Women in STEM: How Women Can Progress into Network Engineering

8 min

Recent strides have been made towards gender equality, with various reports revealing a sign...

Recent strides have been made towards gender equality, with various reports revealing a significant increase in the number of women in STEM, tech and network engineering. However, persistent obstacles such as stereotypes and gender pay gaps still impede the progress of female engineers. This guide explores the initiatives and rewards actively encouraging women in engineering, emphasising the need for role models and highlighting notable women who have shaped the STEM industry. 

Additionally, we’ll provide a career guide for women aspiring to excel in network engineering, underscoring the importance of a collaborative effort to foster an equitable and thriving environment in STEM.

In this guide, we’ll explore the following:

  • Exploring the gender gap for women in STEM
  • The obstacles women in tech face
  • Initiatives and rewards encouraging women in engineering
  • The need to promote role models for women in tech
  • Our career guide for women in network engineering

Exploring the gender gap for women in STEM

In recent years, the presence of women in IT networking and the STEM space as a whole has taken significant strides towards achieving gender equality. A 2022 report by EngineeringUK found that 16.5% of professionals working in engineering are women, a notable increase from 10.5% recorded in 2010. 

Additionally, as of 2022, over one million women were said to be contributing to the STEM industry, with the government workforce data recorded in 2021 revealing that female engineers make up over 26% of the core jobs in STEM, a rise from the 24% recorded in 2020. 

The STEM sector has set an ambitious target of having 1.5 million female engineers working in the market by 2030, which would see women in engineering represent 30% of the workforce. Organisations like the Women's Engineering Society (WES) and WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) are helping to play a crucial role in encouraging more women to pursue careers in STEM and shake up the sector still predominantly dominated by men.

WISE CEO Kay Hussain has been quoted as saying it's forecasted that engineering jobs will reach 6.1 million by 2025, with an additional 1.8 million engineers needed. With the current economic landscape revealing a talent shortage, this hammers home the importance of addressing the gender gap and encouraging women to move into STEM roles to help fill the projected rise of engineering vacancies. 

Emphasising the importance of a diverse, inclusive and gender-balanced STEM sector can help tackle pressing challenges like the need for talent but also the topic of sustainability and climate change. With more people, these issues can be given more focus. Additionally, encouraging women in tech and having a more diverse workforce brings together unique perspectives, which fosters innovation and comprehensive problem-solving.

The obstacles women in tech face

Despite progress, stereotypes and a lack of representation still hinder the entry of women into STEM and network engineering. The space is still perceived as a male-dominated field with the critical challenge of promoting more visible female engineer role models to inspire young girls to pursue network engineering jobs and STEM subjects needed more than ever.

Unfortunately, peer pressure still plays a significant role in deterring girls from studying STEM subjects and pursuing network engineering careers. This indicates the importance of encouraging young females to get into tech early and allowing them greater access to STEM training schemes. 

Although we've seen an increasing presence of women in tech, barriers still persist. Along with peer pressure, here are some of the other obstacles women in tech face:

  • Men are statistically more likely to progress to leadership roles
  • Globally, there are gender pay gaps, with women predominantly earning less than men 
  • Pressures and judgments related to pregnancy, motherhood, and family responsibilities are holding women back
  • Stereotypes still limit women's choices in education and career paths

Organisations like WISE are helping to address this by encouraging employers in the STEM sector to engage with schools, colleges, and universities, providing opportunities for students to gain experience in engineering and discover what a career within this space could achieve. 

Initiatives and rewards encouraging women in engineering

There are various initiatives and campaigns in place that are actively working to encourage women to pursue careers in network engineering and STEM. For example, the International Women in Engineering Day, observed annually on 23 June, serves as a platform to celebrate and acknowledge the accomplishments of female engineers. The event encompasses a range of activities such as debates, competitions, networking breakfasts, and open days. 

Complementing this initiative is the WISE campaign, which actively engages individuals in business, industry, and education to promote and enhance the participation and success of women in STEM fields. Their Top 50 Women in Engineering (WE50) initiative stands out by spotlighting the remarkable achievements of women in engineering, with the overarching goal of inspiring and paving the way for a new generation of female engineers.

