Gender balance is a particularly important aspect of diversity for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) organisations. Traditionally, fewer women pursue careers in these areas so we’re recruiting from a much smaller pool of female talent. This means we have to think carefully about levelling the playing field for female talent and actively maintaining a working environment and culture that makes ours an industry and company in which women want to work and progress.
The theme for this year's International Women's Day is #BalanceforBetter. Read below for some of our women employees' perspectives on working in a STEM-based organisation and what gender balance means to them.
Hannah Green is a Lead Data Scientist in BAE Systems' Applied Intelligence business.
“Over the last year my thinking on gender balance in the workplace has evolved quite dramatically. As a young woman in tech it has always been important to me, but making the move to management has definitely influenced my thinking.
I used to look upwards, searching for role models who may or may not exist, but now more and more people refer to me as a role model myself. I was previously focused purely on my career; now I find myself increasingly invested in making sure others have the ability to develop their careers too.
For me, gender balance means allowing women to be women in the workplace. Historically there has been a belief that women need to act like men to do well in business. Although this is now generally accepted as not the case, I’m not sure we are quite at the point yet where young women believe they can do well being themselves.
But gender is only one very broad part of diversity – what businesses really want, and what really brings value, is for each and every person to bring their real self to work, every day. Luckily part of my ‘self’ is very stubborn – I refuse to act in a way that goes against my personality, beliefs or ethics (obviously there is always room for tweaking in terms of professional behaviours!).
But the whole point of diversity is that you shouldn’t have to be stubborn – or behave like a man – to do well if you are capable. If I am delivering to a high standard, meeting all business expectations and behaving professionally, why shouldn’t I be myself in the process? Sometimes it’s harder than it should be – but if by working things through I am making it easier for others, then I will happily do the work. It’s going alright for me so far – it will go alright for you too.”
Gabby Costigan is Chief Executive of BAE Systems Australia.
“Achieving an ‘everyone’ culture is not only about gender balance. If we are to be truly successful in our endeavours, we must seek to gain the contribution, the ideas, and the ingenuity of all.
'I'm encouraging everyone in our business to spend some time today – on International Women’s Day – considering diversity and inclusion. And spend time the day after, and the day after that too. Our goal is to keep the conversation at BAE Systems going.”
Sugee Bhanoo is Head of Test Services, at BAE Systems’ Malaysia Delivery Centre.
“I’ve just recently returned to work from maternity leave, this time as a mother of two children – my eldest being a girl and youngest a boy. As a mother, I thought about the messages I send to my kids.
'With my daughter, I’m constantly reminding her of her uniqueness, and her beauty regardless of whether she was wearing a dress or trousers. It may seem really trivial to overthink these messages but, to me, what I say to her will help her develop a positive self image over time and, most importantly, for her to be herself. Would I send the same messages to my son? You betcha, I will! Both my children deserve to hear the same messages from both parents.
Gender balance to me is about addressing everyone as individuals rather than by their genders. The messages we send, as parents, as partners, as friends, as family, as colleagues and as leaders have to be consistent and gender neutral. The common themes of trust, integrity and respect apply regardless of your gender, religious or sexual preferences.
'As I type this, I ask my three year old daughter what is the difference between her and her brother. And her answer is “I don’t know”. Mission accomplished.”
Heather Johnson is the EEF's Business Apprentice of the Year and BAE Systems' Business Apprentice of the Year for the UK, working in our Air business.
“After the unexpected loss of my mum and facing few prospects as a dental nurse, I decided to make a complete career change.
My Dad and Grandad both completed apprenticeships, spending their entire careers with the company that invested in them and always talked positively about their experiences. I chose BAE Systems for my apprenticeship as I know it invests in its employees and provides first-class training.
This is my second apprenticeship (I completed a Dental Nursing apprenticeship a number of years ago) and, initially, I was nervous about starting a new career but quickly found I had a talent for procurement.
'I’m currently a procurement engineer for aircraft availability and equipment within the European and International line of business, having completed a number of placements across Air. I’ve been given opportunities to really get involved with the work and make a difference even in my first placement, where I was trusted to source a new supplier, saving the company £650,000 and getting my apprenticeship off to a brilliant start.'