44,000 visitors from 85 different countries came to Munich for the bi-annual event that is Productronica; one of our industry’s largest trade fairs.
This year, only eight months after the conception of Female Leaders in Tech, Everywhere (FLITE), the organisers of Productronica invited founder, Gayle Paterson, to guest lecture.
The topic under the spotlight was ‘Gender Disparity’, an issue so universal, it has become part of our normal day-to-day operations. If it is so embedded in our business that it has become ‘unconscious bias’, how do we see it, to change it?
Gayle Paterson commented: “It was an interesting conversation to have, especially at Productronica. As I entered the halls, and as a direct result of the work I’ve been doing for FLITE, my awareness was heightened. All I could see was the sea of men. I had to gauge whether the audience were also aware of just how unrepresented females appeared to be, and if this was their impression of the industry as a whole.”
The lecture kicked-off with a brief introduction to FLITE, and the good work that the organisation is doing to support both women who have an established career within the technology industry, as well as those who are either looking to start out, or are within their formative years. FLITE empowers its members by offering one-to-one mentorship. Its motto is ‘mentor or be mentored.’
Through FLITE’s network, females come together to; lead the conversation, connect with a common community, share best practice, success stories, achievements and mentor other ambitious females entering the tech world.
The organisation hosts events, publishes articles, blogs, and promotional pieces to ensure members are kept up-to-date with influential and inspirational females, with the shared goal of empowering all, and assisting the future generation.
In regard to conversations held at Productronica, Gayle went on to comment that she spoke to several women, who are professional engineers, that were shocked that, in today’s world, they still felt that the visitors to their booth saw them as the ‘pleasing eye candy.’
“It’s not all negative though”, Gayle continued, in FLITE we make a purpose of not discussing the negative without presenting a positive solution.”
Our FLITE lecture was supported by some incredibly influential women. Roberta Foster-Smith, Marketing & Communications Manager at Nordson ASYMTEK and MARCH, provided an interesting presentation on ‘what we should do next’ to strive for gender parity. Roberta’s presentation was followed by a roundtable debate on ‘unconscious bias within science, technology, engineering and mathematical professions within electronics manufacturing’.
The audience heard from Ursula Werner, Director Zonta International & Zonta International Foundation. Zonta International is a leading global organisation of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy. Ursula exchanged her views on the issues her organisation gets involved in on a global basis, and brought to the debate a different perspective on how far women have come, with the acknowledgment that there is still a long road ahead.
Claire Saunders, co-chair of FLITE commented; “We were delighted by the turnout, by the mix of females and males, and we take the level of visitors as confirmation that our industry is ready to listen, learn and adapt. FLITE is one of the organisations supporting this, there are of course others doing equally great work to support our common cause. At FLITE we encourage mixed gender membership, as we value a balanced view and we recognise that collaboration is the key to success.”
As a result of their educational lecture, FLITE is also pleased to announce that it is geographically spreading its wings to cover more than its initial market of Europe. FLITE is going global. Lydia Zhao, Marketing & Sales Officer for Ryder industries, will help FLITE to soar as the FLITE Ambassador for Asia.
On her newly appointed role, Lydia commented: “I was attracted to the values of FLITE, as I am passionate and enthusiastic about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics). By joining FLITE I hope to support more females in the industry, in accordance with our FLITE goals.”
Lydia brings an understanding of the domestic Chinese culture, which enables FLITE to offer a varying insight, driven by cultural nuances that exist across Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
FLITE would like to hear from other female volunteers who, like Lydia, can dedicate some of their time. Ideally, FLITE is seeking one other Ambassador to support Lydia and two to drive the company initiatives in the US. If you are interested, the FLITE team would love to hear from you.
When asked what is next for FLITE, Gayle, Claire, and Lydia all commented on how they are looking forward to attending APEX, as last year’s event was a great success for their organisation. Hopefully by then, they will have recruited their US Ambassadors, and can attend as a strong force to help FLITE members to break that glass ceiling!