Dr Lidia Galdino - Co-Investigator on the TRANSNET Programme and a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow – asks, earnestly, “how can it be that UK engineering is 91% male?”
Latest figures also suggest that women make up just 11% of the engineering workforce across the UK. A surprising statistic considering the engineering work sphere faces particular challenges in terms of skills shortages – according to Engineering UK approximately 92% of the engineering workforce is led by men but this number too is dwindling. The statistics suggest then, that women in engineering are clearly needed.
To counteract this, the IEEE Photonics Society launched the ‘Women in Photonics’ initiative and through this are actively taking steps to better address diversity and inclusion within the field of optics and photonics. Dr Galdino was recently appointed Associate Vice President of the initiative and is vigorously seeking new and engaging ways to ensure the global diversity of the community in which the Society serves is represented in all aspects.
As Dr Galdino states:
Diversity and Inclusion is about enhancing the outputs of our organisations, and helps fill the engineering skills gap. We are continually working to build a culture where all engineers thrive, regardless of their age, ethnicity, or gender
Since its inception the IEEE Women in Photonics initiative have organised a number of professional development and technical events that have proved extremely successful with participation from women across UK’s universities. In the past year these have included hackathons, tech talks, soft skill seminars, summer schools, networking mixers, K-12 outreach, chapter workshops, meet-ups and online webXs, at conferences and, more importantly, at the grassroots level.
Alongside this, Dr Galdino and the IEEE Photonic Society Diversity Oversight Committee are keenly reviewing member resources to create a Speaker Database to find suitable speakers and global volunteers from underrepresented groups. In addition, conference organizers will be encouraged to consider making arrangements that are family friendly.
On the future of women in the photonics and optics community, Dr Galdino is extremely positive. As she observes, whilst the number of women engineers in the UK workforce is low, it is certainly on the increase (up from 9% in 2015), something she alluded to in her first talk delivered as AVP; speaking at the British and Irish Conference on Optics and Photonics at the prestigious Royal Society, Dr Galdino urged delegates to build on the progress underway by “fostering inclusivity and diversity, empowering women, young professionals, underrepresented minorities, amongst others, to flourish within the community”.
 Engineering UK Report 2016. www.engineeringuk.com/media/1472/engineeringuk-report-2016-full-report.pdf
 Global Diversity and Inclusion - Fostering innovation through a diverse workforce, Forbes Insights, 2011 http://images.forbes.com/forbesinsights/StudyPDFs/Innovation_Through_Diversity.pdf