When Renault F1 and tech partner Infinity celebrated International Women in Engineering Day in June, they showcased achievement rather than ambition. Renault F1 engineer Kayleigh Messer and Infiniti Engineer and racing driver Sabré Cook showcased two generations of women at the cutting edge of racing technology.
Messer, the Team Performance Operations Section Leader, is an inspiring role model. Cook said that Messer was proof that there was space for women in engineering at any level, and that it was possible to get to the top regardless of who you were or where you came from.
Sabré Cook is a role model in her own right. Not only is she a mechanical engineer at the Infinity Academy, but she is also one of the 18 international drivers who won places in the new W Series. This series was launched late last year with the express purpose to promote women in motor racing. Cook’s ambition is to become the first woman to race in Formula 1 in forty years.
The relationship between Messer and Cook demonstrates the clear link between role models and an increased passion for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) among women. According to Microsoft research, the percentage of young women interested in STEM subjects almost doubled when they had suitable role models to inspire them.
The Microsoft study included fictional characters (film and literature), real people, and women working in STEM, such as researchers, developers or inventors as effective role models.
But why is it important to attract more women to STEM fields? The answer is both quality and quantity.
According to Infiniti’s Tomaso Volpe, they experienced the benefits of their highly diverse team on a daily basis. The team at Infinity was rich in diversity both culturally and across gender, the key to development in any industry. “Diverse thinking, new ideas and different approaches are especially important in engineering, as they are the cornerstone of technological progress,” according to Volpe.
The numbers are clear too. According to Microsoft’s research, in Europe, only 30% of people working in information technology were women, while there would be an expected shortfall of workers in that sector of 500 000 by 2020. The skills shortage in ICT is representative of the greater STEM sector. If you could double the number of women in STEM through suitable role models, you would go a long way to solving this problem.
Diversity makes sense at all levels. Messer and Cook are two excellent examples of how Groupe Renault actively pursues this goal.
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