a/naomi-climer-independent-profile.cfm

[8] http://robohub.org/25-women-in-robotics-you-need-to-know-about-2016/

[9] http://www.jadelemaitre.fr/women-in-robotics-directory/