How can women navigate their careers in male-dominated fields?
By Arifa Chakera, Programme and Engagement Director
In a male-dominated industry, it takes courage, determination, and passion to thrive and create a lasting impact.
As a Chartered Civil engineer with a Masters in water resource management, my career has been anything but ordinary. By pushing myself out of my comfort zone and understanding what was important to me, I found my passion for civil engineering and technology. Like other women working in these sectors, I had to overcome challenges, but these experiences made me stronger.
Embracing challenges and growth
My career path has been a combination of both smooth transitions and rocky roads. I started my journey on the Stantec (MWH) graduate and mentorship programme, which was an empowering experience in a male-dominated environment. Becoming a Chartered civil engineer opened doors to fantastic projects, allowing me to explore technology, design, engineering, people management, and project delivery.
But, becoming a Chartered civil engineer as an Asian woman in a male-dominated field was a significant challenge. Convincing others about my chosen career path required resilience, passion, and articulation. This experience made me realise the importance of promoting and supporting younger generations in following their dreams.
Additionally, transitioning my career to multi-sector and multi-industry ventures was a daring decision, but with preparation, seeking help, and self-trust, I overcame obstacles and thrived. I knew I wanted to expand my horizons and explore other sectors, and that’s when I decided to challenge myself and step into the world of technology.
Venturing into different industries – including water, energy, oil and gas, mining, NHS, and retail – I discovered a common thread: technology. It has become the driving force behind all sectors, breaking barriers and creating endless possibilities. But we face significant challenges in the tech sector today. The rapid pace of change and the speed at which technology is advancing is something that we must be prepared for to avoid being left behind. Skills development and upskilling programs will be vital to bridge this gap effectively. This is why I would like to inspire more women to follow what’s important to them, no matter the industry and associated barriers.
Career advice: The key to success
Throughout my journey, I have gathered valuable career advice (https://wearetechwomen.com/career-advice/) that has shaped me both professionally and personally. Here are some key insights:
- Define your priorities: Understand what truly matters to you and avoid succumbing to societal pressures. Striking a healthy work-life balance is crucial, so set boundaries that allow you to focus on what’s essential to you.
- Embrace continuous learning: Stay committed to continuous learning and development. The tech industry evolves rapidly, and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and skills is essential for growth.
- Respect and listen: In a diverse and dynamic workplace, respect yourself and others. Embrace different values, behaviours, and opinions, and remember the power of active listening.
- Seek mentorship: Mentorship can be transformative. Find a mentor who inspires and supports you, guiding you both professionally and personally. Their insights can be invaluable.
Fostering gender diversity in tech
Encouraging more women to join the tech industry is essential to foster innovation and diversity. As a passionate STEM ambassador, I work at the grassroots level to showcase opportunities in engineering and technology to young women. Supporting initiatives like Women in Engineering and Tech mentoring programs empowers new graduates and returning employees to embark on fulfilling tech careers. I believe that an inclusive tech industry will benefit from the diverse perspectives of women from all cultural backgrounds.
Breaking gender barriers
Drawing inspiration from my career in technology and engineering, I also find motivation in sports and adventures. Women who have accomplished epic feats against all odds – like Isabella Bird and Faith Kipyegon – inspire me. My mum’s adventurous spirit at 81 continues to motivate me to take on challenges fearlessly.
My journey in the tech world has been filled with growth, challenges, and moments of empowerment. By staying true to my passion and constantly seeking new experiences, I have been able to make a difference in multiple sectors.
As a woman in tech, I encourage all aspiring professionals to embrace their uniqueness, pursue continuous learning, and foster respect and empathy in their professional lives. Together, we can shape a more diverse and inclusive future for the technology and engineering industries.
This article was also featured on We are tech Women.
Together, we can shape a more diverse and inclusive future for the technology and engineering industries