Allied Women in Engineering: 1st Advisory Circle Summary


Q: is this mission nationwide? What size businesses do you have in mind?

A: It depends on the backing and help that we can get. Depends on who is part of our mission and who can show or guide us into places that we wouldn’t usually be able to get into. We personally only have experience in small businesses but not so much with big businesses.


Q: Scalability? How scalable are they? Can this be amplified?

A: We should always be thinking about how we can scale this up, we have done this before and organised women empowerment communities and done events, but it ended up just being on Bethan, who was unable to carry it forward alone. Want to avoid doing that. From the get-go, we need to think about how we scale this bigger than just us?


Q: How do we move forward without putting our foot in it? It’s still v white and male-dominated. Can we create something easier for them to digest that makes it easier for them to join in with being diverse? Help them figure out how to get it right.

A: That’s why we want to do the leadership mastermind dinners, etc, we want it to be a holistic overview of the business. We’re not just going to bring people together for dinner 1nce a month to keep talking about diversity over and over. In order for the message to sink in, people need to see how it all connects to the whole business. It’s important that we don’t just bang the drum of d&I without taking a step back to appreciate that people need to see how it fits in with everything else.


Q: This is all about communication, opening up those channels and using all oppos we have and diff formats to do so, but we don’t want to have bethan being the only person doing all the work. We need to establish how to make sure that its a group effort with people contributing rather than just bethan. The more people who can help with blogs, workshops, speaking etc, we want a bucket of people and contributions that we can use.

A: yes please send us your content. We’ve started to build a contributor library, if we can always partner our events and workshops with another initiative then we’re automatically having people assist with this. We can tackle this from numerous areas of expertise. We want to offer enough initiative to have people want to contribute.


Q: To build that brand and build on that energy, it needs that constant commitment from people, but we have a brand here already - it’s a really cool brand with a real call for it - people being associated with that has a huge draw. You want people to be able to say, these are the problems you solve by doing this…but not hard selling to people.


Q: Should there be a subscription fee? Money towards events etc? Or is it even a good way of getting people to commit to events and workshops?

A: This is something we need to think about soon, the monetization. Is this something we need to be doing? We don’t want to do this for the money.


Q: We saw a big drop off in attendees who AREN'T leaders, we aren’t sure whether to persevere and keep speaking to people who aren’t as far along in their career as others or should we be like - this industry doesn’t focus much on external professional development, so is it better to go to the leaders were already talking to and ask them if they’d be interested in enrolling staff into whatever leadership training we end up doing? Rather than asking individuals, should we go to organisations?

A: It needs to be a balance of both, the people who did come, were really passionate, driven, frustrated but ambitious. You've hit the nail on the head with what you're trying to do here, its just trying to package it up right.


I’m sure we’ll do things that don't work as well as things that do work - this is part of our own journey.


Q: What about the timings of things? Especially during workdays or school days etc?

A: That's our other challenge - when is a good time? For example, the time I started this meeting at half 4, in my head, the workshop closes at 4 and then people have half an hour to get to a computer without being mentally drained, etc. but that's just how our businesses work. Plus obviously, childcare etc. Maybe we should have a routine but a varied routine, so we have a regular evening, lunchtime, etc etc so that there are people there who can make one event but not another one, that might be a way to work around that.


Q: Are we going to do online events?

A: yes - especially with professional development events they should always be online to make it easy for people to access. If we go down the route of getting businesses involved in promoting it to their staff, then they can facilitate getting a group of them sat at computers etc, and they won't have to spend ages commuting somewhere.


Q: Is it still the women's theme? I'm thinking if you were to take it to a business as a workshop, would it just be women or would it be both?

A safe space for women and workshops for both, I think we need to offer both.

We could have events that are about communicating problems and frustrations and just being part of the community. But we can also have a different type of event which is more training and teaching based that would be aimed at everyone. Looking at previous experience, creating that safe space is really valuable for women and people can really find it helpful to break out of negative cycles when given the time and space. We want to get men involved in the conversation without getting rid of that safe space.


