Today is International Women in Engineering Day, where the world celebrates the amazing things women engineers do. There are some truly inspirational women in engineering positions across the satellite communications industry, though of course we would love to see more pursuing careers in this field. We chatted to one such women, and member of the SIG Board, Intelsat’s Angela Wheeler about her experiences as a woman in engineering.
When did you first decide you wanted to be an engineer?
When I was very young, I wanted to be an astronaut. However, I think by High School I was certain I wanted to be some type of engineer. It took my exposure to satellite communications while in the military to confirm which type of engineering appealed to me most.
What is the best part about your current role as Senior Manager, Network Operations?
There are two aspects which I truly enjoy about my current role. I really appreciate be able to help team members define their career goals and coaching them towards their next steps. Secondly, I love helping the team troubleshoot complicated services issues.
Have you experienced challenges in your career that you feel are specific to being a woman in engineering?
I can’t say that I have not seen biases as I was, often, the singular female engineer on teams and projects. However, I think I’ve really enjoyed helping others to see past biases they may have had.
Do you think there are more opportunities for women in engineering these days?
It’s very likely that there are more opportunities for women in engineering than what there may have been in the past. There are also many more young women who have been encouraged, rather than discouraged, to pursue careers in engineering fields. Having been raised with five brothers, I never felt discouraged from pursuing my STEM interests. My hope is that young people will be encouraged to follow their passions with no regard for gender.
What are the biggest barriers for women engineers?
Societies have come a long way as I have worked through my career. Many of the barriers for women engineers have been broken down and removed. Some that still remain, are wage gaps, judgement when a woman begins her family, underestimation of skillset by others, and in some cases women themselves.
How can we tackle them?
Companies really need to look internally to adjust wage issues. Also, companies need to work to create inclusive cultures for women as they begin families.
When it comes to the underestimation of women’s skills by others, we are actively working to break down those walls and biases as we work day-to-day. However, we need to put more effort in encouraging women to apply for those higher level and new positions even when their resume is not a perfect fit for the job.
What advice would you give to women looking to get into engineering?
I would say pursue your passions, have confidence in what you can achieve, and don’t allow others to underestimate your capabilities.