PCR Woman of the Year blog: Anna Cheng looks at the expectations of women and how more girls are studying STEM topics

Channel needs to adapt to the changing role of women

Anna Cheng is Intel’s UK enterprise and technical PR manager and finalist in the PCR Woman of the Year event, which takes place in London on October 17th. You can find out more about the event and book your tickets here.

When asked to write a blog on the subject of women in the tech industry, I first thought, yeah sure! I mean after all, I’m a woman and I work in the tech industry.

But the more I thought about what I would exactly write about the less I realised how little I really had to say. So being the engineer that I am, let’s break this down systematically and start first with women in tech. 

It’s no surprise to read about government initiatives trying to get young women and girls to study the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) topics. Earlier this year, the UK government reported that only 12 per cent of engineering and technology undergraduates were women. I think back to my time at North Carolina State University in the US. Studying electrical and computer engineering (ECE) ten years ago was not a major that had very many women. In 2013, the ECE department’s graduating class surprisingly is the same at just over 12 per cent. I know when I graduated, it was even less. So the growth I do see, be it a slow one, on the education side is encouraging and is the first step to get more women entering these areas. 

That said, I think culturally we are at an inflection point in terms of the gender role culture. While it was rare for women to work back in my parent’s generation, it is uncommon for women to not go to higher education or into the workforce today. The challenge the modern woman has in the workforce is the expectation to do and be everything. After all, inflection points can be hard to spot and are even more difficult to manoeuvre.

Successful female role models should be beautiful, fit and fashionable, working at a high paying job with well-behaved kids living in an always clean, designer home with a home-cooked dinner on the table every night. They should be able to do everything their mums did on top of doing the same job as a man. And it’s impossible.

There is a double standard that makes it difficult for women to have the confidence to achieve more senior positions. A very good friend of mine decided to not have children because she doesn’t want the added pressure while trying to make partner at her law firm – a very male dominated industry too. But I know it is possible. I look to my peers, many working full-time, married with kids and seemingly so put together. But I also see others, working full-time, but completely burnt out with the joys of very young kids and a household to manage. I still see many of my female friends that are full-time mums.

The role of the woman has changed but companies have not adapted as quickly. At least not all of them. 

At the end of the day, I am humbled to have been nominated for the UK PCR Woman of the Year award. But I’m lucky enough to work at a company whose president, previous chairman of the board of directors, and dozens of executives including our CIO and senior VPs and GMs are female. And I’m lucky knowing this tech company has incredible diversity policies and working programs to make women travel the inflection point easier. The gender divide in tech is getting better, but it’s still there and we all need to do our part to create a better norm for future generations of women.

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