Q: How about making the unique groups a safe space, outside of Zoom where people would have an issue opening up, would be easier in person for a lot of people as they can measure the risk of sharing - if we have some sort of website or newsletters for storytelling, where people can submit anonymous stories to show how they've come up against a scenario, whether they've solved it or not - and then have it shared and be able to express themselves. That can be done for any group, women’s perspective, disability, socioeconomic point of view etc. We could do it in a bit of an agony aunt setup.

A: that could definitely work - if we have a network of experts then it would be really valuable. It was valuable at the launch event when one of the younger women asked a question about unconscious bias, and then it was pointed out that all of us have that, and we can't just place that responsibility on men, so this could give us the ability to coach and educate people through storytelling. It can be a safe place for everyone to read about it and understand it, creating a safe environment where people can either give their names or not.


Q: there’s definitely a balance of making it too open so it’s not safe, and not open enough. What platform do we do that on? Where is the best space for this?

A: could it be a newsletter/LinkedIn group? You could have individual membership set as free and for companies, you can ask them to sponsor you - then use that money, not for profit but to go towards education, events, supporting diversity, future workforce etc. monetising it so people see the value but not for profit which will also pull others in as there’s more of a charity element to it.


Q: People loved Mel's talk - there could be massive value in me doing a workshop as she pulled together the human side of things rather than just hard ass engineering getting down and dirty etc, fighting our way - Mel provided a really good gentle balance for the emotional and human side of things, so with everyone talking about a safe space to talk, you're definitely the expert on this.

A: Mel is very happy to do that, currently working on a workshop for corporate wellbeing and mental health. I want to get people to think about it from a personal perspective, behind the mask of what we wear out in the working world - the older we get we can lose sight of who we are so bringing people back to that memory of that, and having them realise they can start to look inwards again and figure out what they care about. We all have problems and these things that we carry into work with us that we cant talk about due to having to be professional.


Q: Talking of masks and engaging the leadership side of things, going down the path of getting employers to sign up their employees, we need to find a way of opening the conversation with men. Some men are already open which is great, but a lot of the guys in this industry don’t even think about it - not on their radar. We need to find language that does resonate with them?

A: First thing is to start small, take some steps that are practical and that don't shoot too big too quickly, do some small things to get a few people engaged. You can then use that as the foundation to get people to buy into it. It's great to get women and minorities interested in this as a career, but I wonder if it's easier to attack it top-down and be talking to the people about the benefits of running a diverse workforce. ITs a practical thing, not a political thing - if you have a diverse workforce it's better, more productive and happier and will do more for you. The sort of businesses we see in the industry don't represent society, but we don't have to come across like a bunch of equality protestors - we can come across as sensible business people showing them the benefits and range of talent and skills and experience that this can bring.


Q: I was wondering whether we would make themes within this? How big do we make them? E.g people: training, diversity, looking after wellbeing? Is that too big? If we were going to zoom in, what would we zoom in on that would feel accessible? From observations, there’s plenty of info out there that says diverse businesses do better and are more successful. The info is out there but what isn’t out there is what you’re saying about practicality - in which you harness that info to create impact in your business? The bridge is missing. How do you phrase and tackle that?


Q: would there ever be a viewpoint to take it from education back the other way? I totally agree with Phil that you really do need to get businesses on board with realising if they don't diversify they’ll die. If we don't feed the education system and start to change minds about what engineering is in schools, how will we sustain ourselves and manufacture more? Show school kids that if they want to change the world then they need to understand the magic of algebra etc. The sooner we start doing things like that the better.

A: resonate with what you’re saying. We would love it to trickle down into the education system. University connections we have ahead in already as bethan does university speaking a lot - this is definitely on our radar but we have to do one thing at a time :)