For a younger audience, People Like Me is an initiative launched by WISE that targets the IT recruitment of girls post-16 into STEM subjects. This initiative challenges the prevailing stereotypes we touched on to foster the inclusivity of women in tech. Further contributing to the momentum of encouraging women in engineering, MentorSET, operated by WES, is another mentoring scheme specifically designed to support and guide women in STEM roles. 

Moreover, various universities, including the University of Bath, University of Bristol, and University of Sheffield, have instituted women in engineering initiatives. These university schemes are dedicated to providing information and promoting opportunities for female engineers.

Additionally, several awards and events are helping to boost the recognition of the achievements of women in engineering. Some of the primary awards and events include the following:

  • International Women in Engineering Day: Occurring annually on 23 June, the event organised by WES promotes the achievements of women in engineering to encourage more females to pursue careers in the field.
  • WISE Conference and Awards: These two separate schemes aim to promote women in STEM. The conference brings together women from across the UK to network, share ideas, and learn about the latest developments in STEM. This conference features keynote speakers, workshops, and panel discussions on various topics related to women in STEM.

Moreover, the WISE Awards are an annual event that celebrates the success of women in STEM. The awards are open to female engineers who have significantly contributed to STEM through their work or leadership.

  • IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards: Honoring early-career female engineers in the UK. The awards at this event include the WES prize, the Young Woman Engineer of the Year (YWE) and the Mary George Memorial Prize for Apprentices.
  • Women in STEM Summit and Awards: Associated with PEPSICO, the Women in STEM Awards recognises the achievements and innovations of women (STEM) in Ireland. The next event is scheduled for 24 October 2024.

The need to promote role models for women in tech

We've already touched on the need for female role models to help inspire the future generation of female engineers and women in tech. While the STEM industry has historically been male-dominated, more women are striving to break barriers and make significant contributions to the sector. 

Representation is crucial, and encouraging young females to consider careers in STEM is a vital step towards a more diverse workforce that can combat the talent shortages in the field. 

We've seen other companies highlight some of the remarkable female pioneers in tech, and we wanted to do the same. Showcased below are some of the women who have made an impact that has helped shape the STEM industry:

Annie Easley

One of the first black scientists to work at NASA, Annie Easley, supported the team that created software for the Centaur rocket stage, advancing knowledge of satellites and space travel.

Ada Lovelace

As the world's first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace collaborated with Charles Babbage on a primitive computer. Her notes from nearly a century earlier were used by Alan Turing in creating the first modern computer in 1940.

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper was one of the first female admirals in the US Navy. She wrote the world's first computer compiler in 1952 and played a pivotal role in creating the COBOL programming language.

Hedy Lamarr

Known for her acting career, Hedy Lamarr contributed to World War II efforts by co-inventing a secret communication system that led to the development of technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson was another pioneering black mathematician who worked at NASA. She played a crucial role in verifying flight paths, enabling successful space missions, and contributing to significant advancements in the US space programme.

Radia Perlman

Otherwise referred to as the "Mother of the Internet," Radia Perlman helped develop the algorithm for the Spanning Tree Protocol, a foundational element supporting today's internet traffic.

Highlighting successful women in network engineering and STEM can inspire others to pursue similar career paths. Sharing stories of achievements, challenges and contributions to the field can empower aspiring female network engineers. 

We're also helping to highlight the female innovators who can inspire future female engineers through our Women in Tech podcast series.

Our career guide for women in network engineering

Network engineers are essential for ensuring the seamless operation of an organisation's IT networks and infrastructure. The network engineering space offers numerous opportunities for aspiring female engineers, but understanding the responsibilities, educational requirements, skills, and career options is crucial for success.

The responsibilities of a network engineer include: 

  • Planning and designing networks
  • Implementing and managing network hardware and software
  • Troubleshooting network-related issues
  • Ensuring network security
  • Staying updated with the latest network engineering trends

Educational requirements for women in STEM

A degree in computer science, IT, or a tech-related field is typically required for entry-level network engineering positions. Advanced roles may require a master's degree or relevant certifications. If you’re looking to progress in a career as a female engineer, check out our guide on the 5 Top Network Engineering Courses to Power Your Career.

