To mark International Women’s Day, we’ve interviewed women working in the different stages of their career in the STEM industry about their experiences. We had the pleasure of speaking with Dr Nikita Sinha, who joined Marshall in 2017 as Head of Technology Acquisition. She has a breadth of experience across the STEM industry and shared her experiences and perspective of International Woman’s Day.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It’s great to see how the world is taking serious steps towards promoting gender equality, both in the workplace and at home by celebrating International Women’s Day. It’s important to celebrate women and their achievements, whether in innovation and technology or in fields like medical care. We need to keep motivating the younger generation by highlighting women’s success in all sectors.
International Women’s Day was first marked in 1911 – over 100 years ago. Why do you think the day is still relevant?
History makes the future. Many of us are reaping rewards of the hard work and risk that our predecessors took in clearing our path to rise and succeed. This day is important for me as I pay respect to those brave hearts who stood for our rights and also express my support for the cause by ensuring we continue on their footsteps, which will create many better opportunities for our younger counterparts.
What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field and how did you overcome them?
The Engineering and Manufacturing industry is still seen as a sector dominated by males and I suppose I’ve faced issues common to all women trying to be successful in this profession. These can range from your professional knowledge and experience not being taken seriously to being questioned on your leadership abilities, simply because you react differently to a challenge in comparison with your male colleagues. The mentorship, guidance and support from my senior female colleagues has helped me greatly throughout my career. It’s always good to know that you are not alone and learn from the experience of those that have overcome these challenges.
Can you tell me about a female role model who has inspired you throughout your career?
I am greatly inspired by Kalpana Chawla – the first woman of Indian origin to go to space. She graduated in the same university where I completed my Bachelor degree in Aeronautical engineering. Unfortunately, she was one of the seven crew members who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia accident in 2003, while I was in the second year of my graduation. I always felt extremely proud learning about her journey. She was from a small city in India and reached such insurmountable heights in her career which made it feel ‘real’ for us – it was absolutely ‘possible’ to aspire to achieve our dreams.
Why do you think diversity is so important in the workplace?
A diverse environment is a ‘fun’ environment. It is essential to have different perspectives, ideas and solutions to a problem. We also need a diverse workforce from different backgrounds, experiences and thought processes to help us evolve and find the best ideas. If you get it right then the whole process becomes an enjoyable and rewarding experience for everybody. This becomes even more important in the innovation and technology sector – an area so close to my heart.
With women only making up 24% of the STEM workforce, how can we inspire more women to pursue a career in STEM?
It’s disheartening that even though the number of women working in STEM has doubled, the split between men and women remains almost static, with women only forming a quarter of the workforce.
I think some fundamental changes in the work and home culture will have to be made to encourage greater uptake from women. Professionally, this could include greater flexibility at workplace, remote working and better work-life balance. I am hoping the recent COVID lockdowns have already shown us the way. In addition, while we’re encouraging women to take up STEM as a career, perhaps we should spend equal amount of effort in educating men, so they feel comfortable in taking on more childcare and daily household running responsibilities. We need to create an environment where women are given the opportunity to strike a balance between the multiple responsibilities many of them carry and give them the space to fly. Changing traditional thinking or ‘split of duties’ is always a slower and more difficult process but I believe this is crucial to tackling gender inequality.
What advice did you receive early in your career that has stayed with you?
Admire and respect people for their differences and always remember that in their success lies your success.
As Head of Technology Acquisition, is this a role that you aspired to when you started your career?
Excitement towards new technology, being able to use it to make a difference in people’s lives and empowerment to drive some of these changes at pace have always been at the core of all my job roles. This role has given me a great opportunity to do all of the above at a demonstrable pace, yet I feel this is only the beginning for me and for the business in general.
Finally, what would you say to any young aspiring woman who would like to reach great heights in their career?
The biggest hurdle to your aspirations could be your own inhibitions. Never feel limited by anybody’s or your own imagination. Dream big, stay focused, work hard and success will all be yours.
A huge thank you to Nikita for sharing her experiences and advice with us. For more information about our apprenticeships, click here