Key skills for successful female engineers

Below are some of the skills required for a successful career in engineering:

  • Technical proficiency: Network engineers must be well-versed in network technologies, protocols, and security measures.
  • Analytical thinking: Problem-solving skills are crucial for efficiently diagnosing and resolving network issues.
  • Communication skills: Strong communication is vital for collaborating with other engineers and the wider team, explaining technical issues to non-technical stakeholders, and writing documentation.
  • Attention to detail: Small errors can significantly affect network engineering, making attention to detail crucial.

You may already have the relevant skills to transition into a career in network engineering. Learn more by reading our guide: The Top 5 Soft and Transferable Network Engineer Skills.

Career paths for women in network engineering:

Here are some of the networking engineering jobs that female engineers can progress to:

  • Network Analyst: Responsible for analysing, testing, and evaluating networks to ensure optimal performance.
  • Network Security Engineer: Help implement security measures to protect networks from cyber threats.
  • Wireless Network Engineer: Support with designing and implementing wireless networks for organisations.
  • Network Administrator: Play a crucial part in managing and maintaining an organisation's computer networks.
  • Network Technician: Take charge of providing support for network infrastructure and resolving technical issues.
  • Network Manager: Talent in this role oversees the overall network strategy and manages a team of network professionals.

Find out more about some of the opportunities you can land in network engineering by reading our guide: 5 Network Engineer Jobs to Empower Your Future. Here, we delve into the following roles:

  • Network Architect
  • NOC Engineer
  • Network Administrator
  • Network Analyst
  • Network Engineer

What our women have to say to aspiring female engineers

As a recruitment firm that firmly believes in empowering women in STEM careers, we wanted to include insight from our inspirational female consultants. These women go above and beyond each and every day to help female talent progress in their dream jobs and break barriers in the network engineering space. 

Discover the advice our women have for aspiring female engineers:

"The number of female fibre professionals we speak to in Germany is few and far between, yet every woman I have spoken to in the industry has been incredibly driven and ambitious to succeed in it! All of our clients are looking for men and women with equal urgency, so let's show them how great a female perspective and work ethic can be in such a powerful but male-dominated industry!"

Amber Watson, Fibre Consultant

"You've got to be an example of what you want to see. We need more women in STEM who are the future, who make history, and who believe in themselves!"

Olivia Rogers, Infrastructure Consultant

"Stay connected with other women in the industry! Even if you don't work alongside other women, there are plenty of Women in Tech forums, LinkedIn groups, and real-life events you can attend to discuss issues you're facing, opportunities, the market, and Tech with other like-minded women!

Working in a male-dominated environment can be isolating. Some of the women featured in our podcast, such as Lakshmi Sharma, actively mentor female engineers in the space. So, it's always a good idea to connect with and reach out to other women via LinkedIn to gain valuable advice!"

Holly Staff, IP Network Consultant NL

Rounding up how women can progress into network engineering

Encouraging women to take on careers in STEM and tech, including network engineering, requires a collaborative effort from educational institutions, employers, and industry leaders. The industry can create a more equitable and thriving environment for women in these fields by addressing barriers, promoting diversity and inclusion, and providing support and mentorship. 

As the momentum towards gender equality in STEM continues, the contributions of women in network engineering and other technical roles will play a vital role in shaping the future of technology. We’re also striving to support the role of women in tech. We're here to help passionate females find opportunities within the STEM sector while assisting organisations to secure more diverse engineering teams. Scroll below to see how we can support you. 

Looking to power your future in network engineering?

If you have aspirations of a career in network engineering or are looking to hire female engineers to futureproof your business, you need a partner to help you achieve your goals. That’s where we come in. We bridge the gender gap and help match clients and candidates to the best female network engineers and top network engineering jobs on the market. 

So what are you waiting for? Get in touch with a member of our network recruitment team and take your career or your brand beyond what you thought was possible.